Albert Einstein once said, “Relativity applies to physics, not ethics”. Ethics are our moral principles that govern how we react, judge, and view scenarios in our everyday life. I believe that no one set of ethics can guide you through each problem in life. Every situation is different and requires its own view and judgment. My code of ethics falls in line with that of virtue ethics as I look at each scenario and how it will change me as a person. The way society views and judges ethical problems is always changing and because of this, I think that we should be able to shift our views as well. Furthermore, an action must be caused by an instant ethical response that may differ based on the situation. Lastly, you must be able to justify your actions to those that may question you as ethics and philosophy never stop at the end of an action. I believe that ethics involving my judgment, reaction, and justification are always changing helping me achieve a better ethical understanding of the world around me.
Firstly, the way we judge our situation with our opinions and mindset changes as time goes by. Our views often follow society’s opinions and if their opinions advance and become more accepting of a topic, then our views will differ in the long term as well. An example of a situation that has changed quickly in the last couple of years is the idea of homosexual marriage. In 2003 same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario. I grew up with this knowledge in my mind but I got to see those around me that were older adjust their ethical beliefs and gradually accept the new law. A great representation of this growth is the participation in gay pride parades, events, and promotions in North America in the 2010s. This shows the long-term change within our country and our community from an issue that many were skeptical about. In addition to long-term transformations in our judgment, there are also many short-term changes in our ethical reasoning before any action. These short-term revisions in our belief system can come from many different things, but most notably arguments. Arguments can change our minds without the presence of an event to form the best ethical response we can. During a philosophical debate, like the one our class is having, one’s knowledge is tested through arguments from the opposition. The arguments that are used can change your outlook on the situation within a span of ten minutes. Judging scenarios before they happen and changing an ethical opinion requires time and a driving force to happen.
Moreover, how I react in scenarios is subject to change and takes into account what has happened in the events prior. The main example of this instant adjustment with reaction is the proximity principle. In a situation with strangers, I would not feel completely compelled to help or assist with the situation, but if a family member or friend got involved, I would modify my ethical judgment to help. This is a change based on the reactionary judgment which causes one to choose their ethical choice within an instant. Involving a family member or friend initiates what I call “panic mode”. Panic mode cares little about the main task at hand but only cares about keeping family and friends safe and out of danger. This is just a reactionary response and gives little time for thought or modification once the plan is set in motion. Another example of ethics that change in an instant are those that involve life or death situations. As a lifeguard, I am led to making quick decisions in the case of life-threatening danger. Regardless of the scenario, I am legally and feel morally bound to react to the situation. This happens to be the case with most humans as we choose to save as many lives as we can while keeping ourselves safe. Most people including myself would still change those ethics to save the life of another if there were even slight negative downsides like changing my own ethics. This form of changing ethics happens by surprise without indication to us and happens in an instant.
Furthermore, my ethics also change according to how well I can justify my actions after I have committed them. If the outcome of the action I have created does not work in my favour, I will be less likely to commit that action again. This can be seen as the consequence of the action or ethical choice. If I was to skip school for a week by lying to my mother, and then suffer the consequence of failing, I would be able to reflect on my unethical choice and make the decision to not repeat. The idea of learning from your mistakes or building on the positives heavily influences this type of thinking of change. As a negative feedback loop to the human mind, if the consequence is not balanced, then I will choose to adjust it to balance the outcome. In addition to this, I also judge my former actions by how they affected my personality and how they transform who I am as a person. This way of thinking is similar to virtue ethics as I place a value on how my choice changes myself after the decision has been made. If I can prove to myself that the choice I made was good for my character, I will be more likely to repeat that action. Positive feedback leads to better ethical choices which then continue in a positive feedback loop. Looking back at my character traits and making sure I am improving them causes me to change myself for the better. Both of these ways use feedback loops to adjust my ethical opinion by justifying my choices after evaluating the action.
Overall, I believe that my ethical system needs to change and evolve to stay up to date through the use of judging, reacting, and justifying situations. With modification, I can adapt to different situations as each one is unique. I can change my ethics based on changing normals in society. Split-second reactions also form my ethics while with the involvement of family, friends or life-threatening problems. Lastly, I can look back at my ethics and see what they say about myself and change them for the better. Just like language, I don’t believe that ethics are meant to stay the same for every situation, but instead, shift through time.