Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

By

Conduct Does Not Equal Rulebook: Emma F.

 

While recently reading the book Originals by Adam Grant, I was intrigued by a study that was presented on the topic of raising children. The study evaluated discipline techniques of  parents of non-Jewish people who housed Jews during the Holocaust, and the parents of those who did not. What separated these two groups? The study determined that those who were raised to develop their own moral conduct were more likely to be compassionate individuals (the group that housed Jews in danger). These people’s parents were more likely to encourage their children to consider how their actions affected others. The other group, conversely, was more likely to have been raised in a rule based system, which removed the need for the child to think about what they personally considered to be right and wrong; these people were more likely to be a part of the group that did not house Jewish people.

Although there are more nuances to this experiment that I presented, I think it speaks to some of the value of ethics as a topic of philosophical discussion. As Dr. Sandell noted in his lectures on Moral Philosophy, the discussion of ethics is supposed to “make the familiar unfamiliar”, to put a microscope to our actions and discover the basis of our moral decision-making. Throughout this unit, I’ve learned that the developing our own morals does not mean creating a set of hard-and-fast rules to follow, but identifying values that will guide us as we unpack difficult situations and make decisions. This is the ‘moral conduct’ mentioned in the experiment above. For me, the value of ethics outside of the classrooms is to promote a sort of independence in our actions. When we stand by the values we deem important, we can put more confidence in our idea of the ‘good’ or ‘moral’ action. When we look to Hollywood and other entertainment industries, the push and pull of good and bad, the hero and the villain, is obvious; however, in a world where our problems are not so clear cut, it is crucial that we think for ourselves, and that our morals are self-generated.

On the other hand, ethics in the classroom has been an interesting ride. Like I said before, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is instilled at a young age, but I hadn’t really been exposed to the subtleties of the schools of thought that drive moral decision making, the two that we touched on being Utilitarianism and the Categorical Imperative. Like most of my classmates, I can’t marry myself to the values of one or another, but there are some threads within each that I find attractive.

Categorical Imperative: Probably the largest confirmation of this school of thought in my own moral conduct is my belief that some actions have more moral value than others. This was made clear to me after Eric presented a scenario in class:

A boy has a chocolate bar, sees a homeless man in need and sacrifices his own chocolately desires to give the bar to the homeless man. In another situation, a boy has a chocolate bar and takes a bite, decides he doesn’t like it, then passes it on to the homeless man in need.

Assuming that both situations have the same outcome (let’s say the man receives the same amount of chocolate), I would say that the decision of the boy in the first situation holds more moral value. The key part is that the boy makes a sacrifice, and although he thinks that he will enjoy the chocolate bar, he places the homeless man’s needs above his own. The decision is driven by a contemplation of needs and an overall selflessness. The other situation, although not immoral in my eyes, isn’t first prompted by an independent action towards charity, but as a secondary option that was fulfilled when his primary course of action (eating the chocolate bar) wasn’t so pleasant.

Of course, there are other conditions to explore in this scenario, such as whether or not the first boy performed his action for the praise of onlookers or as for fuel his own ego, but the principle remains the same. The good will of a person does affect the moral worth of the decision, and in general, if the will of a person is rooted in greed or exploitation, then it cannot be considered a ‘good will’. This would also mean that a a positive result could spring from an absence of good will, and that a negative result could spring from an action of good will, and these are the conditions that this school of thought upholds.

Utilitarianism: “Do the thing that makes the most people content” has some problematic strings attached, so for the sake of concision, I’ll stick to the parts that I consider the most personally useful. In the most basic sense, utilitarianism just seems practical; it support the act of letting people vote on a course of action, and implementing the most popular choice. In other ways, there are grey spaces that are made when we ask the questions “Does some people’s contentment matter more than others?” and “Should we consider what is best for a society’s function over the contentment of a group of people”?

However, I do believe in the notion that we do often have to make sacrifices for the sake of overall gain. What makes ‘most’ people happy or satisfied isn’t often what makes all people happy or satisfied, and we must accept that we may sometimes be on the sacrificing side so that there can be a net positive reaction. For example, this can manifest in the classroom when a student sacrifices their act of contributing to a discussion so that others may speak, contribute, and diversify the discussion. When organizing an event, an organizing member may volunteer to do a tedious or grueling task that is unpleasant but will ensure the success of the event and the enjoyment of many people. These examples are just simple situations of sacrifice.

It is very important to add that this doesn’t apply to situations of human rights. There is a crucial distinction to be made in the statement that certain groups of people should not experience reduced levels of human rights (legal, social, political, etc.) so that other groups should have more power. Although this situation is nuanced in many facets of our international society, I cannot say it is moral.

Now it’s time to put these ethical discussions to work.

The moral dilemma that I want to examine is this: to trigger warning or not to trigger warning?

For those of you new to the term ‘trigger warning’, it is a ‘statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)’. I am interested to discuss the place of trigger warnings within the slam poetry community, where there has been a continuous conversation about whether or not artists should use before performing a potentially distressing piece. It is not uncommon to attend a poetry slam and see poets delivering trigger warnings for sexual assault, drug abuse, self-harm, and other topics associated with emotional trauma.

The pro-trigger warning side seems obvious at first. If artists can let people know about an upcoming sensitive topic, then those who might find the topic harmful can mentally prepare themselves or remove themselves from the environment. From a utilitarian perspective, we are increasing the amount of net happiness because those who may have experienced unhappiness from the artistic presentation were able to remove themselves completely. From this perspective, trigger warnings seem courteous and fair.

However, I do think this situation is a bit more faceted than that. I’ve recently been speaking with several of poets in the community about their thoughts on trigger warnings, and have uncovered a few more layers. Firstly, one of these poets was confident in saying that taking care of your audience is a responsibility of the artist on stage, but that this care doesn’t have to come in the form of a trigger warning; we want art to illicit vivid experiences in our audiences, so audience care (in it’s ideal form) means not preventing these experiences from happening. A crucial process in attending a poetry slam is facing emotions that are difficult to deal with, and ‘interrogating’ those feelings further (my friend noted that if she doesn’t feel uncomfortable at one point in a slam, she considers it a failure). This stand point challenges the utilitarian perspective because it claims that what is most challenging can also the most valuable. Being prompted to examine our feelings of discomfort isn’t often a purely joyful act, but it is still worth doing because it can lead to intrapersonal understanding, for example.

However, for these moments of discomfort and contemplation to take place, we do need to be in a mentally sound and lucid state of mind, and for some individuals, a certain topic may inhibit this state. That is the main push and pull of the trigger warning discussion. But where does our moral responsibility exist in this conversation?

I do agree that it is our responsibility to take care of the audience- to deliver a thoughtfully crafted poem that resonates with others an delivers a message. If we are using trigger warnings as permission to ourselves to present shockingly graphic and devastating material, we have to consider the value of such a piece.

Secondly, in terms of responsibility, we also have to consider that it is impossible to prevent all emotionally harmful reactions from occurring. We simply cannot always be sure of what kinds of things can act as triggers for different people (smells, locations, objects), and although we can try our best to be cognizant of the effect of our words, they have different connotations within different people’s lives. It is also important to point out that the real world doesn’t have trigger warnings- we can encounter triggering things in our day-to-day life, and it is important (to a healthy level) that we keep the slam space from turning into a sanitized space free of discomfort or challenging topics. I believe it is important for audience members to realize that when they enter a slam, they are acknowledging the possibility that they may hear or view things that will make them feel things (those things not always being pleasant), and that the organizers of the slam should also publicly acknowledge this possibility as well (this is commonly done in Vancouver). The slam, as my friend said, is a microcosm of our real world, and we should treat it as such. This means that the community values artistic diversity and experience, but does not tolerate hate speech, for example.

The conversation could definitely go on. For me, the trigger warning conversation is very intriguing because it is so closely tied to a community that I am a part of. The conversation also changes and evolves when we speak about trigger warnings on educational material, social media, and other social situations.

To tie back to what I said earlier about moral conduct, the discussion of trigger warnings doesn’t have to be one that decides whether or not we ultimately use them. We have to ask ourselves why we might use them, the effects it has on the people around us, and the ways we can change our mode of action to accomplish the same goal. I would love to hear what you have to say about the topic, so please drop a comment!

By

Phil’s TIME off ;)

 

For my metaphysics post I talked a little about time, and since I was away on vacation I though it would fit perfectly. My three questions concept of…

  1. what is time?
  2. what is cyclical time?
  3. what is linear time? 

As you read this imagine yourself landing in Punta Cana after a long flight, the air is fresh and crisp. The weather was better than expected sunny with just the right breeze, as you got on to the bus that toke you from the airport to the hotel you saw a forest of green and how the rural area looked like. When you got to the hotel (brand new btw) drinks greeted you with warm welcomes, thats when you knew it was the vacation you were in need of. The next day you wake up just in time before breakfast ended, coffee and some nice muffin or omelette (whatever you want), as you ate the sun was out and was a perfect day for the beach or tanning day. Well ladies and gents, that was not exactly my vacation:( it was sunny 2 out of the 7 days I was there. But back to Phil’s day off, we need to answer the three questions.

What is time?

My time in Punta Cana I got to understand how it’s really like for different countries, cultures etc. Being 4 hours early it made everything felt like it went faster even through I woke up the same time I’d normal do in Vancouver on weekends, it didn’t really answer my question of what is time. But one thing that I thought about (related to question) is how much they treasure the moment, they knew how important every minute was. Both those who worked in the hotel and people I saw in the cities showed how they aren’t really scared to seize the day, really.

What is Cyclical Time?

Waking up everyday, getting breakfast, doing an activity in the afternoon, dinner then drinks really felt like a cycle while I was there. It was kind of the same routine every night, but a little different. Everyday felt like a repeat of the events that happen since the first day I got there, because life was quite different in Vancouver compare to Punta Cana (eating 3 times a day etc) it felt like something we had to do. Once we did activities it felt like time kind of kept going and didn’t stop, during that time was continuos.

What is Linear Time? 

During the whole trip I didn’t really feel that time was Linear, until the last day where I finally notice that my trip came to an end. It made me remember that our adventures started on a certain day and will come to an end. Therefore it did kind of answer that question but not in a way where I feel like time is always Linear, this is because I believe their are certain events in life where it is Linear and other situation is Cyclical time.

In conclusion my Phil’s day off didn’t answer all the questions that I had but it did answer most of them, the ones related to Cyclical and Linear was more easily to conclude compare to the question of what is time, since there are so many possible answer depending on person/culture. Some believed that time is control by human while others disagree, therefore my trip there was quite hard to pinpoint an exact answer to it. But other than not being to answer that question my trip there was delightful, it allowed me to see what it was like to live in a place like Punta Cana/Dominican Republic, it showed me the importance of saving and using every moment of our lives not giving a dam really (to a certain point).

PS. i still don’t know if this make sense or if I did it right, but there isn’t a right or wrong in philosophy right??????

By

it was a better TIME…

 

Cyclical is defined as occurring in cycles or recurrent, while Linear means extending along a straight line, and processing from one stage to another. So..what does it mean when we talk about time being cyclical or linear? I mean the clock does go round and not straight. For this project I’m going to break down the big question that a lot or most people have, is TIME LINEAR OR CYCLICAL?

One of the easier question to break down first is what is time? Time is a measurement that we use everyday to calculate events, it allows people to grow old throughout the years rather than getting younger

                     Linear time, Cyclical time

. Like many scientist including Albert Einstein the Big Bang was the beginning of time. Einstein also said “time is relative,” he said that the faster  we moved the slower time will pass, and that in our galaxies time vary. Time for a fact is always going forward and never in reverse since it’s a direction, and still to this day the problem is still unsolved in physics. One way to explain why time can’t go backwards is entropy, the definition for entropy is a law that states nothing ever decreases. Therefore if milk is spilled or wood was used make a fire it can never go back to its original states, which means that entropy can go forward or stay the same, but can never decreases. Since time has a beginning (Big Bang) will time ever end? The pros in life said that time will end when another big event or rip like the (BB), but we can’t be to sure about it. The pros said that time was created by the BB but we have philosophers like Aristotle who believed that time didn’t have a beginning, because when or where we start there is always an imagination of the earlier time. Augustine had similar philosophical inquires like Aristotle but believed that the “universe was made with time and not in time”, this kind of touches on the fact that he to believe time was there when the universe was created, and not the other way around.

On to the next question where it’s not as easy to answer…what does it mean when time is cyclical? When we watch movies or an episode of a cartoon we often see a forward/fast timed of a sunset and a sunrise, that event is consider a short cyclical pattern. Events like sunset/sunrise allows us to measure time even better we can find out growing seasons when to sleep and when to wake up, most people would consider time as cyclical because of these patterns. But not every culture, country and person believes that time in cyclical its been noted that cyclical time depends on the culture. Places like China, Africa and Native American see time as cyclical rather than linear because they believe time controls their lives, which makes sense, since those countries are more devoted on working when it’s morning and sleeping when its dark. They thought that their lives didn’t control time and that they were to adapt to the harmony of the cyclical time. So if cyclical time is describing time being a cycle occurring again does that mean we are just living in a loop? No, we do relive certain events like waking up going to school or work etc but each of those events are different.

So if cyclical means routine/cycle linear must mean straight/continuing? The answer to that question is correct, the definition of linear time is that it keeps going straight with no ends and no repeats or cycles. Some philosophers who were believers that time is linear include: Kant, Descartes, Newton, Locke etc. Linear time was quite different compare to cyclical time, because linear was more based on math and science, whereas cyclical was based more on culture and beliefs. Those who agree with linear time are said to believe that time is continuous without an ending, therefore they need to make every moment count. Linear time is events with a beginning (birth) and end (death), it has three steps Past, Present and Future

In conclusion our definition of time could be similar but if we want to pick a side (Cyclical or Linear) it

would be rather hard and confusing because  I feel for both, because we don’t live in a cycle everyday but not everyday is the same and it will come to an end one day.

PS. i feel like i did this wrong but oh well….

PPS. for all those crazy document lovers, here is one for you.. (click the word here)

By

Sledding my way to an aesthetic experience

 

Originally I was going to do a oral presentation on this but I thought that maybe people would not fully understand my demonstrations as well as the words coming out of my mouth. As well as I was embarrassed to share my idea because I thought people wouldn’t take me seriously.

Anyways let me start, Over the holiday I had several questions that I wanted to answer for this aesthetics post but I had narrowed it down to just 3:

  1. What substances contribute to the emotion of happiness?
  2. Can you achieve true happiness through simple action?
  3. What does happiness mean to me and what do I feel in that moment

One of my most memorable aesthetic experiences I had over the break was simply going sledding with one of my friends. This simple yet meaningful experience helped me answer the question of “What substances contribute to the emotion of happiness” This experience helped me answer and really learn about how I view certain things. Starting form the top of that hill to the bottom may have been a slight joy for some, but for me made my mind fill up with dopamine and brought a big smile to my face. I learned through this experience the reasons and substances that help me achieve this feeling of true happiness were through the memories that this had brought back from when I was younger. I was so happy remembering when times were easier, where I didn’t have to worry about getting into university, where I didn’t have to worry about certain drama, and where everything was lived so simply; stress free. I learned that the true reason I was so happy was because of the memories and the thoughts it had brought back to me, giving me that feeling back was like reliving that moment.

Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld
 -Martha Beck

My aesthetic experience or journey reminded me and connected me with the philosopher Descartes. Descartes really believed in the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” which I agree with very much. My aesthetic experience was individual to me, I am the only person to feel what I felt in that day and I can choose to make it beautiful which is exactly what I did or I can simply ignore its beauty, which others may do in the situation. It proves in this situation, and I am very confident in that phrase, that things became beautiful to you when you make them. Not all things are valued the same way in everyone’s eyes, we must make them our own and then either view them as beautiful which I had done while sledding, or ignore their beauty; Its all up to you.

Image result for eyes

By

When am I not talking about abortion honestly

 

Utilitarianism is the theory that actions should be taken based on their interpreted outcome. If your actions lead to an outcome in which the most happiness and least pain is generated, then the more just your action is. Basically, you’re always acting for the greater good, no matter the actions you take. An example of utilitarianism would be from the trolley problem; choosing to kill one person in order to let 5 live instead. This is taking action for sake of the greater good, even though it means sacrificing one life. Utilitarianism differs from Kant’s theory of the categorical imperative which is based on every individual’s moral compass. The obligation we have to our own morals overpowers our desires and inclinations. An example of categorical imperative would be buying and giving food to a homeless person you see. Having a categorical imperative is also having no ulterior motives for the things you do-you do something for the sole purpose of it to benefit someone else.

There are parts of both of these theories that I agree with and try to incorporate into my own morality. In terms of utilitarianism, I feel like I have always tried to be a people pleaser and a problem solver, so the concept of making choices to benefit all parties makes a lot of sense to me. On the other hand, I associate with the categorical imperative as I have a strong sense of justice and am a strong believer in doing things for the right reason. I think it’s important to have a balance between these theories, as there are many good things to take away from them. However, there are cons as well. Because utilitarianism evaluates actions based on their consequences, it can become tricky in certain situations. For example, we discussed in class the scenario of the army(the good guys) holding a person from a terrorist group(the bad guys) hostage and deciding to torture them in order to gain information that would ultimately help them save lives. In order to help the greater good, would you be willing to compromise your morals? As for the categorical imperative, it focusses more on the meaning behind actions rather than the consequences which can also be troublesome in certain situations.

A global issue that comes to mind when thinking about moral philosophy, is the controversy around abortion. Approaching this topic as someone who is pro-choice makes all the solutions seem very logical and easy to understand. On one hand, you have the pro-choice argument which is that abortion should be legal and accessible to all women because it’s their body and their choice. On the other hand, there is the pro-life argument which is that abortion should not be legal because it is the murder of a fetus. Looking at this with a utilitarian outlook, the option that has the best consequences is the pro-choice. There are many reasons why women choose to get abortions for ex. not being financially or mentally stable enough to raise a child. If this is the case, if the woman is forced to keep the child, it will most likely create a difficult life for not only the mom but the child as well. If the mother chooses to get an abortion, I believe its because she thinks it’s the best possible option for herself and her child. By forcing women to not have abortions, it creates anxiety and heartache, as well as some women will go through unsafe means to get one. So basically, by this school of thought, the pro-choice option generates the most happiness and therefore abortion should be legal everywhere. This also ties in with the categorical imperative, because choosing an option that is best for the mother and the child is morally right, and its unfair to deny this option.

Ethics was one of my favourite units; I loved learning about these theories as well as discussing hypothetical situations around them. I think this stuff is super important to be aware of and understand, because it’s applicable to everyone and everything.

By

Do it for the vine (gram)

 

Utilitarianism is a system of ethics according to which the rightness or wrongness of an action should be judged by its consequences. The goal of utilitarian ethics is to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Therefore because utilitarianism focuses on the happiness of the majority, which to be fair is most practical, it does not account the happiness of the minority. An example of utilitarianism is if a pharmaceutical company releases a drug with approved side effects, because the drug is able to help more people than are bothered by the minor side effects. This act of utilitarianism showcases the “ends justify the means” mentality. Utilitarianism major fault is that the “little guy” doesn’t get his way, for this reason, I would not consider myself to fully follow the utilitarianism ways. Although I do agree with Mills concept of higher and lower pleasures. The best example I can think of, for a person who just recently found a new love for hiking, is that the view after a day long hike, is much more gratifying than one that you took a gondola/elevator to get to and that the amount of work and time put into something accounts for how much pleasure that thing will give you.

Categorical Imperative is an unconditional moral obligation that is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on a person’s inclination or purpose. While I agree with the idea of doing things for because it is the right thing to do. I find it hard to wrap my head around a deed that is truly in the nature of good will, for I find that it’s easy to find an ulterior motive behind every action. What I interpreted from Kant’s Categorical Imperative, was that if you commit an act that benefits someone, yet one of the reasons you did it was to feel good about yourself, the act itself is not good anymore, and I don’t agree. The example I came across are the countless videos you see on Facebook, Instagram etc. of people doing good deeds, whether its giving food to the homeless or rescuing animals. This issue I have with these videos, is that it’s hard to detect whether the person is doing the deed out of the goodness in their hearts OR because they have a camera filming they want to flex and try to get as many likes and shares as possible. Now while these people may want fame, I still believe that it’s a good deed because in hoping for a viral video, in turn they are still helping someone out and I believe that that is still good.

 

By

My ethical and moral stance on how we stop ISIS

 


Biologically and chemically there is almost know difference between us and the apes. But because we have ethics and we have morals, we are humans. Beings with a capital B that can accomplish great and horrible things. In ethics there are two majorities that philosophers alike find themselves in, utilitarianism and Kant’s – Categorical Imperative

 

Utilitarianism

  • Do what will benefit the majority, involving…
  • Risking the life or lives of the few over the many
  • Doing wrong to stop more wrong
  • Be like your enemies to control your enemies

Kant’s – Categorical Imperative

  • Let’s not be our enemies
  • Hold our honor
  • And solve our difficulties earnestly so that when they are gone, we don’t need to use them again to solve them.

But what does that mean?

 

 

 

What it means that if we go about things with Utilitarian intentions our problems should be by logic, unsolvable and infinite.

  • People keep on getting killed so we need to kill the people doing the killing
  • We have now eliminated the killers of the people
  • But now, we have inspired more people to kill

And the list continues.

 

 

My ethical issue is the armed forces going into schools with goals of easy recruitment. Though wrongfully preaching to the young that dying can be a great thing is not illegal, it is morally wrong. Let’s face it, we always want what we cannot have and young people, my peers, are no exception to the rule. We are not eighteen, we cannot vote and as a result, we cannot enlist. Because of this restriction we as humans make it our magnum opus to break it, naturally. Young people are not allowed to do many a great things and enlisting in the armed forces is one them. But, it is when the government uses the anticipation we all feel to get what they want whether it is power, control or money it is then, morally wrong.

But the burning question I know we are all asking is “, wouldn’t be for the better good. I mean sure we shouldn’t enlist our young but it’s to stop ISIS.” Are we all in agreement that ISIS and various other terrorist groups are bad not just by what they do= but who they include in they’re wrong doings. ISIS along with the US military, recruits the young. Similar tactics are used and the cycle of utilitarianism continues. More young people die requiring more young people to die on the opposing side and so on and so forth.

 

I am pro categorical Imperative. If we don’t be our enemies our enemies won’t be us and that’s my moral and ethical stance.

By

I’m here, I’m queer, and Fox News can go to hell. (Jordan Chambers)

 

I can’t really say that ethics was a weird unit for me because what unit isn’t a weird unit for me but let me tell you. Ethics was a weird unit for me. I’ve been weirdly busy since winter break ended so a lot of the time I was too preoccupied to be fully present in class which sucked because I’m sure I would have had a lot of thoughts during discussions but I could pay enough attention to discern some things.

So for personal definitions, utilitarianism is like doing things because they will make you and the people around you happy and the definitions I was given make it seem like actions are good as long as they increase pleasure. On the other hand, the categorical imperative is doing things because they are the right thing to do and carries the belief that actions are only moral if they are done without selfish motivations. So the example I used when I explained all of this to my costume crew (these poor grade nines I work with deal with so much) was that if you see your friend is about to be shot and you jump in the path of the bullet, under utilitarianism this is an ethically good action because your friend will be happy they are not dead and (assuming you survive) you will be happy because your friend is not dead but under the categorical imperative your action is only ethical if your motivation to take the bullet for your friend didn’t take into account your personal feelings (I took the bullet because it is my duty to prevent people from being killed vs. I took the bullet because I would be sad if my friend died).

It’s really hard to try and define your personal ethical perspective using other peoples words because to me it seems like “oh these things are right or wrong because they just are” but theres underlying reasons obviously and trying to justify and explain those is just really hard (A lot of my conclusions relate back to things are perceived differently due to personal background and that comes into play a lot in ethics. Like your ethical perspective is determined by who you are and how you were raised and in what kind of society, etc…). So as best I can figure it, my ethical perspective is mostly utilitarianism but obviously not strictly utilitarianism because that’s just a little ridiculous to think that any person can only do things out of a sense of duty. I agree with some aspects of the categorical imperative though, like there are obviously things I want to do that I don’t out of a sense of duty or because they have been determined ‘wrong’ by society and I think thats okay but also some things are okay to do for selfish reasons if they increase happiness for others (for example I want gender neutral bathrooms to be more commonplace because yes, I’m trans and want a place to feel safe and thats a little selfish, but also because other people who are also trans deserve the same thing because humans should have a right to feel safe). So really I don’t mind things being done for selfish reasons as long as they also increase pleasure for the other people involved.

A problem of ethics that comes to my attention a lot is when advertising companies and brands and artists use the representation of LGBT people (and people of colour but it’s not really my place to talk about that) as a way to further interest in their brands and increase their own wealth. The most recent example that comes to mind is the National Geographic cover that features trans people. Basically, NatGeo ran a piece on transgender people for their january 2017 edition entitled “the gender revolution” and the cover(s) feature photographs of transgender people. How is that an ethical dilemma? Well two things really, National Geographic was just bought by Fox News (yknow, the one with astoundingly conservative bias) and they didn’t actually… compensate their models for the time taken to do the photoshoot. So we have a magazine, owned by a racist and homophobic news source, running a piece that they will profit off of, but not paying their models (trans people, who are overwhelmingly in poverty anyway). Lots of people have varying problems with this cover and so do I but personally I feel like this kind of representation isn’t what some people are calling it, exploitation. When a magazine allows trans people (including a nine-year-old trans girl) to tell their stories in their own way, thats important. It’s selfish of NatGeo to not pay their models, yes, and that may be slightly unethical considering their new affiliations with Fox News but the stories they are telling and the visibility that they are providing the trans community with is potentially lifesaving (The ‘Summary of Reccomendations’ section of this report relates to my point). While it is unlikely that anyone under the age or 16 will actually read a NatGeo magazine, there’s the chance that a young trans kid could see this cover and think ‘maybe I’m not alone’, I know I would’ve liked something like this article when I was younger. To sum up, I don’t think it was unethical for Fox News to use NatGeo to profit off of trans folk, because it does increase happiness of both the people at NatGeo and trans folk/allies, even if it was a little selfish of them.

By

Morality & Veganism – Nazlie Najafi

 

Utilitarianism

  • Doing what provides the most pleasure to the most people

  • Can sometimes result in “taking one for the team” (sacrificing your own pleasure in order to do more good overall)

  • Example ~ ordering pizza instead of my preferred take-out because it would produce the most pleasure for my house-guests

  • On a larger scale, utilitarianism leaves out the minority – which can lead to awful things. The “greater good” is very subjective, and what may benefit one group of people, could demolish another. In my opinion this is a deal breaking flaw of utilitarianism. It would be harmful to apply it to many situations (if I worked in a racist workplace, I would hate for my coworkers to make every decision based off of what they believe is the “greater good”, this would be extremely harmful and unproductive.)

Kant – Categorical Imperative

  • Basically “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

  • It is not fair to make exceptions for yourself, imagine your actions/moral values universalized – moral rules should apply to everyone

  • “Always as an end, never as a mere means” do not do things only for your own benefit, always take the interests of the thing you’re using into mind

  • Although I prefer the categorical imperative, I believe that all people differ in what they consider harmful, and regardless of how pure our intentions are, the impact could still end up harming others

Personally, I believe that on a smaller scale, doing things that benefit the majority is the respectful thing to do, (working on a group project in school, choosing food for a party, the railway situation that was given in the harvard justice video, any situation as long as it doesn’t cause anyone serious harm or contribute to social barriers.) However, on a larger scale I think utilitarianism can be dangerous and unproductive, and we must take in the interests of the minority and include them in the picture or we may never heal social/economic barriers.

I also really like how Kant’s categorical imperative builds up empathy in us, and forces us to call ourselves out for being selfish and harmful. I think this could completely change the way we think in regards to the environment and could lead to tons of positive change. I’d definitely apply Kant’s categorical imperative to situations where utilitarianism is harmful, and in almost all situations, as long as the impact does not harm others.

A personal issue I can apply my morality to is my veganism. Over winter break, I went vegan solely because I wanted to clear up my skin. I honestly didn’t really care about the entire environmental and animal rights aspect of veganism, I’d always brush it off because I saw both as trivial (which I’m aware was very ignorant of me.) After learning about the categorical imperative in class, I realized that I was only using veganism as a “means” to clear up my skin, not because I cared about all of terrible things the meat/dairy industry does to the environment and to animals. I was not a vegan out of empathy for animals, I had my secret evil vain motives. However, now that I can apply my newfound morality to the situation, I decided to look into the environmental benefits that come with veganism. I completely see the diet as an “end” in itself, and even though my skin has not cleared up one bit, I am continuing the diet because I believe it’s the ethically and morally correct thing to do.

 

By

To Pee, Or Not To Pee: That Is The Question – Urinetown The Musical

 

Now, I don’t know if you, the reader, have ever had the pleasure of seeing or hearing of a musical by the name of Urinetown (I applaud you if you have), but I think it brings up an interesting moral dilemma that begs to be discussed.

For those unfamiliar with this show (don’t lie to me, you probably are), Urinetown is set in a time of drought that has lasted a long twenty years, and shows no signs of stopping. The town in the show has put in place a system to regulate water usage, the story highlighting one particular aspect of it: toilet regulation. Those in charge can’t let people have private household toilets, and they also can’t have people urinating in the streets, so the Urine Good Company (UGC) sets up public amenities where people need to pay a hefty fee to use the toilets there. And to combat the people’s desire to ignore the public urination laws instead of using the amenities, the penalty for getting caught doing your business anywhere but a public amenity is being sent to the mysterious “Urinetown.”

The story follows those who frequent amenity #9 as they rebel against the UGC by refusing to pay the fee, and using the washroom whenever they want. Of course, this causes conflict with the UGC, but they are eventually overthrown by the revolutionaries. It is revealed throughout the story that the UGC is buying off the legislature so they can do whatever they want and not run into the law. This includes raising amenity fines, the profits, of which, they are using to become fabulously rich, since they have given up on actually trying to find a scientific solution years ago. Furthermore, they have also paid off the police force, which is responsible for sending people to “Urinetown,” but in the words of one of the cops, “there is no Urinetown; we just kill people!”

So, the people of amenity #9 had good reason to take the UGC down, and as the show is coming to a close, things look like they’re going to be good for all in the town. This is soooooooo not the case. The hard truth is that they chose to live good and die fast, using up what little resources they had left in a short period of time, ending the show dead on the stage from dehydration and sickness. Their brief happiness ensured everyone’s death, and the viewer, despite their hate for the UGC, is forced to revaluate the positives of the company and the regime it formed. It is mentioned in a line during the closing number that the UGC was very effective in regulating water consumption, and was able to supply its employees with healthy salaries and good lives that would have lasted for quite a while if not for the revolutionaries. And even though there were people suffering, they were alive, weren’t they?

Herein lies our dilemma, dear reader (if you’re still there), because one is forced to confront two options: Have everyone be happy for a short amount of time (then suffer and die), or have the people suffer a bearable, yet constant amount for a long time and be happy rarely, and experience happiness of a lesser strength than the first option. Otherwise known throughout the show as side “what of today” and “what of tomorrow.”

Read More

css.php