Ethics and Morality

The Good Person

Some Topics

  • Human Rights

    The US constitution included a statement of human rights that remains relevant as an idealistic view of civil society. It is a matter of record that the US failed to realize these ideals, although some tenuous progress has been made. Malcomson observed that human rights under the cover of humanitarianism became popular in affluent countries in the 1980s and ’90s. He stated:" Nongovernmental organizations proliferated; governments integrated human-rights advocacy into their budgets and their diplomacy; the United Nations bureaucracy likewise seized the opportunity to promote human rights as central to the organization’s mission."

    Michael Ignatief reviewed the discouraging history of the human rights movement in the world. Analysis of the feasibility and methodology of human rights needs to be grounded in a clear understanding of human nature. Ignatieff asks the question that lies at the heart of my philosophical inquiries: “If human beings are so special, why do we treat each other so badly?” He argued that discussions of human rights usually focus on defending one’s autonomy against the oppression of family, religion, employers, state, and other groups. The proper emergence of human rights is from the bottom up, from individuals who insist that the group they belong to respects the rights of each member as an individual. Almost by definition, rules imposed from the top-down, by a moral or political authority are not human rights. Ignatieff reminds us that human rights come to authoritarian societies when activists risk their lives and create popular demand for these rights. In many countries, activists are imprisoned and often perish if they do not receive support from influential nations abroad.

    To recall our fundamental truths: at the level of the largest organizations, small groups decide on policy and procedures that effect many nations, even the fate the entire species. Members of these small leader groups have vested interests, limited knowledge and limited ability to create effective policies. The tendency to impose universal rules and policies from the top down will fail because distant policy-making groups do not understand the diverse needs and beliefs of local groups. They will develop policies based on limited understanding and will ignore the tendency for humans to relate most strongly to the values and beliefs of their local group. World government is an oxymoron. Instead, forums of cooperation may allow diverse groups to meet, discuss and share resources when they have problems in common.

    The United Nations is a multilayered assembly of groups and functions best as a host for forums of cooperation. Forgotten is the hope that the UN would become a world government with the power to police its member states, arrest political criminals and bring them to justice in an impartial world court.

    Whatever we value about civilized human existence - culture, knowledge, social justice, respect for human rights and dignity must be practiced anew and stored as modifications of each person's neocortex. Success at humanitarian efforts within a society reveals that portion of human attitudes, beliefs and behavior that can be modified and/or are supported by innate tendencies. Failure of moral authority reveals the extent to which innate negative tendencies prevail no matter how diligent the effort to modify or suppress them.

    Human destiny as a species still lies with the programs in the old brain that offer only limited empathy and understanding and insist on the priority of survival at any cost. Individuals can transcend the old programs by diligent learning and practice but individual effort and learning does not change the genome, so that there can be no enduring human rights without the persistent and relentless initiation of new humans into a rational and compassionate world order. This, of course, is so far an impossible goal to achieve. You can then argue that if only 10% of the human population is not properly initiated they will have the power to destroy the civil order accomplished by the more reasonable 90% unless they are vigorously constrained, depriving them of their human rights.

  • The Good Person: Ethics and Morality by Stephen Gislason 105 Pages. Print and eBook versions. Persona Digital Books.

    Ethics is about the interface between selfish interests and actions and the common good. Both good and bad tendencies are innate properties that have useful functions, were not invented by modern society and are not going to change until the construction of brain changes. The dialogue between good and bad in human affairs is constant, predictable and universal. When a baby is born, the family and local community begin to teach the emerging being what is going on here and now. They provide the local language, costumes, customs beliefs and the local science and technology. All adult humans have an ethical standard and a technology to teach. While the local culture has an obvious impact on the appearance and behavior of emerging adults, the constant innate features of the human mind are pervasive and persistent.

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