should we behave ethically?

this thread was inspired by craig's why be ethical? question. i was asked to contribute to it and i did as best as i could, but imho, it is not a proper question because it is not operational in concept. in other words, it can be answered in so many meaningless ways, that it becomes impractical to bother with it.

the question, should we behave ethically?, however, is more operational in that you can actually say something that can lead to practical action.

in this thread, any well-thought out contribution will have its link placed in this opening post with a very brief synopsis of its content. please provide rational arguments, deductive or inductive, based on religious teachings or otherwise.

please do not just spew out stuff that has no substance full of faith-based foolishness.

in friendship,



  • jacob's article negative preference morality argues that The Golden Rule provides a constructive, objective basis for moral behavior. link
  • jelle provides some good college material on ethics. link
  • ethical behavior can spawn ethical behavior (and visa versa). link
  • sangeeta provides a powerful post on the importance of action. link

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  •      Can you give an example of this "please do not just spew out stuff that has no substance full of faith-based foolishness." Pradtf

              I know some of my friends blend religion and spirituality and their personal experience to the point that I can't hang around them too long. For example "I saw a car accident then I saw a black blob." I then, went and talked to my friend about dreams and he/she said those two events were connected. Would the above be an example of such?

            Personally, I think in terms of survival. Long-term survival as a species will ultimately be determined by how ethically we behave. This is a silly example but in a Super Nintendo video game called SimEarth ethics are extremely important. In fact easily the most important factor in determining the evolution of a species. It was the first time I saw in a video game that ethics were important in an education and massive scale way.

           SimEarth and ethics

                  Note, you really should try the game, its old and low graphic, but there is a lot of substance to the game. Try messing around with the ethics meter when designing an intelligent species. If you have high ethics the species is cooperative and doesn't fight. If you put ethics at zero, the species will fight and exterminate itself within seconds.

                 Anyways, its simple from an evolution point of view. Become ethical or become extinct. There really is no middle ground. That's why its beyond insane that global climate change has reached this level. So, yes if we are to survive as a species we must act ethically. Now, debating what qualifies as ethical is a constantly evolving struggle. Just as species evolve, so do societies, values, and ethics.


    • faith-based foolishness like we should eat animals or kill the heathens because god said we should.

      Anyways, its simple from an evolution point of view. Become ethical or become extinct.

      very nice!

      in friendship,


  • Ok, Prad, with a good half hour to go in 2015, I'll jump in.  

    The above discussion you shared with Jelle about innate ethicality/behavior could likely be expanded into semester length, and still not begin to scratch the surface.  

    Yet to keep it on an "operational" level, I am reminded of the classic example of a baby in a crib.  Place a live bunny and a watermelon slice into said crib, and observe which the child pets and which the child nibbles.  

    Whether this consistent result be compassion or self-servedness or some combination of the two, the conclusion remains that our unsullied human instinct makes it plain what is food and what is friend.  

    Thus, one key to successfully living a healthy and ethical life is to reclaim this inborn intuition.

    • you just made it inside the year, wl!

      thx for your contribution.

      i think that while the innate idea may be unclear, your baby scenario tries to suggest it is there. certainly, as we experience living with others, a sense of conscience does appear, so it may have been already placed there. i certainly suggest this point here:

      one may never be able to determine if an event is good or bad, because we really don't know how the results will play out - causality is a tricky business. what is of significance though is how we conduct ourselves, because here we can take responsibility. we do have an innate understanding of morality, numerous individuals throughout history to guide us, as well as inspiration from the highest of sources.

      our conscience was not put there by accident.

      in friendship,


      • hear, hear

  • Another interesting take on the topic of whether we should behave ethically is found in the field of evolutionary ethics . It is argued that ethical behaviour has evolved because it is advantageous to the survival of a group. Though it's roots date back to Darwin, it is still a fairly new and unexplored area. The idea is that altruism and other moral behaviours amoung humans and other species exist because it is wired into our genes through years of natural selection. So the question of “should” isn't relevant because we simply “do”.

    Humans accordingly behave ethically because it is good for all if they do. Certainly behaving ethically is good for each us and others. Each of us knows right from wrong even if some don't care about it. When we live in line with our values we have integrity which gives peace within. It is good for others because when we do the right thing some others benefit. The actions we take don't harm others rather they help where help is needed. Living ethically helps our global community to evolve towards compassion and peace. From the evolutionary ethics point of view this increases the chances of our species surviving. Common sense also points to the same!

    Good wishes


  • Some thought about behaving ethically. Humans are not made to be ethical/good, we naturally pursuit pleasure and comfort. Ethics are a way for good people to protect themselves with arguments against bad behaviour from other people.

    • Humans are not made to be ethical/good, we naturally pursuit pleasure and comfort.

      i'm not sure this is correct, jelle. if an individual pursues pleasure and comfort for oneself, then the creature can comprehend that what is good for 'me' is good for another. this realization may come through reason, but the idea may also be inherent as evidenced by the compassion young children seem to show without giving it much thought.

      animals tend to do that too as ranjana's post as well as these links show:

      amazing animal altruism

      are humans unique in the animal kingdom?

      It's Official Now: Animal and Human Consciousness the Same!

      a dramatic experiment along the same lines as the rats in ranjana's post was

      masserman experiment

      you can see a youtube summary here

      while there likely was reasoning to justify choices for animals and humans, the driving force may not be reason-driven (at least as we understand reason to be), but innate. this driving force seem to build as we develop communities (of any species) in order to maintain order - the greater good, overriding the whims of the individual.

      singer and krauss seem to support this 'innateness' (as far as i've seen) in their discussion:

      Ethics are a way for good people to protect themselves with arguments against bad behaviour from other people.

      very true, though i think this is more politics than ethics, which is why different cultures can develop what appear to be different ethics.

      the golden rule is inviolable.

      we can apply reasoning to justify the golden rule, but its origin seem to have developed not through that process. for instance, einstein 'imagined' chasing a beam of light and later explained special relativity with reason, suggesting that he saw something, then quantified it.

      similarly, we all seem to see/know what is right (and wrong). then we develop rationale such as utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics etc etc and write philosophy papers on ethics. unfortunately, some of these papers are nothing more than politics that fit whatever convenience one wants to, but one's interpretations don't alter what is there.

      one might even suggest that ethics are grounded in inanimate objects. consider an atom described through quantum mechanical probabilities. here is so-called 'free will' in its rudimentary form! :D

      now as atoms come together to form the peanut butter jar from which i drink my green smoothie, we have a 'community' in which free will of individual atoms coalesce to maintain the integrity of the jar (fortunately). if we have order, we must have ethics.

      in friendship,


      •   "if we have order, we must have ethics"

        Wow!  That is such an amazing thought!! When there is order, there is a sense of group amoung those that are in the order.  When there is a sense of group, there is a sense of other (outside of the individual).  Ethics is part of what maintains the relations with others within the group so that the group can continue to exist. That's so simple and so profound!

        Thank you, P!

        Good wishes


        • That's so simple and so profound!

          as was the green smoothie you made for us this morning - simplicity in the ingredients and very profound since i consumed nearly an entire vitamix' worth!

          i guess we can call it e thic smoothie! ;)

          in fiendship,


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