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It seems to me.... - Ethics Forum

About It seems to me....

Previous Entry It seems to me.... Mar. 30th, 2007 @ 08:24 pm Next Entry
It seems to me that ethics is the most important of all human disciplines. This puts me in the same camp as Diogenes the Cynic of ancient Athens. Morality/ethics are incredibly important for day to day life, as well as the big picture.

Lately I have been getting into disputes with friends (and occasionally enemies) of mine, over what is moral and what is not. There are some people I know, who, upon reflecting upon, they are not very moral.

They are friendly people however--they don't see you and try to kill you on sight or anything. But some of their actions are most emphatically immoral (or at least immoral from my lens).

Now, it seems that I cannot TELL these people they are immoral, for then they just get defensive and offer up their rationalization of their actions. I cannot tell OTHER people that said people are immoral, then it's gossip and unfair to attack somebody behind their back.

Even if I do tell these people, to their face that they are immoral, it can become a question of whose morality? Not only that, but who am I to tell this to them? I'm no saint. I admit as much. Like all humans, I am flawed, but now in the way these people are.

What this post boils down to is the question: What do you do with immoral people?

Is the answer to educate them? Show them why what they are doing is wrong? That seems to be a bad answer since telling a theif, "Stealing is immoral" will not make them stop stealing.

So what am I, in a college setting, to do about non-criminal but seriously immoral actions? (Or to modify that, some actions may be criminal, though none are violent--violent crime I would be obliged to report to the authorities)

So I repeat: What do you do with immoral people?
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Date:March 31st, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
Yeh I hear you! I have one friend who has made a number of very questionable decisions but unfortunately the whole, "don't you think this is wrong" conversation didn't go down very well. I guess you can bide your time and maybe slip some sage advice their way when you can.
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Date:March 31st, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
Well, "stealing is wrong" isn't a real motivator. Try "stealing will get you in trouble," or "stealing really sucks for the person you steal from." That's if you're talking about it directly. You can also discuss obliquely how you've been hurt by someone's thievery... if you can find a way that leads the immoral to draw a connection between that and their own actions, without saying it outright. (If you can.)

Problem is, a lot of the time an immoral person isn't particularly considerate of the implications of his act. Sometimes getting someone to think outside their normal paradigms takes something extraordinary.

Literally, I suppose... =)

What do you do with immoral people? Trick them into thinking, if you can. I don't mean with the intent of hurting them with their contemplation of what they might have done, but I do mean in the hope that they can look at it and take a lesson away from it. Maybe inspire them.

Oh, and you don't nag. You can confront, you can suggest, you can draw connections once in a while--but once a point has been hit, don't hit on it again without a dang good reason. Otherwise you just bring a bad tension into the relationship that does nothing but hurt both parties.
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Date:March 31st, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
I think, to some degree, even the most 'saintly' person is immoral in one way or another. There are varying degrees. There will also always be people who exist and do not see the value of morals, or just don't care.

Either way, it's a good question to ask what should be done. Honestly, I don't think there's anything you can do. You can't force anyone to agree with your standpoint, I think the best option is to try to discuss their actions with them. If you try to shove your opinion down their throats, they obviously won't listen. I also think most people are aware of actions that could possibly get them into some form of trouble, so obviously that isn't the route that will get you anywhere (appealing to a fear is no good way to argue). If you can get them to talk to you about it, and not get heated (on either side), that's probably the best way to appeal to someone who you care about who you want to act in a more moral manner.

I don't know, I'll probably have to think about this some more but off the top of my head, that's what I've decided.
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Date:March 31st, 2007 03:26 am (UTC)
I'd try to reason with them. Then, decide whether it's worth associating with them. If not, I'd cut them off and explain why if that wasn't too painful/awkward.

If someone for whom this behavior was unacceptable, I'd be a hard ass about it. At the very least, until they acknowledged this was a major problem for me and made some efforts to amend. Major life events or a lot of growing up over a number of years in a new context are usually needed to force major moral changes.

But there's a lot to be said for respect.
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Date:April 4th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
I think it might partially depend on the people committing the acts. It's quite possible their definitions of "moral" don't match up with yours. For example, I have a conservative friend who believes pre-marital sex is immoral; I am much more liberal, though, and I do not believe it is so. No amount of talking, cajoling, or arguing on either side would convince either of us to move an inch, because we both have firm belief that we are right and that we have strong backings for our positions.

However, if their definitions *do* match up with yours, it might pay to do some active listening. If they, too, believe what they are doing is immoral, then it seems like there should be some reason they're doing it. Of course, if they're just being immature (as some of my college sorority sisters were when they stole street cones), then it probably all boils down to a need to prove themselves. But many times doing things one considers immoral indicates an emotional/financial/mental instability/insecurity that could be rectified with a bit of talking and comfort.

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