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Argothian Treehouse

with Andy Van Zandt

Ethic Proportions: Part One

This article is more a preface to the next two I intend to write,  just
giving you a brief overview of what I mean when I say certain things.  All
included,  it's about how you behave when confronted with decisions,  and
cheating, and other things besides.  As a warning,  this first part will not
include much specific talk about magic,  just a couple things to make sure
we're all on the same page.

A philosophical discussion.  More specifically,  one concerning ethics and
morals.  Philosophy,  for those who don't know,  is basically anything that
starts off with "I think",  it's subjects run from the mundane to the
metaphysical,  which to some is one and the same.  But in general, most
philosophical theory or argument is about a few specific things...  the
nature of existence (of us as people, of the world, or of the universe), 
how we should examine things and the limitations we have had imposed on us
or impose on us on our own,  and how and why we should behave.  These
articles are more about the third one,  which for the most part is covered
by two categories: Ethics and Morals.

Ethics is a standard of behaviour, either laid out by society, yourself, or
some other governing faction in your life (your church being one of the more
common ones,  but we'll try not to get too preachy here).  You often make
decisions based on your code of ethics without even thinking about them, 
but by and large people often have pre-set notions of how they should
behave.  Laws (the kind the police enforce) are a good example of an ethical
code.  Now while "i'm gonna put on my underwear and socks every day when i
wake up" is a standard you set for yourself,  i'd be hard pressed to call
that a matter of ethics.  Ethics is more along the lines of why you
would lay out those socks and underwear each day,  although that's (in
general) a more trivial issue than one you would normally evaluate the "why"
of.  For now we'll just say Ethics are your guidelines of behaviour that you
make for yourself.

Morality is often considered an aspect of ethics,  but in this essay it will
be more defined.  Morality is based on why your guidelines are the way they
are.  Often this is defined as what is "good" and what is "evil",  in the
greater scheme of things.  Often (sorry again) this goes back to a matter of
religion,  or what God says is wrong or right.  Wrong or Right, Good or Bad,
Evil or Just,  and the shades of grey in between (if you're of the belief
that there are shades of grey,  some people aren't).

Now one of the big differences between morality and ethics is how you can
argue about them.  You can disagree with someone's elses ethical code, and
say it is immoral for them to set such guidelines for themselves,  but you
can't say their ethics are wrong,  or incorrect.  Your ethical code is not
wrong or right,  it just is.  To do something unethical is to break your
ethical code.  It's kind of like opinion,  your opinion can't be "incorrect"
because it's an opinion.  "No running on the pool deck" is not wrong or
right,  it just is what it is,  a guideline.

Morality on the other hand,  is something that sparks debate all the time, 
because someone can (or rather will) say you are wrong or right in regards
to it.  Let's say for instance that killing someone with full knowledge of
your actions is immoral,  or "evil" (this is arguable of course,  but we can
talk about that some other time.  Just assume for now that it is "evil" or
"bad").  Now a man with that viewpoint may go his whole life and refuse at
every opportunity to kill a person,  even when others might.  But another
man, who also may believe it to be immoral to knowingly take another life, 
may kill someone who is threatening him,  who is stealing his car, or in a
war.  Both people may have the same Moral beliefs,  but their code of ethics
is different,  so they behave differently under the same circumstances.  Now
either of these people could point at someone who believes it is NOT evil to
kill (lets say this guy argues that we're all animals really,  primal
instinct means animals kill each other sometimes) and say that his moral
code is "wrong",  and he may say that theirs is "wrong", although it is
still a matter of opinion (kinda,  or rather a differing of assertations
based on belief or experience) it is an arguement about the nature of the
universe and what is "good" or "evil" in the universe, rather than what you
choose to do for yourself.

Confused yet?  good.  In summary,  morality is an assumption of what is
"good/right/just" and what is "bad/wrong/evil".  Ethics is the guidelines
you choose to follow for your behaviour,  often based on your morals.  Next
article we'll actually relate this stuff to magic.  Until then, feel free to
let me know what I've incorrectly said so far,  or what I got right.


You can reach Andy at:

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