Ethical judgments limit the methods available in the production of knowledge in both the arts and the natural sciences. Discuss.
Production of knowledge is heavily dependent on ethical impositions. In arts and sciences, for instance, there are ethical boundaries that guide the manner in which information should be shaped and created. The extent to which these ethical arbitrations limit production of knowledge in the fields of arts and natural sciences depends upon the artist or scientist. In some cases, the artist or the scientist can choose to either disregard these ethical principles or find another method of production of knowledge that has a similar outcome but takes into account the moral establishments. Nevertheless, the field of science and arts cannot function without ethics because as Albert Caméus put it “a man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.”
Every day, artists and scientists get subjected to ethical limitations so that the general community can live in harmony. In arts, for example, many artists have had their works spurned or rejected on the basis of their subject matter, material or message. A case in point is war photographs often used to convey the harsh reality of battle. There is some hesitation when people look into a photograph of war itself or the moment leading up to it (Lanson, 2005). For this reason, photographers are forced consider the consequences of producing images so that the international community can appreciate them. What to include and more significantly what to exclude when photographing people, as well as the landscape, are some of the issue the artists has to consider carefully to decide on the possible outcome for all concerned (Caroll, 2002, p. 3). However, this does not always impact negatively on the artist’s work because questions of care are important as they help photographers to tell their subject’s tale without fear of harm. Care, however, prevents photographers from telling their subject’s story to the extent they wish (MacKinnon, 2001, p. 80).
The ethical considerations used in the production of photographs also apply when creating sculptures. For example, there are issues such as whether a sculptural work is in the best interest of the nation or whether it only benefits specific groups. The answer depends largely on the purpose of the sculpture and whether or not it meets the criteria ethical committees use to determine its success. Nevertheless, artists need to decide whether the work will be important in its own right or whether it is necessary for human achievement in the future (MacKinnon, 2001, p. 210). Historical figures such as Stalin and Napoleon Bonaparte, often perpetuated in time through sculptures, provide countless generations of people with an insight into the past as well as the artist’s personal values with the aim of learning about the world through his or her eyes. However, some experts suggest that the use of some sculptures can lead to a resurgence of organised groups such as the Neo Nazi’s in the belief they will achieve their nation’s aim (Caroll, 2002, p. 5). Therefore, there must be serious considerations when determining what or how to design an image. Again, these considerations limit the artist’s ability to tell the story the way he or she intended.
Apart from sculptures and photographs, films also are also bound by the same ethical boundaries. For instance, censorship of films is an occurrence that is still prevalent in various countries. In most of the cases, films get banned because they are not deemed to be pieces of creative art; they are deemed to be objects of entertainment. However, this is not the case, entirely. Films are pieces of art before anything else. Therefore, it is vital to protect the element of expression of art because art is a crucial component of what the society does. Censoring a film limits the producer’s ability to express art the way he or she intended. It stifles the producer’s thought process. Regardless, it is not realistic to censor arts for the sake of ethics in this day and age. For example, if a film is banned in Saudi Arabia, it is still possible to download the movie illegally from the internet.
Apart from hindering the expression of arts as intended by the artist, ethical considerations also inhibit the full expression of scientific ideas as intended by the scientist. For example, ethics committees prevent scientists from using animals without considering the consequences of their actions during their study (Gibbons et al., 1994, p. 120). In this way, ethical behaviour minimises the ability to save lives in the future. Stem cell research is an example of a cause for ethical dilemma that raises substantial debate. One side of the argument secures the belief that stem cell research will aid in the discovery of new therapeutical procedures that can alleviate human suffering and, therefore, assist scientific progress (Hug, 2011). The other side protects the value of human life owing to the idea that the embryos from where the stem cells originated had a potential to live. Although they do not possess any human characteristics yet (such as psychological features), the human embryo would eventually develop into a person and, therefore, some people would oppose this procedure based on their ethical consideration.
The ethical issues raised on some scientific matters also arouse interest from politicians. As a result, political leaders wage in to determine the safety and necessity of scientific issues such as stem cell research for para and quadriplegic people in the society. Consequently, academic and political debates prevent, at times, scientists from conducting the necessary research to help people live a more productive life. For example, ethical control may restrict scientific experimentation regarding the use of stem cells; nonetheless, scientists must consider the consequences of their actions to ensure they make the right decision for those who require their help. For example, if I were to create a drug that could cure all forms of cancer, but this drug has to be made with human tissue and inevitably lead to the death of people for harvesting tissue, then that would clearly be unacceptable because it would be a quid pro quo type of arrangement, with life as a currency. Someone would be dying just for someone else to live. Therefore, such a drug would never be accepted just because society would not allow this to happen. In light of this perspective, careful consideration is required when creating biological and chemical weapons as these are created for negative, rather than positive purposes (Duguid, 2005).
Nonetheless, although social and moral restrictions are implemented on scientific development, broadly speaking, it could be argued that there is no list per se of what can and cannot be done in medical research -it is very much a contextual call. This becomes particularly evident by looking at a typical randomised control trial. In randomised trials, the patients are divided into two groups: the first group is given the drug or the medical device that is being tested and the other group is given a placebo (a fake, but indistinguishable drug or device that will not have the intended therapeutic effect). In some cases, double blinding also takes place, which is when the researcher and the patient will not know in which group they are. Looking at both cases closely, they could be regarded as an unfair or even an unethical. For instance, patients given the placebo are not aware that they will not get a therapeutic effect from the drug. In most cases, people who accept to take part in these studies are often desperate to try new treatments because everything else has failed. This creates a scenario where the trials end up having people who agree to participate in studies and to take uncertified, potentially dangerous drugs, without getting anything for their commitment. This is essentially a breach of the principle of justice, but it is still accepted because it allows scientists to determine the genuine potential of a drug. In this case, this breach of a principle is outweighed by its benefits.
Nevertheless, I deem that the society’s views have such an important role in modern production of knowledge that new developments in science need to be considered acceptable in order to be of value. Any social group, such as a religious group, should be entitled to express their own judgements on the way in which knowledge is produced so that social harmony can be preserved (Downes, 2010). However, this does not suggest that ethical judgements should be allowed to restrict the production of science and art. The ethical judgments should not arise merely because of rebellion to the creation of something which does not follow the traditional path because if this is the case, the society faces the danger of getting drown in the boredom of sticking to an old fashioned way of thinking and acting which cannot meet the demands of the increasingly changing society.
However, there needs to be a synergy between art and ethics, and natural sciences and ethics so that theory of knowledge and human dignity can encourage integrity and justice in our modern society (Bemojo, 2010). Ethics is one of the cornerstones of society. The other cornerstone is the production of knowledge. So all cornerstones of society ought to collaborate and coexist in such a way that social prosperity is achieved.
In addition, it is essential to note that moral standards are undoubtedly essential for life as they provide us with aims (Landauer) and allow us to know what is wrong and what is right. The natural production of knowledge in the fields of art and science must be subjected to ethical judgements. Scientific research and expressions of art must serve to improve humanity and value human dignity. However, the ethical principles established in our modern society should not be a hindrance to scientific and artistic progress.
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