Thoughts on Ethics

The definition for ethics is, 1. the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. 2. the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. From this, I think the following quotes best answer the nature and purpose of ethics.

“Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.”
-Albert Schweitzer

“Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

From the given definitions, I think that ethics are set codes within an individual that influence/act as standards of their behaviors. To that point, I agree passively to Friedrich’s quote that moral is about the herd-instinct in an individual. The behaviors of a person will mostly depend on their environment/background stance they are raised in, as well as their genetics. For an example, the hunting tribes may be instinct to act more individually as where agricultural tribes may be more instinct to act as a group, as the process of aggregating crops require the people to stay within the same location as where hunters are required to hunt for preys at the location each is in charge of.

  1. Which other AOKs do you think resemble ethics in terms of the nature of knowledge they represent?

As mentioned previously, I think that ethics is about standards of morality that acts as a reverence of life for an individual. I have also mentioned that it can be affected by the genetics as well as the raised environment of an individual. For this reason, the nature of knowledge ethics present is about the cultural, physical, religious aspect of one’s environment, as well as the natural science aspect of one’s genes. This leads me to a conclusion that ethics may resemble to every single unit that consist the area of knowledge. As an example, the ‘natural sciences’ as well as ‘mathematics’ may influence the physical intuition aspect. Adapting to the previously given example, a child born in a hunting tribe may be scientifically adapted to being able to walk as soon as they are born. The analysis of their genes may also allow to mathematically calculate the trend in their behaviors such as, more quicker response to stimulants. The ‘arts’, ‘indigenous knowledge systems’ and the ‘religious knowledge systems’ may interfere within the cultural aspect of a group one locates in. If the group does religious practices, the individual may be likely to act in a certain way. For example, Japan is a multi-traditional country however, Buddhism and Shintoism was popular amongst the earlier ages. Such religions still affect the way the Japanese kids are raised in their homes although the parent may be part of another religion. A great example, the majority of the Japanese go to shrines on the new year’s. Minor example may include what I have been taught from my parents: to not cross my legs whilst sitting (only men are allowed to do so), and to not stand my chopsticks amongst the rice in my rice bowl (this represents the rice is for the dead). The ‘history’ and the ‘human sciences’ may involve in the personal way each individual acts. If one has experienced a stimulus, the drove feelings from it such as ‘happy’ or ‘hurt’ may set a standard for one’s ethical implications. An example includes, ‘neglecting’, where if one embraces an unhappy feeling from being neglected from a particular group, it may influence the person to not to do so to others.

  1. Which ways of knowing function as the key means of acquiring knowledge in ethics?

Every WOK except for language may have a function amongst our learning in the knowledge of ethics. I think that the WOKs could be split into two different sectors, with one being about ‘evidence’ and the other being ‘unprovable senses’. In the ‘evidence’ section there will be ‘memory’ and ‘reason’. These WOKs could be qualified proofs amongst identifying the influences of one’s standards of ethics. As from the previous example on neglecting, this is related to one’s memory from the past, which will act as a reason one will act in a particular way. ‘Not crossing my legs’ would be a valid ‘reason’ from my cultural practices. ‘Language’ will not be a part of ethics because in my perspective, it is not possible to write ethics in the form of text, so that every descendant will follow. Ethics has a different meaning for everyone and therefore, it is impossible for everyone to have a common list of ethics. Of course, cultural/religious practices can be written in the form of text (eg. deny the consumption of pork in Hinduism) however, that is only common to a certain group of people. The ‘unprovable senses’ include the rest of the WOKs, which include, ‘perception’, ‘intuition’, ‘imagination’, and ‘faith’. These are all dependent on one’s senses that do not rely on valid physical evidence. For example, ‘faith’ is when a person believes for something to be true when there is no actual evidence. ‘Imagination’ consists of one’s thinking, ’emotion’, ‘perception’, and ‘intuition’ relies on one’s feelings from their past experiences/observations. Although they do not give any physical proof, they affect one’s ethics to a great extent and therefore, I think all of the mentioned WOKs have a function when we acquire our knowledge on ethics.

  1. Which WOKs and AOKs does ethics seem to clash with?

Ethics can clash with any AOKs and the previously mentioned WOKs however, I think it majorly clashes with ‘human sciences’ (AOK), and ‘intuition’ (WOK). Analysis and acquiring our knowledge on ethics is about the identification of the set codes that act as a reference guide to any behaviors of an individual. As the TOK syllabus states, ‘human sciences study the social, cultural, and biological aspects of human existence’. I think this interferes with the definition on the study of ethics, ‘moral values that seem to embody the obligations for action’ as, obligations for action is greatly influenced by the aspects researched in the human sciences. ‘Intuition’ is also described in the syllabus to being, ‘immediate cognition, or knowledge which is immediately evident without prior inference, evidence, or justification.’ As discussed, the human sciences justify the ‘evident’ sector as where ‘intuition’ justifies the ‘unprovable’ sector.

  1. Which quotes do you find surprising, or do you disagree strongly with?

‘Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.’
Jane Addams

I disagree with Jane Addams’ quote, to the point that it is not always necessary to express ethics. Ethics is in fact a ‘reverence of life’ as quoted by Albert Schweitzer, and therefore it is not always necessary that action needs to take place in order to express ethics. Ethics can exist within the soul/mind of an individual, and therefore it is not always the action part that defines it.

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