How can daily life be led so that just decisions are made, opening up the way to an ethical life?
The aim of this essay is to present you with some ideas on how an ethics system could be built and organized in such a way that just decisions are made on an everyday basis in people’s lives. Ethics is considered to be a vague and difficult to be defined concept. Nevertheless, there has always been the commonly accepted primitive idea on what Ethics is, which is mainly based on the principles of Philosophy. It is common truth, however, that philosophical ideas and principles change and acquire their meanings and definitions according to the general ideology and socio-historical context of each era. As a result, all ideas and beliefs change and adapt to their era, according to each era. Likewise, the eternal question on what is ethical or not, and what is just or unjust, has gone through numerous interpretations and changes. The ideas which you will be presented with, in this essay, are the ideas which have been motivated by the reading of two articles on Ethics. The first article is written by David Foster Wallace, titled ‘Consider the Lobster’ and firstly published in August 2004. The second article is written by Namit Arora, titled ‘What do we deserve’ and firstly published in March 2011. Both articles approach in their own, unique way the issue of ethics and raise questions which are of great importance. Both articles seem to raise the question on the extent to which people nowadays – who are characterized by an extreme progress in both the technological and scientific field – have managed to live in peace with themselves, attributing an ethical attitude and behavior to their lives. The essay will highlight the main points of both writers and will draw its own reflections and conclusions as far as the establishment of an ethics system is concerned in people’s lives.
David Foster Wallace begins to unwrap his thoughts using an incident which by no means can bring to mind the ethics system. He describes the annual Maine Lobster Festival which ‘For 56 years, the Maine Lobster Festival has been drawing crowds with the promise of sun, fun, and fine food.
One visitor would argue that the celebration involves a whole lot more’. This is a festival which described by the pen of Mr. Wallace manages to raise some ethical questions. Mr Wallace writes ‘For practical purposes, everyone knows what a lobster is. As usual, though, there’s much more to know than most of us care about—it’s all a matter of what your interests are’. .No matter how bizzare it may sound, the interest of Mr. Wallace lead him to presenting his readers with the ethical issues involved in such a festival. It may sound weird to think that a festival involves ethical issues. After all a festival is always organized so that it can provide people with fun and the area in which it is celebrated with an economic boost. The area of the festival turns into a tourist attraction and everybody seems to have a nice time. but Mr. Wallace begins to deepen as far as his thoughts are concerned. He points out the fact that the lobster used to be the main dish for the poor and unprivileged people in older years. But nowadays the Lobster has turned out to be considered a gourmet dish which is approached by middle and upper classes. This first remark of his raises questions as to how ethical can the borders between classes and their approach to dishes and luxuries can be considered. But Mr. Wallace does not just stay there. He deepens even further. He takes his readers a step forward and tries to make them think on the way the Lobster is cooked. It is boiled alive. How ethical can that be? This is not a question that Mr. Wallace addresses to his readers aiming at raising their sensitivity towards animals, fish and any other kind of living creature. He seems to wish to raise a much more serious question. He wishes to emphasize on the fact that people and societies are allowing themselves to have fun at the expense of one’s torture. This is by all means an ethical question. Are there any borders or limitations when it comes to the definition and / or appliance of ways through which people are supposed to have fun?
On the other hand Namit Arora seems to approach the issue of ethics under a more real- based aspect. She thinks on herself. Her article is like a self-confession. She is having a monologue and she is sharing this internal monologue with her readers. She begins her article stating ‘I often think of the good life I have. By most common measures – say, type of work, income, health, leisure, and social status—I’m doing well. Despite the adage, ‘call no man happy until he is dead’, I wonder no less often: How much of my good life do I really deserve? Why me and not so many others?’.
So, Namit Arora raises the question on an ethical aspect which still remains unanswered despite the evolution of human thought and societies. Who is to decide the extent to which each individual will be given the opportunity to take advantage of his/her gifts, the ones that he/she carries since the moment of his/her birth? And then, there is always this second question, following this first one. Who is responsible, who is to blame for the gifted or not gifted life that people are provided with? Because whether we like it or not, people are condemned in a way to experience specific opportunities based on the environment within which they are born and brought up. How ethical is that? It is not ethical but then again it cannot be characterized as a deliberate unethical action on behalf of human societies. Besides, it has always been common knowledge, ever since the first human societies that people’s lives are in way pre-defined and pre-destined according to their social and historical environment, not to mention their geographical area of residence. Still, the question remains. How much can people do, especially nowadays in order to turn this situation which is unfair, upside down?
Both articles approach the social and philosophical issue of ethics in innovative and sincere ways. Both writers seem to go deep in the real meaning of what ethics is supposed to be. In my opinion, ethics is all about equal opportunities and total lack of unjust decisions. But although it seems simple to be defined, it is very difficult to be applied. It takes much more than just the personal initiation and action. Societies have been structured in such a way that they seem to provide people with equal opportunities but only in a theoretical level. Money and the financial profit in general has always been the basic core of the social buildings and organizations. There is so much conflict between countries, personal and national interest which cannot be perceived by common mortals who are only interested in living with themselves and the others in peace.
It could be argued that the more progress is made, the less ethical human societies become. Progress puzzles people because there has not been efficient back-up as far as the best way to deal with this progress is concerned. People are certainly and by all means entitled to be given equal opportunities but it is of main priority that people are educated in such a way that they know how to take advantage of these equal opportunities.
People nowadays have entered a rat race and they do not seem to see any glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Their survival has become more than simply difficult. Although they are provided with all these technological appliances and benefits of scientific development, they seem to be leading a much more complex life in which they do not feel orientated. The rivers always flow forward and this means that nature itself taught people that progress is desirable and necessary so that life can keep its meaning and value. Yet, there are still so many unanswered and unsolved problems and issues.
People have lost their orientation and the great boom in all the fields of their lives have mixed up theories, cultures, ideas, and beliefs. In my opinion, the most serious problem of all is the fact that people have lost faith in the meaning and value of life. They are brought up either in a highly privileged environment in which they find themselves entailed in a boring everyday life deprived of emotion and movement, or in an underprivileged environment in which they still ahev to fight for their basic rights such as freedom and nutrition. There seems to be no middle class once more on the threshold of the 21st century. And there are a number of reasons for this.
Only when people realize and remember their forgotten internal knowledge on what their moratl life ought to be, do they have a chance to make just decisions and lead an ethical life. it certainly needs the cooperation of all and the well-established educational system which will teach them how to find the real values in life and keep them untouched by the sirens of disorientating challenges.
Arora, Namit ‘What do we deserve?’ , March 2011, derived from http://thehumanist.org/may-june-2011/what-do-we-deserve
Wallace, Foster David ‘Consider the Lobster’, August 2004 derived from http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2004/08/consider_the_lobster