The Subjectivity of Ethics - Essay Example

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Every action of a human being is governed by a code of conduct. A personal code is not necessarily formal or written down. As a matter of fact it may be a code, a thumb-rule by which we live, which may not even be overtly articulated by us, something in our sub-conscious, perhaps, that guides us to do the 'right' thing…
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The Subjectivity of Ethics
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Download file to see previous pages How I view the world depends on my perspective, and there are as many perspectives as there are people. My perspective is a unique creature born of a combination of factors like where I was born (my cultural background), my personal experiences, my gender, my mental make-up and even my physical make-up. My perspective could definitely alter from time to time, and with it so could my ideas of what is right and what is wrong. However, since personal values do not change so fast, or are subject to change only if I experience a major transformation in my own life, we may say that personal ethics do not change - they evolve - over a period of time, in response to my maturing outlook on life.
Since each person views the world differently, it is virtually impossible to have a uniform code of conduct for people. Since morality depends on beliefs, we would have to conclude that there are as many systems of morality as there are people upon this earth, as each person comes ensconced in his own cocoon of beliefs.
However, even if ethicality and morality are subjective, there still are certain universal human values. There are some basic rules of conduct that are binding on all persons at all times. Let us try and identify some of these basic values, which are accepted across cultures, and over the centuries as necessary for the continuation of human life. They are respect for human life, respect for the person and basic dignity of a human being, and respecting certain mores of sexual conduct and behavior, to mention a few.
There are circumstances where transgressing universal human values would not be wrong, and may even become necessary. Let us examine the afore-mentioned permanent human values. Respect for human life. In all cultures, in all ages, it has been agreed that human life should be treated with the utmost respect. Are there any circumstances where the taking of a human life is morally defensible Definitely, there are. If I am attacked, and the only way to protect myself is by counter attack, would not this counter attack be morally defensible Those who advocate pacifism of a Gandhian variety may not agree. But most others would. How about euthanasia - aiding someone to die Aiding someone who is terminally ill, suffering a lot, and is even perhaps old and has already lived a long and fulfilling life. I may speed that person on her way, out of love and compassion for her. Coming to another example - respect for human life is enshrined in the taboo against eating human flesh. Now suppose, just suppose someone is drifting on the ocean, or trapped somewhere with nothing to eat. Suppose he has a companion who dies, and he is left to battle for life against hunger and cold and the wilderness. Suppose that this person transgresses a fundamental human value, and actually eats the flesh of a dead companion to keep alive, would he be doing a wrong It is easy to discuss the rightness or the wrong of such actions, theoretically, and even denounce them. But going even for a day without food or drink is so difficult for most people, how can we judge what happens to a person when he is tested in extreme situations of hunger and deprivation, and pass judgment ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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