ETHICS, FOG, ELEPHANTS

Ethical Misapprehensions
2200 words
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The aim is to provide a basic understanding of ethics which is convincing: it is intended to ring true. It also has the purpose of providing defences against commonplace fundamentalist approaches to ethics. Its starting point is that we are all different, and therefore the responsibilities we assume for ourselves or attribute to others must also be various. No-one is responsible for everything, but everyone is responsible for something. On occasion, even, each of us may be bound to hold another, or others, to account. Ethics is , namely, not about being agreeable ... or conventional ... or spineless ...

Fog of Moral Rhetoric
Flagship essay, 1800 words
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Two Elephants in the Ethics Room
1200 words
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A note on alternative conceptions of ethics
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A brief note on medical ethics
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Teaching ethics and Character
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Principles, Exceptions and Judgement
The uses and abuses of moral rules
A set of reminders
Regularly the call goes out for a return to principles and obedience to moral rules. But such appeals miss the point in more than one way.
Briefly:
1. There is no one principle that will do the job, and, as soon as there are two or three principles and ten or twenty moral rules, problems arise as to their hierarchy and proper spheres. Separate rules are needed on how to interpret whichever worthy principle is being advocated, and ranking rules in order to know how to handle conflicts between different moral principles or rules. Formulating or even just counting the rules rapidly becomes too technical and cumbersome to be able to offer people in the turmoil of life any serious guidance. (And ethics cannot be the preserve of ethicists and logicians.) 2. There is interminable disagreement about what principles or rules to adopt.
3. Individuals need to know why they should keep to any principles or rules and whether if at all they can make exceptions.
4. If generally we all kept to the same principles and rules, human culture as we know it would disappear. We would live parallel, identical lives, since there would be no room for individuality.
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How to read and write philosophy
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