Re: [SystemSafety] Another unbelievable failure (file system overflow)

From: Peter Bernard Ladkin < >
Date: Sat, 06 Jun 2015 07:21:38 +0200

Hash: SHA256

On 2015-06-04 22:20 , Chris Hills wrote:
> The problem is that ethics, like morality are not fixed and change over time and culture. There
> are no absolute morals nor ethics.

and again

> Well give me one ethic or moral that is fixed and universally applies constantly.

First, let's take the assertion

> ethics, like morality are not fixed and change over time and culture

Kant and John Rawls would disagree. They would say the injunctions "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Kant), or Rawl's injunction to fair behavior, in which "fair" has a criterion of ignorance of the subject, are fixed and do not change. Indeed, I would say it is intuitively obvious that it is so. So there are not one example but two examples of ethical rules that are
> fixed and universally appl[y] constantly

Of course, one may think that both of them are wrong. But there are good, sophisticated arguments to say they are right. More importantly, they are both used widely in practice.

Second, they are statements of obligation which are (clearly, I would say) not relative to anything. So if you accept them (for the reasons their authors and others give) then the statement
> There are no absolute morals nor ethics
is clearly wrong.

Philippa Foot, who was regarded when he and she were alive by Michael Dummett as perhaps the most pertinent moral philosopher, has her "natural ethics", of which there is a long tradition. Her (I think only) book,
* Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, Oxford UP 2001, is classic. Natural ethics is not relative to time or culture, and universally applies constantly. One might also consult
* Onora O'Neill's 2002 Reith Lectures, A Question of Trust, Cambridge UP 2002 and
* Simon Blackburn, Ethics: A very Short Introduction, Oxford UP 2001.

Each of these sources give plenty of examples of ethical principles which are not relative to time or culture or anything else.

Ethics is a fascinating subject and I love to discuss it, but I don't want to let myself be drawn into general discussion and will try to keep my comments linked to applications in safety-critical systems engineering.

Speaking of which, Trolleyology is concerned with the behavior of controllers of safety-critical rail systems. (Trolleyology is a burgeoning subfield of ethics, started off by Ms. Foot.)

PBL Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, Faculty of Technology, University of Bielefeld, 33594 Bielefeld, Germany Je suis Charlie
Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319

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