A Concise Summary of what Ethics is about

Do you want justice? Do you want things to be brought into balance?

If you want that you need to live an ethical life – and help others to do so too: work to eliminate hunger, to empower people from the bottom up, enable them to have a minimum level of comfort and security. In that way you will be insuring your own security. For they’ll then be less likely to riot and loot, to annoy you as they beg you for (at least) some crumbs. So it’s in your best interest. Isn’t that true?

Ethics teaches us to minimize suffering and to maximize well-being. It shows the way to a high-quality life for all the world’s people. It includes justice; benevolence; and the moral courage to implement them, to put them into practice. Everyone should have the opportunity to better themselves, to have free higher education if they’re ready for it, …especially an education in Ethics. Everything should be done in the most efficient way possible.

Do you know the difference between “efficiency” and “effectiveness”? To be efficient is to use least resources, time, motion, and energy, to achieve the most output; to do the most with the least.

To be effective is to arrange things so that all that is done and produced is employed toward the goal of maximizing quality of life, not just for some, but for all. It is to add value to each situation in which you find yourself. It is to uplift, to boost, to enhance the individuals with whom you interact. You do this by showing respect, civility, courtesy, giving them acknowledgement and recognition, bestowing a sincere compliment, an act of kindness that they appreciate, making them smile, seeing how you can be of service – because that’s the kind of person you are. Ethics is about being willing to take on some responsibility. It is knowing what is in your enlightened self-interest. It is being rational: having good reasons for whatever you do. …Not rationalizations; reasons. Ethics is about adding value. Let’s keep that in mind. Let’s be mindful.

Justice, stability, harmony requires that we cooperate – to solve pressing problems.

Applying Ethics to government systems: Some U.S. governors have figured out how to solve problems using Ethical means and principles in their own state. Also Finland does it. Canada does it. Norway does it. Why don’t we learn? Why can’t we elect to office people who put ethical principles above other priorities. Why is the federal government in the USA dysfunctional? Can anyone here explain why?

And can you offer constructive suggestions and alternatives?

No it doesn’t. Canadian politicians are the same kind of weasels as everywhere else. The institutions are dens of iniquity.
In the past few months, several mayors have had to resign or been charged with corruption. The provincial government of Quebec was defeated because of kickbacks from organized crime in the construction business. Parliamentary democracy is constantly sabotaged by the prime minister. Dirty tricks during last federal election are being investigated.

Thank you, Phyllo.

I stand corrected

…about Canada’s government. I give credit though to the Canadian people for setting up some better institutions than we have here in the USA.

To all readers: Please delete Canada from the list.

How dare you sir!

Ethic is the philosophy of morals. Morals are orders of ranks of the drives. Virtues are names behind which exist one or more unified drives/instincts.

May I be so kind as to suggest a slight broadening of who’s suffering you minimize, and who’s well-being you maximize. Your current definition leaves you open to the charge of Speciesism.

I’ll use Sam Harris’s definition from his book The End of Faith - Question of right and wrong are really questions about the suffering and well being of sentient creatures.

I do recommend the book I just mentioned above - but he FULLY explores the issues in:The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/143917122X - one of the best books I’ve read on the subject.

The Doorman

Greetings, Historyboy

You write: “Ethic is the philosophy of morals. Morals are orders of ranks of the drives. Virtues are names behind which exist one or more unified drives/instincts.”

Admittedly that is concise. However, I do not accept the belief that human beings have instincts: bees do; ants do. A. H. Maslow found that we have some instintoid features (say, fear of falling off the edge from a high place), if we’re normal - but it is not correct to describe these as “instincts.” Even survival is not an instinct, not unavoidable and beyond control, given the counter-examples of self-immolation and fasting-unto-death for a noble cause.

Your attempt to explicate Ethics is not clear if you don’t specify what you consider to be the “unified drives.” And give us an illustration of an “order of a rank of a drive.”

In contrast, the Hartman/Katz theory claims that “Ethics” - as well-defined in the Unified Theory of Ethics (see below for a link to it) - is the science that arises when individuals are viewed Intrinsically [or as Phenomenology would express it: with Intentionality.] To Intrinsically value is to focus on, give full attention to, see a richness of value, identify with, and eventually bond with that (or who) you are valuing.

So ethics is a perspective on the individual wherein one forms a continuum with him/her …where one can’t tell where the valuer leaves off and the one being valued begins. It is a caring. At the very least, a giving of respect. It’s an acknowledgement of the dignity of the other …however you may understand that (so far) vague word. By “individual” I mean: “conscious sentient creature.”

My use of the word “science” here is: a study, a body of cumulative, coherent knowledge that adds to the useful information in this world. It will eventually employ some of the scientific methods. {See the homepage of the ‘Science Guy’ to learn what these methods are.}


Thank you, Doorman, for your constructive suggestion. I was one of the earliest reviewers of this book the first week it came out. I requested that my local library buy a copy so that it would be shared by many readers. I signed up to get all of Sam Harris’ blogs and book recommendations.

Also, if you look at the thread I initiated here “Is There Evidence for Objective Morality”,http://www.ilovephilosophy.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=179949&p=2334248#p2334248 and scroll down to read my responses, you will note that I offer arguments that refer to ideas from The Moral Landscape, namely Dr. Harris’ efforts to establish a moral truth. It is a reference to the ancient history of the existing Dobu culture of Papua, New Guinea. At one point, in that culture’s background, no one trusted anyone else. That was the norm. Fortunately, they have evolved from that state of affairs. To phrase it in Harrris’ terms they have ‘gone in the direction of a Moral Peak (in the moral landscape.), leaving the valley.’
In my terminology, they now value more Intrinsically. They are going in the right direction: toward world civilization. [The same thing happened in the history of Australia, the next-door neighbor to Papua, when former convicts now have better values than many another nation.]

Notice, though, that in my thread here ranking the traditional academic schools of ethics, “The Hierarchy of Moral Considerations” -
http://www.ilovephilosophy.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=179235&p=2314550#p2314550 - the Harris approach, titled “Consequentialism” does not rank the highest. My system absorbs all its good points and integrates it as a part of the whole picture, but does not make it supreme. An individual’s commitment to having a good character takes higher priority - wanting to be a (morally)-good person - and a devotion to making it happen - that is of vital importance to attaining the {truly} good life.

And as far as avoiding speciesism, see pp. 38-39, of ASPECTS OF ETHICS (a link to which you will find below) which is a section on the controversial topic of animal morality. Also see pp.48-49 in A UNIFIED THEORY OF ETHICS, the chapter regarding how humans differ from other animals. There, at the conclusion, it alludes to how some pet-owners Intrinsically-value their pets as persons who are members of the family. [size=85]{I once did myself. But it’s not about me !}[/size]

Unified drives. - The virtue of honesty is said by Nietzsche to unify several drives like: Neugierde, Stolz, Herrschsucht, Milde, Gtoßmuth, Tapferkeit.
In WTP 778 he explains about the importance of one prevailing passion. In TSZ On Virtues and Passions he brings virtues into this game.
Drives are social products and they grow with the time. A hierarchy of drives is made by telling us when a drive is allowed to start its development. By giving them a certain time and use, we can define its intensity, strength and place in the soul.

The little child begins to learn from its mother during the pregnancy. I’m not sure if the embryo has any pre-knowledge at all.

But the case of the butterfly is certainly interesting. Where does the butterfly learn from about things he has to do?

For drives develop from knowledge into habits until they become instincts. In some languages instincts and drives are synonymous.

I don’t know where exactly did Nietzsche say about morals as a hierarchy, but if you look at “hierarchy of the drives” on google, you will see only Nietzsche is talking about that. Also an anarchy of instincts is equal to decadence. Wherever a political equality of the people is foreseen, there must be an anarchy in the soul. For Plato the condition of the state is equal to the condition of the individual soul.

Morals as means to remove suffering is directly nihilistic, especially if one wants to remove all potential suffering.

If we want to remove the potential suffering which comes from a weapon, then we must remove the weapon. This is already done in Europe. Then they will remove car incidents too by removing cars. I could go on like this until they remove food too, but I hope until then people will recognize the harmfulness of nihilism!

The Unified Theory of Ethics offered in the links below recommends that we MINIMIZE suffering, misery and destitution. In the original post of this thread the word “minimize” is clearly stated also. There is no utopian notion of eliminating suffering altogether. That notion would imply that everyone has now been made immortal - for grieving after the death of a loved one is a form of suffering, and for normal people that seems to me to be unavoidable. Things go wrong in life, tragedies happen. Tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. cause loss of life, and injuries - and the suffering that goes with it. So don’t put words in my mouth that I never said …such as “remove all potential suffering.”

Warren Buffett’s son, Howard, who has taken up farming in Decatur, Illinois, recently said: “There’s no reason we can’t put hunger out of business in America.”
…as quoted here: http://www.parade.com/news/2012/12/02-giving-issue-howard-buffett-hunger-in-america.html
See the web-page for the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for further details.
This is a project that to my mind ought to be of very high priority, for the government and for all of us.

It is not on the government’s agenda; and the Congress seems totally dysfunctional. So it’s up to us.

How does it teach us that?

Well, I would say that people seriously are trying to remove all suffering today by removing poverty. The maxims which stem from such idiocies are maximistic and dominant in “international ethics” and politics. There is no reason to believe that billions of Buddhists are not deifying Nothingness as a complete escape from"life is suffering". This is not only minimizing of suffering, it is the disability for an eternal sleep.

Fact is that who does not define a form of happiness he wants Nothing and he never stops at a certain level of suffering.

On the contrary side, the hero wants to maximize suffering in order to enjoy his strength of the soul. For that reason he sets to himself and other heroes the highest goals which produce the biggest suffering.

Those who think there is a compromise-in-itself between those two extremes, he is not well informed and he is too idealistic.

Ask any of those how much pain, hunger and war do they find desirable, and you will become the straight answer.

On the other side, there were always philosophers who were dragging in the opposite direction. - Hungry for the sake of truth!

I shall look into your threads. Once I have done so, I will be in a better position to offer comment. Your words strike of wisdom, so I anticipate finding knowledge worth having.

The Doorman