Can you base your ethics on how others might view what you do?

#1OrnitierIXPosted 5/9/2012 6:59:43 PM(edited)
That title is very inadequate. Anyway.

I got into a conversation with some people earlier, and the subject of imitation leather came up. Someone said that imitation leather would still be unethical for people who think animals deserve ethical treatment, because they would still be perpetuating a certain style of clothing that sometimes involves killed animals.

I'm not sure what to think of this. I can see the reasoning, but on the other hand, it seems shaky. Is it really one's ethical responsibility to include in their decision the countless ways others might view what they do?

I feel like I'm doing a poor job of laying this out. If I need to elaborate or just explain it again, please tell me.
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#2Magus of the ShadowsPosted 5/9/2012 8:17:59 PM
I'm not sure what to think of this. I can see the reasoning, but on the other hand, it seems shaky. Is it really one's ethical responsibility to include in their decision the countless ways others might view what they do?

Since there are so many ways of viewing your actions, how do you decide which views have the strongest weight on your behavior? Don't you still need some way of deciding which of these views is "good" and which is "bad"?
#3Magus of the ShadowsPosted 5/9/2012 8:30:04 PM(edited)
Also, as an example, suppose the majority of people in your community support stoning apostates, and would view you negatively for defending them. Under the system you describe, it would be "ethical" to pick up a rock and go with the majority, right?
#4ThousandPetaledPosted 5/9/2012 9:03:29 PM
As much as I hate to say this, I have come to the conclusion that morals and ethics are ultimately relative. Objectively speaking, there is no other way to see it.

However, a few things to keep in mind if you agree with my conclusion:

1. The law of cause and effect is not relative, so don't start breaking laws and doing things you will regret later.

2. Even if what you're doing is legal, keep social consequences in mind. If you live in a small community that holds some kind of irrational belief, is going against the grain worth ostracizing yourself?

3. Do you personally feel bad or guilty about this? If yes, you may not want to do it based on personal principles alone. If not, determine whether or not the legal, social and other risks are acceptable.

4. Within reason, try not to offend others unnecessarily, even if whatever you are trying to do passes all your tests (i.e., what I've mentioned above). Key words: within reason. There is no proof that karma exists, but if it does, might as well put it in your debt.

For this situation specifically, I understand their perspective on the matter, but unless you plan on becoming a passionate crusader for animal justice, or have an OCD-type issue for being a 100% congruent human being, your wearing fake animal clothing isn't a big issue. And this is probably the most objective opinion you will receive.
#5sithmaster15Posted 5/10/2012 9:46:33 AM
This seems simple.

If you determine morals based on the consequences of your actions, then yes absolutely you can factor how others view you into your ethical calculations.

If you determine morals based on the inherent good in the actions themselves, then you cannot base your ethics on how others view you, at all.
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#6kozlo100Posted 5/10/2012 12:55:02 PM
Is it really one's ethical responsibility to include in their decision the countless ways others might view what they do?

Yes, but there is a limit. It's obviously immoral to do something dangerous in front of a toddler with a penchant for mimicry. It's just as obviously absurd to refrain from saying anything for fear that someone takes it the wrong way and gets offended.

As to your specific example, I'd say that was over the line, and you don't have to worry about that when wearing fake leather. I could see it being argued the other way though. There are a lot of personal factors involved in drawing that line.
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The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication. -- Philip K. Dick