A Conundrum of Ethics


Starting a writing on ethics seemed at first to be a somewhat easy task until I actually started putting thoughts down on paper and making sense of what I was writing. I thought this would provoke some thought but never imagined the amount of thought this would take. The basic definition of Ethic from Merriam-Webster states, “rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad”.  Most of the definitions found revolved around morals or morality so discussing ethic in a general sense one must start with a bases of what is moral or what is morality? Where do morals come from? Does everyone have morals? Are we born with a set of moral laws embedded in our hearts or do we develop morals as we age? The issue of morality and/or immorality is a very deep subject that will never be fully weighted out in man’s words or thoughts. Can ethics ever be weighted out for that matter?

For the sake of length here my stance is; there are absolute laws regarding morals.

  • The God of the bible made the world and humanity (Gen. 1-2; Ex.20:8-11; Acts 17:24-28) if God made us he has every right to tell us how to live.
  • God proved himself in the Bible. 30 some odd prophecies from Isaiah coming true 730 years later in the 4 Gospels. The miraculous deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex. 19:4-5; 20:2-3; Deut. 4:32-40). The miracle of raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:30-31)
  • God is perfectly good therefore everything he created such as the moral teachings are perfectly good and reflect his character (Lev. 19:2; Rom. 7:12; 1 Peter 1:14-16) Moral standards of the Bible are expressions of God’s perfectly good character and we were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27)
  • God is unchanging and consistent (Deut. 7:9; Ps. 136; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8) therefore the moral standard of the Bible are unchanging and consistent.

excerpt from Dr. Kenneth Boa; https://bible.org/seriespage/ethics-if-god-mattered-secularism-and-word-god

Also for length I will not attempt to go into meta-ethics, normative ethics, utilitarianism, Kantianism, ethical intuitionism, virtue ethics, categorical imperative, consequentialism, non-consequentialism, deontological ethics, or whatever else there may be.

For the most part and for most people we believe we are ethical and view others around us within an ethical lens. I do see however that different people have different ethics when dealing with the same issue. For example I work in insurance and insurance carriers, for the most part, believe it is unethical for a roofing salesman to inspect the very product he is selling. A roofer says that as long as they are honest with the inspection it isn’t unethical. For these 2 parties to disagree on what is ethical or unethical gives a point that ethics may be objective. If both parties agreed to the honesty of the person doing the inspection then both parties might be able to say that it isn’t unethical for the roofer to do the inspection but what would an outside 3rd party say about this?

What about much deeper issues regarding life such as:

Is it ethical to torture a person for information that may save 1000 other people? Does this question make you ask yourself if this is a situation in which your ethics are objective? Is it ever ethical to break a promise? Is capital punishment ethical? If a person believes abortion to be ethical, what do they do with science declaring life begins at conception? If that doesn’t change a person’s view then what makes it ethical to kill a living baby in the womb but killing a living baby outside of the womb is unethical? Would any of these questions bring an example that may cause you to change what you believe is ethical into believing it is unethical or vice versa? Does that mean ethics are objective or does it mean that we as humans are objective with the progression of knowledge but ethics never change?

To bring objectivity into a discussion about ethics one must have a fundamental basis for what is truth. What do you believe to be true? Why do you believe it to be true? To be Objective is to determine a decision based on what is true in a given situation. Regardless of culture, society, and background, at some point you have to come to the conclusion that truth matters. If you have been arrested for a crime you did not commit the truth really matters to you. Then we get into perceptions of truth between different individuals. We know there are absolute truths but does that mean that good ethics are absolute? Ethics tend to change from culture to culture but do the ethics of the people change when they are placed into a different culture that has a differing set of rules regarding society?

As this post goes on it is getting deeper and deeper with no visible light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The main question of this writing is, “Are ethics objective”. Well, I don’t know for sure. Do you? Hopefully this can start a dialogue that gets us farther down the line with our own thoughts and ideas.