Saturday, June 16, 2007
The Sticky Wicket of Ethics
Should one practice situational ethics? Ever? As a rule, the answer is no, definitely not. As with any rule, however, there are exceptions. One of my biggest rules to live by is the one that says rules were made to be broken.
Is it ever good form to avow one set of values with one group of people, and a diametrically different set with another group -- in order to gain peer approval and acceptance? Of course not.
Is lying to get out of a sticky situation the right thing to do? We all know it isn't. How many of us can honestly say we've never done it, though -- especially as kids?
But -- what about lying to protect someone's feelings? Let's say girlfriend is having a hair day from hell and she's feeling pretty low about it. Do we agree with her that her head's a disaster, or do we instead tell her she looks just fine? I'd opt for the latter. That's one situation in which I'd say a lie won't do any harm and may actually do some good.
Is lying to telemarketers wrong? Perhaps -- which does not preclude me from telling them the house is on fire and hanging up. I see no evil in that, and I'd be very surprised if such a fib results in points deducted from one's karma tally.
What about lying to loved ones to get out of doing something you really don't want to do? Something that not only drags you down mentally but could well end up making you physically ill? I've done it; you probably have, too. It doesn't make me feel good, though. Yet, the truth would make them feel bad. What do you do?
Who's read Spinoza's "Ethics?" I have a dog-eared copy lying around here that gets a reread every few years.
This one sentence says it all:
"There is no cause from whose nature some effect does not follow."
Everything we do, everything we say, affects someone else in some way. Whatever we're doing, we must be mindful of that.
Definitely something ponderable.