Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.


Friday, 3 December 2010

Thoughts on Ethics

Have you ever wondered in a specific incident if your action was right or wrong?

A fundamental question that comes up daily for various reasons in one's mind is how can actions be ethical

Are we all aware of what is right or wrong
Different books on Ethics present us with two kinds of ethics, normative ethics in which one looks for a principal or a system of morality that can be the basis of all ethics, and virtue ethics which is associated with having a good character. In simple terms all ethics deal with our actions and behavior, yet there are no certain rules for morality, but rather guidelines in which we are free to choose whether to abide by or not. 

Someone may ask What is a good action?
Many people would say that a good action is what brings you satisfaction. Others would say it is an action that has a positive consequence or an effect on another individual or the community in general. But can we really know what is good without having to talk about evil and what is bad? I doubt it...
The social perspective here is that society dictates what is good and what is bad which forms the unspoken rules of judgements which every individual abides by, or at least try to follow to avoid social rejection. 
A thought experiment: if a man was born on an island and have never met any other being in his whole life, will he know what is wrong and what is right?  Again, I doubt it...

So what makes us, human beings, obliged to obey a law or go by a certain rule?
It is said that rules and laws have no value if they are not followed, not acknowledge at all. This means that the man on the island will feel no remorse killing another being for food, taking some other being or animal's shed or possessions. In fact the concept of one's own possession will not exist at all...

There are two kinds of laws in our world, divine law and civil law. The first law is based on a total submission and obedience of a divine being/power that determines what is good and bad. We have an understanding of this kind of law only through sacred scriptures- We shall call this religion.
The second kind of law is man made. Throughout history we have shown our love for rules and laws that govern our every aspect of life. Some people believe that they follow only divine law as an ultimate form of authority which is inert in their psyche, but unfortunately one is bound by society and civil law from birth till death- unless one becomes a hermit and lives in a secluded island.
I have always wondered why the Pharaohs where seen both as kings and Gods. People felt fear but also obligation to present their best offering to secure a better future, a reward, fulfillment of a wish or need.

One answer to the problem of Ethics is to claim that in the case of a divine law, ethics is whatever the divine makes it out to be. Ethics is meaningless otherwise. While on the other hand, Ethics can be what every human being makes it out to be, it does not apply to physical objects. It is man-made and hence can be mistaken.

A strange thought: Many people claim that every person is genuinely aware of his/her own action whether it is right or wrong. For instance, a child tying a stone to a frog knows the consequence of the action. It is a situation in which there is no repair.

School teaches children to act good, do they really? I have wondered how meaningful are certificates and rewards given for acting good... Funny enough Derrida and prophet Mohamed said that one will never know if his/her life was good or bad until the last breath... what a coincidence.

Images by John Picton

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