Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5. Ethics in Bullet Points

Almost done with my Philosophy in Bullet Points in celebration of my new philosophy textbook (also see my theology bullet points). Unlike the textbook, which tries to present all basic positions fairly, these posts give my personal, philosophical inklings.

1. Epistemology and Metaphysics.
2. Philosophies of God and Science
3. Philosophies of History and Art
4. Logic and Philosophy of Person

  • God is the ultimate value and benchmark for righteousness.
  • The ultimate Christian standard for living consists in the twin love command: love God and love neighbor.
  • Loving God implies ceasing to be the center of value. The goal of life is thus not egoistic (what's in it for me) but putting God's purposes above my individual desires, putting virtue above personal pleasure, putting others above myself. 
  • God's goals, however, are not onerous. I demonstrate my love of God most when I am loving others, and the love of others never contradicts my love of God.
  • To love others is to act in a way that promotes their good, which goes beyond pleasure to promoting their wholeness as a human being made in God's image in a loving way. 
  • To "do wrong" is thus, primarily, to act in a way that is unloving either toward God or others (or not to do good when I have a clear opportunity to do so). This implies intent, an intentional wrong, knowingly done toward God or others. To do wrong is to act self-centeredly in a way that dishonors God or harms others.
  • Since I am also created in God's image, I deserve respect and dignity as well, and there is a time to honor myself as an honor to God, even over and against potential good I could do for others.
  • One can also wrong God or others unintentionally. From a moral perspective, such wrongdoing is less significant but, since God loves everyone, is ultimately significant.
  • Virtue honors God--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, wisdom, courage, justice, and so forth.
  • Virtue is a pattern of choice, which can become a disposition by habitual choice (a version of Aristotle). 
  • Goodness is a matter of our choices, not our feelings. The cumulative weight of our choices is our character. 
  • No physical act is intrinsically wrong. ("No food is unclean of itself") Acts are right are wrong depending on the intention of the person acting and the consequence of the action. ("Whatever is not of faith is sin")  
  • One can act in mind as well as body. (You have heard it said... but I say to you.)
  • The twin love command is the ultimate ethical absolute, and it is a standard of intention. There is no situation when it would be right not to love God, others, or to respect myself as a human being.
  • Other rights and wrongs are derivative of these absolutes and play out contextually.
  • So killing other human beings is almost always wrong, but there are exceptions. Such exceptions can include self-defense, just war, and final justice. Therefore, by definition, killing is not an absolute wrong but a wrong that is universal, with exceptions.
  • Most specific wrongs fall into this category--universally wrong with exceptions. Some wrongs, however, are a matter of personal conviction or derive from the cultural significance of actions. ("If anyone thinks it is unclean, it is unclean.")
  • Those few ethical norms that are absolute (universal and exceptionless) are so because there is no circumstance in which there is an exception (e.g., adultery). Universal significance to action is an aggregate of all particular instances of an action having a similar significance.
  • One cannot dismiss an ethical claim by labeling it "relativistic" or "situational ethics." It is overwhelmingly obvious that the core value of love plays out differently in different situations, as well as that some norms are cultural or personal. Such "dismissal by categorization" is not only for the feeble minded but is a tool of injustice and oppression.
  • We inevitably operate with a hierarchy of values. For example, the value of saving life takes precedence over the value of obeying the speed limit. Making ethical decisions typically involves weighing legitimate values against each other in the light of the consequences of various courses of action.

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

A good summary.