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Old 2017-09-02, 23:12
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Darkflame Darkflame is offline
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Post Darkflames musings on a universal ethical principle.

Ok, a bit weird, but what follows is random ramblings on my attempt to find a universal ethical principle.

Been thinking about this stuff a long time, kinda needed to finally get it down.
(This isn't preaching everyone should follow this either. More I just want to get my ideas out there/feedback etc.)

Over my life I have slowly been trying to develop and refine a ethical principle. A simple guide to how to act in order to be a good person. Not that I wont fall short, but a thing to aim for.

"Do no harm" is a simple one, for example.

I used to be more specific though, and inspired a bit by Asimov I had;

"Though shall not though action or inaction allow a sentient being to come to harm"

To me action/inaction are essentially inseparable, any conscious choice to pick one future over another carries at least some responsibility. "sentient being" was simply me replacing asimovs "humans" with something more generic.

Eventually I shortened this idea down though;

"Minimise harm"

After all, its very hard to do actions that dont harm some people in some way, regardless of how slight. Actions have all sorts of consequences.
This can be interpreted as looking for the "lesser evil", which I think is fine, provided your honestly trying to reduce net harm overall - and not merely using _some_ benifit as a excuse for something you want to do anyway.

However, I then realised that "harm" means different things to different people. I have shifted the complexitys of the world and what is "good" onto a single word.
Not only does the word mean different things to different people, different people consider different things "harm" to themselves as well. Without a firm definition its kinda useless.

So I tried to define it;

"Minimise Harm*

*Where Harm is defined as something the potential 'harmed' person would not want to have happen to them."

I was quite pleased with this. Its theory-of-mind based, but I think thats as it shouuld be. Its not about what *I* consider harmed, its about what the potential harmed person thinks does. *Would they want this happening to them?* Is the question to ask if determaining if someone is being harmed or not.

So, this takes into account various relgious/cultural/individual preferances.
However, it doesn't take into account how people change day to day and over their life.
A child might not like getting vacinated - but as a adult they probably appricate that they were.

So I had to write a patch;

"Minimise Harm*

*Where Harm is defined as something the potential 'harmed' person would not want to have happen to them - assuming that person has full knowledge of the situation, and its consequences, and has the mental compitance to process it"

Not ideal, as it involves a lot more judgement calls. But I never said good ethics would be easy.
Shortly after that though, I realised there was a more simple way to look at it that amounted to the same thing;

"Minimise Harm*

*Where Harm is defined as something the potential 'harmed' person _later_ would not have wanted to have had happen to them"

Consider the future; would this person have wanted this to happen to them in their life?
It still involes extrapolating both future events, and what the other person feels, but its expressed/concept seems a bit more simple.

That said, its still messy to have a definition like this.

Eventually, just a few months back I had a eureka moment and think I got a ethical equilivent that amounts to the same thing, but as a concept seems to work a lot better.

You see, once you hit upon the idea of "would this person have wanted this in their life?" I think you hit upon a more fundimental idea then just the negative of "harm".
What state do people want to be in?

So rather then saying "minimise harm"

Why not the positive;

"Maximise people being in the state they would want to be in."


Now "state" could be anything, but it clearly excludes anything that would be considered harm in the early definition, while also encourging things to get better.
Can you make a persons life a bit better without making other people in a state they would not want to be?

Its still not by any means a easy principle to follow. Not by a long shot. Its not a simple rule that can be applied blindly - applying this to anything important like politics would take a lot of thinking, and you have to be very careful to be honest and without preconceptions when you do so.
But its easy to understand right?

Does it have obvious flaws ? Things overlooked.
"bad things that can happen if this idea is used as a guide to my actions in life"?

oh, and thanks for listening to my ramble
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