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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
On Ethics, the Dangerous Illusion 
6th-Sep-2010 10:39 am
Inspiration
Why would I describe ethics as "the dangerous illusion"? Because it substitutes man-made categories and thoughts, limited by definition, for the demands of the Creator of all, essentially. And because it does not improve those who study it.

So -- at least to judge by self-report -- ethicists are no more attentive to their mothers than are non-ethicist professors, and perhaps a bit less attentive than professors outside of philosophy.

Maybe this isn't too surprising. But the fact that most people seem to find this kind of thing unsurprising is itself, I think, interesting. Do we simply take it for granted that ethicists behave, overall, no more kindly, responsibly, caringly than do other professors -- except perhaps on a few of their chosen pet issues? Why should we take that for granted? Why shouldn't we expect their evident interest in, and habits of reflection about, morality to improve their day-to-day behavior?

You might think that ethicists would at least show more consistency than the other groups between their expressed normative attitudes about keeping in touch with mom and their self-reported behavior. However, that was also not the case. In fact the trend -- not statistically significant -- was in the opposite direction. Among ethicists who said it was bad not to keep in at least monthly contact, 8% reported no contact within the previous 30 days, compared to 13% of ethicists reporting no contact within 30 days among those who did not say that a lack of contact was bad. Among non-ethicist philosophers, the corresponding numbers were 6% and 27%. Among non-philosophers, 4% and 14%. Summarized in plainer English, the trend was this: Among those who said it was bad not to keep in at least monthly contact with their mothers, ethicists were the ones most likely to report not in fact keeping in contact. And also there was less correlation between ethicists' expressed normative view and their self-reported behavior than for either of the other groups of professors (8%-13% being a smaller spread than either 6%-27% or 4%-14%). It bears repeating that these differences are not statistically significant by the tests Josh and I used (multiple logistic regression) -- so I only draw this weaker conclusion: Ethicists did not show any more consistency between their normative views and their behavior than did the other groups.


Anyone who has studied the professional stooges of "bioethics" would also not have been surprised.
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