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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Do your ethics run your logic or does your logic run your ethics?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26783points) August 16th, 2010

Does your logic run your ethics or do your ethics run your logic? Of example, would you logically deduct that if you steal or swindle someone you could end up in jail so you will refrain from doing such things, or if you cheat on your spouse you might get caught and then have a nasty breakup losing much of what you wanted to keep? Would ethics drive your logic like I would not steal from the boss (or company) because if I did and everyone else the company would close and I would be out of a job, if I cheated on the test to get the job/class/promotion I would logically deny someone more deserving that actually could have passed it the spot, or I won’t let my dog poop on my neighbor’s yard because he/she will have to clean it up to enjoy their yard plus it might start a trend where someone else’s dog might poop on my yard taking away my joy of using it until I cleaned it up?

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35 Answers

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

My logic runs my ethics. I have often analysed my ethics as a thought experiment using a primitive village as a microcosm, and seeing which traits evolution would favour. I cannot understand how a person could have a sense of ethics detached from logic.

BarnacleBill's avatar

My logic also runs my ethics. I am distrustful of people who believe things that they can’t justify.

marinelife's avatar

They are mutually beneficial.

filmfann's avatar

They are both free-range.

For example, the Mosque near ground zero thing. I acknowledge they have the constitutional right to do it, but I think it is tacky, and they shouldn’t be allowed to do it.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure what you’re getting at. In your examples, in the first case—I can’t tell if it is logic driving ethics or what—you talk about personal consequences being the determinant of the advisability of the action. In the second case (you call it ethics driving logic) the consequences to others are what determines the advisability of the action.

So, in the first examples, you are talking about self-interest, and in the second examples, you are talking about empathy for others. In the last example, you are talking about collective good. It is good for everyone, including yourself, that cleaning up your own dog’s poop is the only acceptable behavior.

For me, it is long term self-interest. I know I am better off if people are willing to cooperate with me. Therefore, I treat others well in hopes this will make them more amenable to helping me when I need it. I also have needs for affiliation, so I am nice so that people will like me.

I don’t kill because I want to live in a safe world, where killing is not accepted. The same with stealing. We all have to do these things, and it is easy to tip over into chaos if enough people start “defecting” from the accepted behavior. Then we could be on our way to a situation such as occurred in the Congo.

In my mind, ethics come from a sense of the collective best interest. People are interested in collective best interest because it benefits them the most. Breaking the collective interest is a high risk tactic, and not necessarily high reward. Stealing has a better risk/reward ratio than murder does.

White collar crime appears to have a lower risk/reward ratio. It can be easier to cover your tracks when completing many small computer transactions or even when developing very complicated trading strategies that no one can understand, as we saw with Enron and with the mortgage loan crisis.

Some people are fairly unsophisticated, and don’t see that their personal interest is tied to the collective interest in many cases. Property right folks (it’s my property and I’ll pollute however I damn well feel) and gun rights folks (every one needs guns because all the criminals have guns, never mind that criminals have guns because guns are too easy to get) often don’t see how their actions make everything worse for all of society. Either that, or they don’t care.

Some people think they shouldn’t pay taxes because they get no benefit from it. They have no idea that they wouldn’t have streets or water or schools or clean air or access to health care or any of millions of other things if the government went bankrupt.

Ethical behavior, in my mind, is that which promotes the collective good. Usually people behave this way intuitively, without logically breaking it out. They may analyze their behavior later (logically) in order to understand it, I suppose. Very rarely do people sit down and draw up some kind of diagram in order to try to figure out what the ethical thing to do is. That is mostly done by judges, and the ethical thing is the legal, constitutional thing.

There is a relationship between ethics and logic, but I think it is used by a very small group of people. Further, I think people usually intuit the ethical thing and then try to explain it. Quite rarely do people try to figure out the ethics using rules and logic. I will do so occasionally—usually when trying to figure out why actions that feel good are considered unethical—but for the most part, I use intuition.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Huh, I guess I don’t separate the two. They go hand in hand.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Logic runs my ethics.Logic is how you come to ethical descisions.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Etihcs is, or should be, a way of life. Logic is a tool.

Frenchfry's avatar

I think it out and use my ethics to finalize it.

truecomedian's avatar

Ok, picture an onion, with all the layers. The layers closer to the center are more true, farther outwards less true, I call it my onion of truth, hokey huh? Logic is ruled by facts whereas ethics is ruled by social mores and norms. Facts are closer to the center of the onion, therefore more true. So I will conclude that Logic rules Ethics because Logic is more deeply rooted in truth.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Ethics should be something that is rooted bone-deep in the human personality. It is a set of standards for the individual to follow under any and all circumstances. It is incorporated into the very warp and woof of our psyche. Logic may be one of the tools with which we construct our ethical framework, but ethics should always guide our use of logic. Logic without ethics is unfeeling. It may be logical to eliminate ⅓ of the population during a famine to allow the other ⅔s to survive, but in no way is it ethical.

Trillian's avatar

These are psychological growth questions and the reasoning one uses to answer them determines where a one is in one’s own development.

truecomedian's avatar

@Trillian
you’re right, smart thinking, people have so many whacky ideas.
If you were unethical you wouldn’t survive as long as someone who was illogical. True?

HungryGuy's avatar

It works both ways: ethics are necessary for logic; and logic is necessary for ethics.

For example, if you’re programming the logic for robots, you had better remember Asimov’s three laws, else you’ll end up with Arnold Schwarzenegger traveling back in time to exterminate humanity before we discover how to build robots.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley I think your example is far from logical. If you decided to eliminate ⅓ of the population, you would cause a mass uprising, civil unrest, and massive waste of the few remaining resources. The logical thing to do and ethical thing to do is the same: do not give food to those who are about to die, since it is kinder for them to leave this world quickly rather than prolonging their suffering. Those who are likely to live should receive equal rations, and in that way we save the maximum number of people while reducing waste of resources.

I think when people compare ethics and logic they often distort one or the other based on their preconceptions. However I contend that ethics and logic are two approaches by which an ideal common to both may be reached, and that the two are never in conflict.

CaptainHarley's avatar

One word: Abortion

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley Since there is no definitive ethical or logical approach to abortion, I don’t think it is possible to say whether ethics and logic are in agreement on this issue or not. However I would like to know what basis an ethical judgement would have, if it weren’t logical.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Since there is no definitive ethical or logical approach to abortion, I don’t think it is possible to say whether ethics and logic are in agreement on this issue or not. Weeeeeell. not to diviate off the subject at hand I can say within the context of logic one can logically dispell the spurious beliefs one would try to use for it. Ehtics is usually ran more off emotion and feelings because what is ethical might not be logical at all.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central “Ethics is usually ran more off emotion and feelings because what is ethical might not be logical at all.”
The role of emotion is not to dictate decisions, but to colour facts in a more instinctive manner than an analytical one. While we do not have a definitive ethical or logical answer to the issues posed by abortion, we certainly know which propositions are wrong, and these are usually the ones driven by emotion or religion. We know for certain that it is wrong to kill abortion doctors. We also know it is unethical to force a woman who is pregnant from a rape to carry through with their pregnancies. I would also go the other way and say a late abortion for convenience alone is unethical, but that is a more contentious issue that I don’t want to get into right now. These ideas stem from emotion, and we know they are unethical because we have thought about it logically.

You say that “what is ethical might not be logical”. The premise of my argument here is precisely the opposite; that ethics is an expression of logic that relates to human behaviour towards other humans. I would like to see just one example of an ethical act that is not logical, or an unethical act that is logical.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh While we do not have a definitive ethical or logical answer to the issues posed by abortion, we certainly know which propositions are wrong, and these are usually the ones driven by emotion or religion. When it comes to religion one cannot logically deduct it in a scientific way unless you believe in the probability or the plausibility of an advanced life or being that is capable of creating man and the universe. One can logically deduct that man was no random occurrence. As complex as man is as well as the earth and eco system it would equal to taking a high tech vehicle engine and disassembling it and tossing all the parts –even the smallest ones—into the hopper of a cement truck and spinning them around and somehow having all the pieces connect themselves in proper order so that engine could be installed and would run.

When it comes to abortion certain logical because it is rather factual traits can be applied. We also know it is unethical to force a woman who is pregnant from a rape to carry through with their pregnancies. Thinking it is unethical goes back to emotions. The pregnancy resulting from a rape is seen as a continuing of the attack long after it happened. Logically the pregnancy is the same –though not entirely—as if she were the victim of a knife attack, the scar left behind because of the stitches to close the would or from the surgery used to save her life if she was stabbed is a result she would have to manage as best she could. Same as if she was t-boned by a drunk in a large SUV and suffered the loss of a limb. He life would be changed forever in great ways; even more so if she just had a child. I know many would say the mother, in a sense, will be victimized by being a mother when she had not planned but it would be no different in spirit than if she lost a limb unplanned to a drunk. Logically one could say we punish the unborn child for the sin of the father? That logic would almost be to say if a gal lost an arm, leg, or became paralyzed logically her family should just house her in some institution because she would alter their lives and the way they do things even though it was not her fault to be in her condition.

_ I would like to see just one example of an ethical act that is not logical, or an unethical act that is logical._ Give me a moment to come up with the former but the latter I can elucidate. Insider trading is said to be unethical, but it makes good logic and it is nothing more than if I knew a new widow was going to sell off some expensive cars of her late husband because she did not care to keep them and she was selling going to be selling them at quite a bargain. Knowing one of the models was a car you were looking for I tell you that you might want to hustle over there before she list them on Craigslist or Ebay or something and snatch you up a deal, insider trading is just that but on a grander scale. If you know the founder of a company was going to step down because of health issues and his stepson the doofus would be taking over it would be logical for you to dump your stock in that company before the schlep of a stepson drives the price of the shares down costing you tons of money. It is only unethical because it seem unfair to those who don’t have money or enough to take advantage of having info like that before hand.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Your first point runs the risk of derailing the thread, so I will simply state that I think you have a rudimentary understanding of evolution and abiogenesis. If you wish to discuss it further, feel free to PM me or post a new question.

The reason I say forcing a woman pregnant from rape to carry through with the pregnancy is unethical is because it would not be good for any party involved. The woman will have an inevitable emotional reaction to her circumstances, and will not share a normal bond with the child. The role of ethics is to prescribe what should be in relation to the interactions of humans. We cannot dictate the emotional nature of the relationship the woman would have with her child, but we can allow her the choice of whether or not she thinks she is capable of giving the child a worthwhile upbringing.

Insider trading is neither ethical or logical. Logic dictates that what is best for the community is best for the individual. An unbalanced focus on the self leads to decay of the society as a whole, and that is why we consider it to be unethical. It favours a few but disfavours the general population, and is therefore unethical.

meagan's avatar

My logic is always first. I’m a very black and white kind of person, so my judgment always runs things.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Throwing yourself into a raging torrent to rescue a child not your own is illogical, but very ethical.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley Pack loyalty is an important evolutionary principle, and logic tells us that a society with a sense of altruism and an innate need to help others within the society is more likely to survive than a society composed of self-serving egotists.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Now you’re just rationalizing. But what if the child is a total stranger and I am fairly certain that I’m not going to come out of this alive?

Logic must always be in service to ethics, else we will all become unfeeling robots.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley Not at all. Every ethical principle must have a basis, or you will be floundering without an anchor. If you believe a particular practice is ethical or unethical, you must be prepared to back it up if another person has a different idea. If your ethics are not based on logic, then they are likely based on vague impressions and feelings that do not serve as justification for actions.
For example I think it is unethical to beat a woman, but someone who had grown up under Sharia Law may disagree. The only way to resolve the dispute is through following the action through to its inevitable end, which is a human being with a broken body and broken pride, with no advantage whatever. I realise this is an extreme example, but such a person would not listen if all I had to say was “I think its wrong. Its just wrong.”
I could go on ‘rationalising’ your example, but I think you are limiting logic to simplistic solutions. It would certainly be logical to stand on the bank and watch the child drown if you were an egotist disinterested in the broader picture of humans as social animals, but few people are that ignorant.
You may be interested in this video on moral judgements, although it does not directly relate to the role of logic.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Perhaps we are talking about much the same thing, only coming from different moral bases. My primary ethical principles are based on things like love, committment, honor, and sacrifice, largely because they come from a Christian perspective.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley Perhaps. Love, commitment, honour and sacrifice are all worthy principles, but I can’t help but think they are the result of some deeper principle. I judge whether an action is ethical or not based on whether or not it provides the best possible for all parties involved, since ethics is about humans. Think of it as a logarithmic scale, where a slight disadvantage is a huge negative for ethics, but a huge advantage is a small positive for ethics, since ethics is more about what you shouldn’t do than what you should do. I don’t think religion is in dispute with secular thought in this, because a good deity would want the best for people, so it is still a human-centric system.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@CaptainHarley I would have to concur, it might be heroic and ethical to go after a child that you don’t know –or even if you do know them—when success in saving them is slim to none but it is not logical. If it were a flash flood situation, for instance, and water rapidly swept through the area but you were able to gain higher ground because you seen it coming 1st or were stronger and more nimble but a child and mother near by got caught up but the mother was able to cling on to something while the child got swept away. By the time you even figure what is up the child can be many yards away depending on the speed of the water. Even if you are a great swimmer you will spend a lot of energy just catching up to the child and if the child is not a good swimmer might not survive until that happens anyhow. And if the water is murky due to mud and the child goes under the surface you may never find him in time. Then you have to safe yourself after you have tired yourself out. Ethically it seems the right thing to do because not to try would seem selfish or worse but to go after the child could lose both your lives and there would be no gain at all.

@FireMadeFlesh The woman will have an inevitable emotional reaction to her circumstances, and will not share a normal bond with the child. The way I see it is that no matter what she would have an emotional reaction to some catastrophic, violent, are traumatic event. Be it a child which she don’t have to keep or the loss of a limb which she will be forced to deal with, she can’t give it away it will have some emotional toll. Logically that would seem to be the rule of the day but she just might see the child as the silver lining that makes all that hurt manageable because she has a part of her even though it is part of him too that loves and trust her unconditionally. If you have lemons make lemonade type of thing.

Insider trading is neither ethical or logical. Logic dictates that what is best for the community is best for the individual. How would it not be logical? If all motivations are based on what best serves the community we might as well be like the Borg, everyone having hive mentality. Gentrification can be more logically supported with that type of thinking. If a pocket of the community is pretty run down the city can decide it cost the community too much law enforcement dollars because it is a high crime area, because of high crime too many residence that live there end up in the ER with no insurance and it pulls in little in tax revenue because the properties are run down. The best thing for the whole community is to raze it to the ground and put higher value buildings there that will command more property tax, have higher mortgages command higher rent and thus have wealthier and less violent people living there saving money on the back end and generating capital on the front end, and it may also have a great view of the valley as a plus.

To know you are going to lose money and seek not to prevent losing it even if you can’t prevent or don’t do enough to stop others from also losing money is not logical. That would be as logical as going down with the ship because there is not enough life boats for everyone so no one will use any.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central In the case of the kid in the river, would you jump in if it was on the edge of a hundred metre tall waterfall? At that point, when you know the kid is lost it is no longer heroic to jump in, but stupid and foolish. Logic dictates when there is hope, and emotion dictates whether the hope is strong enough to warrant action.

“she just might see the child as the silver lining that makes all that hurt manageable”
Maybe so, but that is why I said the choice should be given. I never said all rape pregnancies should be subject to mandatory abortions. The woman’s future emotional well-being can only realistically be predicted by herself, which is why the decision should be hers alone. But look at us, arguing ethics logically. Does this not prove my point?

” Gentrification can be more logically supported with that type of thinking.”
As with @CaptainHarley, I think you have a limited view of logic that is skewed by your preconceptions. Gentrification can improve a neighbourhood, but it does nothing for the city. The displaced people have to go somewhere, and will inevitably cause the same problems in another part of the city. I really don’t think the logical solution to any ethical problem is as simple as you assume. Logic is not a cold taskmaster that demands egocentrism and short term solutions, it is a method by which the optimal outcome for all parties involved may be calculated.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Prove to me that logic is more than a tool and I’ll agree with you.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Here’s a highly interesting quote from the September, 2010 issue of Scientific American MIND magazine: the authors of the article, “Inside the Mind of A Psychopath,” say, “We have interviewed hundreds of prison inmates to assess their mental health. We are trained in spotting psychopaths, but even so, coming face to face with the real article can be electrifying, if also unsettling. One of the most striking peculiarities of psychopaths is that they lack empathy; they are able to shake off as mere tinsel the most universal social obligations. They lie and manipulate yet feel no compunction or regrets—in fact, they don’t feel particularly deeply about anything at all.”

Empathy is not logic. The psychopath is the ultimate personal logician, and no one can deny that his logic rules his ethics. He is, in effect, an ultimate biological robot.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@CaptainHarley That is quite interesting. Logic to me is more of a tool or method by which a person will discern what is ethical or not. I have always said, a person maxim of mine “follow the logic it usually always leads back to the truth”. Logic is what logic does. Sometimes it makes no sense when trying to decipher fairness or morality, such as risking your life running into a burning building or raging water on the chance of saving another. Or applying logic to those psychopaths you mentioned. One could deem kill them because they have no empathy towards other humans and see them as significant as a beer can or a used apple core. That the logic is if you eliminate them like a tumor they won’t have the chance to victimize anyone else. The ethical part would or could be that you don’t know which person could or would respond to some sort of therapy and be redeemable so for those few you err on the side of not ceremoniously marching them to the court house basement and popping two behind their ear to make sure they are neutralized.

CaptainHarley's avatar

What I was trying to point out is that the psychopath would be the perfect example of the person whose logic drove his decision-making, the one with little or no ethics, but with a great deal of logic, the one whose decisions were eminently logical yet totally amoral.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@CaptainHarley That is an interesting anecdote. Obviously psychopaths are unethical, but they are also egocentric, and this I believe clouds their logic. They can logically think through how to kill dozens of people without getting caught, some can have OCD type behaviours in the way they arrange their lives, but they cannot extend that logic past their own immediate surroundings. They kill to satisfy a need, they arrange their lives to make things easier for themselves, etc. Sure, they are logical to a fault, but they are relying on erroneous premises which lead them to their warped code of ethics.

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