I was never raised with terms like ethical or moral and I don't actually believe in either. A moralist is a rigourist with a talent for justifying anything. One persons ethical behaviour is another persons unethical behaviour.

What use are they?

Whether it's abortion or stem cell research I think they should be judged by how pro or anti human they are especially in terms of the individuals who choose them, the circumstances or who in particular might benefit and in what way. It's not valid, for example, to say it's equally wrong for a woman in a slum who already has eight children to have an abortion compared to a mega wealthy socialite in London who just found out 7 months in that the pregnancy will interfere with her holiday plans. With stem cell research it's not logical no matter what the ethics or morals claimed apply to put a bunch of embryonic cells on the same level as a person suffering from a spinal disease. I think it's possible to argue that discussing things in terms of ethics and morals is one of those unwinnable games of see saw the religious mind has drawn reason into.

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Well no John D. What I mean is that every thing is spherical rather than black and white. I literally did not grow up being conscious of either of those words. Reducing things to black and white I think is organised religions great curse on the world.

While individual humans can be very complex in their understanding and decision making collectively the human race is still in its infancy.
Well then does that make both bad ways to frame the discussion of collective behaviour considering that what is and what is not moral has constantly shifted over time? No resulting moral can be eternally ascribed across the whole human race at any time or for any length of time. While it is immoral to kill in one place it may be essential for survival in another. Killing another person in a bar in Ohio because they just insulted you new hairdo can't be equated with a starving mother of a child who waits till her GangaWeed militia rapist falls asleep and cuts his throat in order to escape with her children.

Any ethical study of morality which has to come down on either side of the question "is it right to kill" will be wrong and right at the same time.

On the other hand if one was to use the concept of things being on a scale between pro and anti human that would have to be applied to the complexity of the circumstances.
But then if one would not expect morality to be unchanging where does that leave the time and resources spent in arguing what is and what is not moral/ethical. Especially since in one part of the world the circumstances are completely different to another part of the world. A shoplifter who has the income from a full time job and health benefits taking something from a supermarket in London is not the same as a starving teenager in Haiti stealing a kilo of milk powder from a UN compound. If the kid in Haiti is feeding himself to ensure his continuing survival he's being pro human and even more so if he shares it with what is left of his family. The rule "it's wrong to steal" then goes out the window so any discussion over the morality/ethics or immorality/unethical of wheter it is right or wrong to steal is redundant

If the collective discussion was begun on the basis of what is pro or anti human and on the basis of the range of circumstances facing particular people at a given time then the discussion has to start from a more complex basis then what is simply ethical/moral or unethical/immoral which are no more sophisticated than the simplistic heritage from the bible books which insist there is such a thing as right (full stop)and wrong (full stop).

Collectively the human race in its attempts to regulate itself is not much more sophisticated than trying to judge what is right or wrong when neither exists in reality.

The value of a moral system is a local phenomenon and is as much an opportunity and an advantage to those who break it maybe even more so than those who keep to it.

If judging human action in terms of being pro or anti human is still an examination of terms like "ethics" would it not be a better starting point since whomsoever examines other humans actions (like the mother killing in Darfur) will inevitably do it from the standpoint of what their particular tribe/nation/religion has already accepted to be moral or immoral?
No Brendan I don't like labels but in the sense they override basic human identity. Labels when they override human identity make the killing of others possible as being a different tribe/religion/nationality.

From childhood in schools it might help collective human understanding if children were taught they were humans first and foremost. Humans who are born in a particular place (nationality) belonging to a particular cultural atmosphere (religion, country and western, atheist), humans at the latest end of an ongoing story of one branch of humanity (race) sure but first and foremost humans.
But are ethics not a matter of opinon?
Sorry but I don't think that situation involves ethics or morals so much as etiquette, manners and keeping allies satisfied and onside.

Opinion: whether or not it is rude to call a friend at night depends entirely on the situation. If you knew your friend might not go to work the next day and you knew it was his birthday might it be "ethical" to call him after midnight so, as arranged with his boss, you could take your friend out for the day? If your friends daughter had confided in you that he was molesting her but you knew you had no proof or that he was in a powerful position locally in terms of the law what would it mean in terms of ethics/morals if you made excuses to ring him, keeping him up so eventually he slept through and in that way for one night you kept him away form his daughter until you could do more? What if you broke the 9pm to 9am rule then even by ringing anonymously ever 40 minutes?

Can the "ethic/moral" don't be rude (as in ringing after 9pm) be applied universally to all situations in all parts of the human race at the same time?
How have we evolved into "ethical creatures". Where do they live on planet Earth? A year ago an army bombed a small area of land and its inhabitants into rubble and this week they are providing medical aid in a disaster zone and scoring PR points. Countries whose power is based on an arsenal of nuclear weapons are threatening countries that might eventually build just one. Child rape by powerful organised religions is being covered up by their members in government. Millions everyday are being starved, raped, tortured and ruled by military coups. Millions more are living well fed lifestyles based on the acquisition of resources by military might and corruption in countries far from them.

If no ethic can be applied universally and permanently then any list of ethics is just a list of arbitrary rules.

What is or is not an emergency phone call depends entirely on the circumstances. The man finding out a young girl is being molested at night may work the father and feel no urgency whatsoever in the situation thinking firstly of keeping his own income and thus providing for his own family. What one person on one end of the phone may think is an emergency the other may not so there can not be a rule that depends entirely on “non emergency phone calls”.
If there is such a thing as a permanent universal "ethic" you only have to provide one. Believing there is and that it must be applied is the spur and the excuse whereby one tribe after another have made war on others.

You should not take it so hard that the world is not full of reliable rules you can put your faith in. I’m sure it comes as an uncomfortable realisation to most people along the way.
What you are trying to articulate is called situational ethics, which really are not the same as morals. Sadly, especially in the US, there is a very stupid and loud majority who are not aware of the process of critical thinking. Although I agree with your point, it is way over the heads of most, and in order to change that our entire educational system will need an overhaul. Which isn't bloody likely to happen given the savior afflicted illusions of the powers that be. This is why I am extremely intolerant and downright mean when I encounter religious persons who refuse to keep their illusions to themselves. We aren't doing anyone any favors by being nice and polite, some people need to have their feelings hurt, repeatedly, in order to get them thinking. I would like to see a movement to rid public schools of the pledge of allegiance, other than being just damn stubborn and forcing the issue how could this be accomplished? Logically, since the US government is neither moral or ethical we should all be refusing the pledge but will it happen in my lifetime? Not bloody likely.
It would appear Dodge from the posts above yours that being closed minded is not confined to religious believers. The idea was not whether something is moral or ethical but whether that is the best basis for judging human behaviour.
The problem with labeling terms like ethics and morals is that the terms are contextually based on the illusion that there is right and wrong. Right and wrong are absolute terms like black and white. If you say it is wrong to kill you are saying it is ALWAYS wrong. The ethics/morals terms leave no room for flexibility. Anyone that says that there exists 'situational ethics' is saying now that there are two types of ethics; universal and situational. People think in their native languages and rigid terms lead to rigid thinking.

I have to agree with you FXR, that ethics/morals are limiting in scope when applied universally but generally I believe that the problem arises form the use of ideas like right and wrong. Right and wrong do not exist in nature. They are concepts derived by humans to describe actions. I personally prefer the concepts of better or worse because they are contextual and situational. Something can only be worse when compared to another something. Nothing is inherently bad but some things are worse/better than others depending on the objective viewpoint. This new way of labeling ethical concepts such as killing or stealing creates a way to say what the response to ethical situations should be in comparison to the alternative responses.

Viewing the world of human behavior from the lens of good/bad or right/wrong is what is currently holding humanity back from achieving a universal rule-set of situational behavior. There are times when killing is necessary and those times are always situational. You can't just label anything with an absolute because there are always exceptions. The idea of judgment from on high is what set the template for absolute moral/ethical labeling. The one who is judging is the one who determines the standards for right/wrong. Since there is no final arbiter of judgment there is no right/wrong. The day will come when a killing is only justifiable because all of the alternative actions would have had worse results than a death not because it was the right thing to do.
Actually Jacob that puts it even better. I read as many newspapers and watch as many news programs as I can. Events are constantly described in black and white. Famous (or infamous) in the news humans are described and judged in black and white terms derived from Jesusism. At the mass level humans are collectively still delivered information in simple terms which is I think wired into human thinking by organised religions simplistic idea of good and evil delivered over centuries by indoctrination from childhood.

As an alternative I've been thinking of the concept of Spherical Thinking.

The first law of Spherical Thinking is:
While there is no advantage that may not eventually become a disadvantage there is no disadvantage that may not eventually become an advantage.

In Spherical thinking nothing has a definite completely know beginning or a definite completely know end.

I've put those out to a few people and so far no one has come up with anything that can contradict either.


The need to define what is and what is not moral are bred from a pre existing mental atmosphere created by religious black and white thinking.

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