Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Obsidian Wings on Ethics

Since I'm on an ethics kick, what's one more post?

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings offers an excellent primer on ethics:

We all perform actions. And whether or not we reflect on the kinds of actions we think we should perform, the kinds of principles we think we should live by, or the kinds of persons we think we should be, we will end up performing some actions and not others, living in accordance with certain principles, and developing a particular character. It will be true of one person that she ruthlessly pursues her own interests; of another that she drifts along, allowing her actions to be determined by the preferences of those around her; of another that she tries to preserve her image of herself as 'virtuous' only as long as it is not too inconvenient to do so; and of another that she tries to respond to others with generosity and honesty and respect, even when this is difficult. Even someone who tries to live by no principles at all—say, by flipping coins instead of making choices—still lives by the principle of allowing her actions to be determined by chance....

It is hard to understand other people, and the difficulty increases as their experiences become more remote from one's own. And it is easy to wander around blithely passing judgment on people whom one has not made the slightest effort to understand. Such judgments are usually glib, shallow and disrespectful. But this shows only that we should try to understand other people, to develop the capacities of empathy and imagination which this requires, to realize that understanding other people takes effort and hard work, and to be aware of the possibility that our views about other people are not always right. To throw up one's hands and decide that understanding other people is just impossible is, I think, just a way of avoiding this task. It also lets people who don't bother to try to understand others off the hook, by taking their failures to be inevitable, not the result of insufficient effort or imagination.

I'm jealous. More can be found here.

Coming up tomorrow: A picture of me and Aimee Bender! (Hey, I'm a book nerd—what else can I say?)

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