Sunday, 3 March 2013

Ethics Is The Aesthetics Of The Future

Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.  Click to tweet: .

Back in the '90s, during my training, i bought a number of medical textbooks.  The largest was on general medicine and is 1200 pages long.  However, at the same time i was attempting to word process my essays and got a library book about the word processor to help me.  It was actually bigger than the medical textbook.

Software suffers from a phenomenon known as "software bloat", also known as "creeping featurism", which involves the introduction of endless new features which hardly anyone ever uses.  Unfortunately, although most people only use a small fraction of the features on a piece of software, that small fraction is usually different.  Everyone will do certain things with a word processor, but each of us also uses a few other functions, which are unfortunately usually different, so you can't get away with trimming an application down.

Ethics can be like this too.  In Robocop II, there's a scene where lots of conditions have been added to what Robocop should do, such as "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all".  As a result, he becomes totally paralysed and cannot manage to "uphold the law" or whatever it is he's supposed to be doing.

I have a bad habit of letting the best be the enemy of the good.  I tend to look for the ethical downside of a situation before i engage with it, and usually just don't bother as a result.  In other words, i practice ethical "analysis paralysis".  The result of this is that bad stuff happens and good stuff doesn't.

A practical example is with shoes, something a friend brought up recently when she said "I can't wear theory on my feet".  I found myself in a quandary where i couldn't decide if leather footwear was really worse than canvas because there were so many other factors involved.  If i had come to some decision about it, it may well have been a bad one, but overall, if i just fail to do stuff because i can't reconcile it with my conscience, the result of all that taken together is bad.

This indecision isn't confined to veganism and vegetarianism but applies more widely.  I'm no utilitarian, but it reminds me of the conflict between rule and act utilitarianism.

As a result, you have to tolerate, compromise and generally get your hands dirty.  In my case, this involves getting involved in organisations with which i may be far from happy, but that does mean achieving something positive.  However, i still regard it as a problem and don't know what the answer is.

The word you are possibly looking for is "hmmm", and you may also note that this video has not been shared on FB and contemplate the reason for that, if you don't already know it, but please don't.

I think the video probably says it all - it's roughly about "analysis paralysis" in the area of ethics, where fear of doing wrong leads to bad stuff happening by default.  Straining at a gnat to swallow a camel, as it were, or maybe having a dream you're eating a giant marshmallow and when you wake up the pillow's gone - maybe that's a false awakening.  Now that was a flight of ideas.

The reason i posted it now is that i was thinking about my attitude to veganism, and the conflict i feel when i work with an organisation.  Examples of the organisations i have in mind are of course the Conservative Party and the Church Of England.  Yes, i've worked with them and yes, i know that the first in particular is almost equated with the devil, but i stand by my decision and am not ashamed of it, even though i believe they will probably screw us royally in the next couple of months and their policies harm and kill the weakest members of this society.  Yes, i know all that, and i knew all that at the start, but there was an overriding issue which had to be addressed, and that seemed the only way to address it.

Anyway, got to cook dinner now.  Bye-bye, non-existent reader!