Ethics: moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.
Morality: a particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.
Rationalization: the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.
Lately I have found myself thinking about these three words and what they mean. I have tried to rank them in a way that is appropriate or logical, and I might add, ineffectively. Each word is so tied into the other two that it is hard to use one without thinking of the other two. On the bumpy road of life one finds oneself confronted with these three ideals on a regular basis. I must admit that a recent event in my life has forced me to re-evaluate my understanding and dedication to these principles.
Let’s begin with the word MORALS, since this word is used in the definition of ETHICS. A particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society. What is a system of values? Who decides on this system of values? Are these values a constant in a world of chaos? Is there one set of morals/values that is better than any other? These are tough questions that may be unanswerable for someone living in a fish bowl. How can I, or anyone for that matter, think they can liberate themselves from the environment enough to evaluate their own morals? Some of the Ten Commandments may offer some insights into acceptable morals. After rereading the Ten Commandments several times I am left with a bad feeling in my tummy. The first four commandments are talking about giving allegiance to a god. There is no mention of values or morals, just that you devote yourself to a supreme entity, no questions asked. Number five says you should listen to your parents, who I might add, have been given no guidance in moral behavior at this point in the commandments. I feel that number 6 has some real meat on its bones, THOU SHALT NOT KILL. I feel that this may be a viable moral to believe in. Number 7 has some merit to help control our crazy need for procreation. Stealing is a tough one, since Robin Hood was a thief taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor. Do you think he was rationalizing? I think 10 is referring to your neighbor’s lawn mower or car, or maybe even his or her mate which is sort of like number 7. So out of 10 commandments I only found four that fit into a code of morals. Be nice to your mom and dad, don’t kill other people, stay away from your neighbors stuff, (this includes his mate) and don’t steal, which is similar to , stay away from your neighbors stuff. That’s not a lot to go on but I guess its a good start. I think I can condense this to three morals.
- Be good to mom and dad
- Don’t kill other people
- Don’t take anything that belongs to your neighbor or anyone else for that matter
Now think of how much money they could have saved had I been there to help them with that stone tablet. I believe that if we were to truly follow these three rules, society would be a far better place to live.
Lets move on to ETHICS: Now that we have some morals to live by, we can begin to discuss Ethics. Moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. We must decide if we have the ethics to live by those morals. I believe that most people know what basic good morals are, but the problem arises when people do not have the principles, or ethics, to live by those ideals. The bumpier the road, the increased chance exists that you will drive off the road or break down on the road. Lets call the morals the passengers in the car and the car is the ethics carrying the morals down the road. As long as the car is able to navigate the road everything is fine. When the car/ethics begin to fail, the morals are left to fend for themselves. This is when the morals face their greatest challenge. and this is when our third word comes into play.
Rationalization is by far the most difficult word to write about. This word has led to wars, carnage, theft, sexual abuse, child abuse, hunger and it is my belief, almost every disastrous event that has ever happened on earth. One could say that Adam rationalized that he should take a bite of that proverbial apple. The ability of the human mind to take most any situation and rationalize that their approach to a problem is correct, regardless of the possible outcomes is staggering! I wonder when in the evolution of man through the ages did we develop the ability to rationalize? With this thought we will talk about the coming of the artificial intelligence age and what it will bring to human kind.
Here is an example: I’m late to work and I am caught in traffic. One more late charge and I may be fired. The light in front of me is yellow and if I rush I should be able to make it through thus avoiding all the negative consequences. I step on the gas but to my dismay the light turns red and a van full of kids pulls out in front of me and I take the lives of two of the kids….
Second option: My car is being driven by an artificial intelligence device. The computer senses the light turning yellow and knows how long I have before it turns red. It makes a very accurate calculation predicting my ability to make it through the changing light. What ever it decides, I am sure the chances of killing two kids is greatly reduced and maybe I will make it to work on time anyway.
Computers do not rationalize, they predict outcomes based on available data. Computers could not rationalize a war or any of the disastrous events we have caused. As we become more and more powerful and able to make bigger and more powerful destructive devices, maybe we will have to rely on AI to help us through, because I do not believe we have the ability to navigate the bumpy road that lies ahead of mankind.
I would like to close this article with a little bit of humor so here goes. Even though Bill Cosby turned out to be the ultimate rationalizer, I thought his early humor very funny. This is one of my favorite stories: The scene is breakfast and Bill has been told to serve breakfast for the kids. The kids ask for chocolate cake. Bill decides that since cake is made of flour, eggs and milk that it would make a healthy breakfast meal. Mom comes to the kitchen and quickly squashes that idea. You’d think Bill would have learned from this episode not to rationalize.