Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The I-It in Ethics

Philosophers have had quandaries on what to value and what is of value. Ayn Rand values the individual, and liberty, and capitalism, as a outgrow of that position (at least from what I understand/know now about her philosophy). Her philosophy is called Objectivism. Its morality is based in Ethical Egosim. Self interest is of value in itself, as it is the limiting of collective demands.

Ethical Egoism is in opposition to virtue based ethics, which would value moral obligation or moral duty. And virtue based ethics is based on societal value, as an end, not the indivdiual themself as an end! This means that the individual's life is of no value apart from its utility or function within society. Human rights is based on individual value or personhood. Virtue Ethics is based on  moral examples, heroes, etc. It is not based on self-interest, but individual sacrifice. It is a Jesus as "moral model" example mode of life.

But, just as I would not want to be treated as an "It" or the commodity to meet someone else's "need" or a function of society, as evaluated by some "leader (ship)", I do not think we should treat others as "ITs" or means to our ends, as this devalues individual life, as well!

So, though I don't know much about ethics, per se, ethics was what got me to change my major from sociology to religion/philosophy. And I believe firmly that the individual, his life, and his values are ultimate ends in themself. Just as well, I do not believe that we can live in the world as an "island", without considering "the other" as a person, or society as a value. The other also has  interests, life values, and pursuits. So, I would not want to treat the other "I", as a means, or an "It". Isn't that virtue? It is the basis of the Golden Rule, or the Categorical Imperative, isn't it?

Our government is the best form, as it allows for the indivdual Egoist, as well as the Virtue based ethicist. Our society values the individual, which promotes societal flourishing, as that particular individual pursues their "self-interest". And isn't society about the I-Thou relationship? The social contract agreement of  equal protections under law?

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