Ethics without Philosophers

Could someone without a business degree become a marketing consultant?  Then how is it that people without philosophy degrees are becoming ethics consultants? [1]  Is it that people don’t know that Ethics is a branch of Philosophy just as Marketing is a branch of Business?  Doubtful.  Is it just the typical male overstatement of one’s expertise? [2]  Perhaps.  Is it that people think they already know right from wrong, they learned it as children, there’s really no need for any formal training in ethics?  Possible.  I have certainly met that attitude in business ethics classes and ethics committees. [3]  Or is it that ethics consultants (advisors, officers, practitioners, and so on) don’t really act as consultants about ethics?  They act as consultants about managing ethical behavior.  No, not even that.  Ethical consultants, practitioners, officers, focus on how to increase the likelihood that employees will follow some specific professional code of ethics or, more likely, the ethical rules the company’s elite want them to follow. [4] [5]

As far as I can see, business ethics taught by business faculty, ethics programs run by managers, and so on    any applied ethics taught by non-philosophers    is superficial at best.  [6] First, following a code if just an appeal to custom, an appeal to tradition, which philosophers consider a weak basis, even an actual error in reasoning: just because it’s common to do it that way, doesn’t mean it’s right; just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s right. 

Second, legal moralism is prevalent: if it’s legal, it’s right, and if it’s not illegal, it’s not wrong.  Few philosophers (and I daresay few intelligent people) accept this equivalence of moral rightness and legality.  After all, slavery was once legal, and even at that time many considered it wrong and had excellent arguments to support their position (which is, to some extent, why the law changed    ethics should determine law, not the other way around).

Third, the so-called ‘media test’ and ‘gut test’ are essentially nothing but appeals to intuition, which is nothing more than childhood conditioning that makes us say X ‘feels’ wrong.  I think it far better to approach ethical issues with thought, to consider the many rational approaches to making decisions about right and wrong, such as an appraisal of values, principles, consequences, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Frankenstein, meet Dr. Spock

Thanks to genetic research, we may soon see people with the money to do so making sure their kids are born-to-succeed – parents paying to guarantee their kids have the right stuff.  I’m not talking about a straightened spine or a functional optic nerve.  I’m talking about designer kids: those made with healthy bodies, intelligent minds, and perhaps a certain specific ability to boot. Read the rest of this entry »

People Skills

I’ve always been rather proud of not having any ‘people skills’.  Of not being able to ‘talk to people’, smooth things over, talk them out of their way of seeing things, talk them over to my way, persuade, influence, manipulate, control.  No wonder supervisors, salespeople, and customer relations people need good people skills.  And no wonder I resent them: I’ve always been the subordinate, the consumer, the customer – I’m the one the people skills are used on.

Of course, subordinates are expected to have good people skills too, but what’s meant then is the ability to get along, follow, fold, obey.  And, well, as I said, I’m not very good at that.

But no, no, I’m told, you’ve got it all wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Marriage: A Sexist Affair

Marriage, by its very (traditional) definition, is a sexist affair: it involves one of each sex, one male and one female.  And I suppose this is because, traditionally, the purpose of marriage was family: to start a family, to have and raise children.

This view is fraught with questionable assumptions, glaring inconsistencies, and blatant errors.  I’ll give one of each: Read the rest of this entry »

In Commemoration of the Holocaust

I’m not saying it didn’t happen.

I’m not saying that, in any way, it was okay.

But I’d like to point out that a devout Jew would’ve done, would do, the same thing to the Germans – if God told him to.

‘Oh but God would never command such a thing.’

Take a better look at your Bible: Read the rest of this entry »

Food Fight Breaks Out in the House of Commons

Have you watched the House of Commons proceedings lately? It’s unbelievable. I haven’t seen such petty bickering, name-calling, and tongue-sticking-outting since Dicky called Peter a wuss at recess back in grade two. Then Johnny, who was on Dicky’s side, started throwing clumps of dirt at Dougie, who was on Peter’s side, and a bunch of other boys started yelling and kicking and when the teacher came out, they all accused each other, pointing fingers, ‘He started it!’ ‘No I didn’t, he did!’ ‘Oh yeah?’ ‘Yeah!’ and it started all over again.

But they weren’t grown ups, wearing suits-and-ties and saying “Mr. Speaker, I humbly submit…” And they weren’t being paid to run the fucking country.

It’s hard to believe they can be so immature. So instead I believe it’s all a charade. To further convince us that there’s simply no point in voting, let alone calling our MP or lobbying for this or that, no hope in hell of any participation in the process making any difference at all. That way the corporate agenda can proceed, with nothing whatsoever in its way.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

I don’t.

First, I’d have to do a lot of research to figure out which organizations are really what they say they are. Names like “Lands for Life” (“Lands for Private Profit”), remind us that you can’t judge a book by its cover. (And that PR departments are masters of deception.) So that would take a while. Sending $10 or $20 to the wrong group, well, that’s not such a big deal, but I wouldn’t want to be giving or lending several thousand to the bad guys by mistake.

And of course it’s not all black and white. A solar energy company may keep its female engineers at the secretarial level. So are they the good guys or the bad guys?

And even good intentions are not good enough. I’d need to know which groups are really going to make a difference. There’s no point in funding something that’s just an ineffectual feel-good enterprise. Which organizations have what it takes to really do something? I have no idea. Because I don’t know what it takes. So I guess I’d have to hire someone to advise me, perhaps an ex-loan officer, someone who can look at a business plan and tell me whether it’ll go. I’d also have to hire someone to assess the research plan. I mean, that guy who claims he has the technology (and it’s cheap and portable) to neutralize radioactive material – is that for real?

Then I’d have to figure out how best to distribute all that money. $100,000 to ten groups? $50,000 to twenty? The whole million to one?

And that sort of depends on what I decide about priorities, about problems and solutions. How best to change/save the planet? (With or without the human species?) Do I support those out to save our ecological environment because without that we’re toast, or do I figure we have time to get to the root and focus on education programs, or do I decide we don’t have time for anything but coercion and get behind political/legislative powers?

So, no thank you, I don’t want to be a millionaire. Fulfilling the responsibility that comes with a million dollars would be a full-time job for at least a year. And frankly, I’d rather sit and watch the sun sparkle on the lake.

The Problem with Democracy

The problem with democracy is that it’s just an appeal to the majority.

And most people, the majority, simply want whatever’s in their own, personal, best interest. We are a nation of egoists. Average life span what it is, personal interests are necessarily short-term. Average intelligence what it is, personal interests are also immediate and concrete. So what’s good for the whole, the whole country, never mind the whole planet, will never happen.

So, also, talk about the need for an informed citizenry is irrelevant. True, the majority doesn’t know diddlysquat. But also true, they have no interest whatsoever in finding out. Because all they care about is themselves. And they’re convinced they already know all there is to know about what’s best for themselves. And they’re probably right, because their interests are so immediately and concretely served.

Worse, those few to whom one might speak about the problem with this state of affairs believe that the good of the whole is equal to the good of the parts, so, they reason, this state of affairs, each individual voting for what he or she personally wants, is the best state of affairs.

I suppose it might be the most fair, the most just, state of affairs – which only means when our world stops working, we will have gotten exactly what we deserve.

We, the majority, that is.

Entertain Me. Hurt him.

Given the violent content of many prime time dramas and sports, both of which are considered entertainment, it is apparent that many of us consider it entertaining when people hurt other people. What does that say about us?

That so many people find violence entertaining should be deeply disturbing. Instead, it’s so normal, it’s unremarkable. (And what does that say about us?)

Asking the Right Questions

Never has it been more important to ask the right questions.

Not as philosophers, in the clearest, most explicit, terms, but in terms most likely to be used by the arrested-development minds of computer programmers.

Because phone conversations, for example, aren’t with people anymore; they’re with AI programs that are, let’s face it, stupider than most people. (Which is saying a lot.)

And that’s because they’re designed by people with no philosophical training, people who think in terms of black and white, people whose imaginations seem to be severely limited. Which means you have to stay within a severely limited range of possibilities in order to be understood; you have to anticipate how such a simple mind might say something.

I imagine a very near future in which the stupid people succeed because they’re the only ones able to communicate with all our ‘smart’ programs – because their minds are unclouded by complexity and subtlety.