A timeless topic for philosophers is the one of ethics. Now – adding hundreds of other professional titles who need to concern themselves with the topic, maybe more so, seems legitimate. As a writer, why do I need to?
Firstly, we need to define ethics: what are they? A complex notion giving rise to quite a few theories. Let me start with dear old Immanuel Kant, one of the greatest continental philosopher of all times.
- What he calls Kantianism, or ”Categorical imperative”, basically means that we should act the way we want other people to act, what we ought to do. So a universal norm, a very rational one. Where Kant does not take into account the fact that humans are also emotional beings, another theory covers that for us:
- ”Subjective relativism”. As the name reveals, it is not absolute such as Kant’s theory. It is based on the very situation, rather than mere reason. One flaw here is the grey zone between doing what you think is right and doing what you want. Justification is an adequate word.
(Now, there are many more theories that I simply cannot get into, theories probably more expedient to writers. For in-depth knowledge, I highly recommend Michael.J Quinn’s ”Ethics for the information age”)
Why do writers need to bother about ethics? Well, it does provide us with a basis for justifying our actions. And since writers often write for other people – it makes sense to have an audience in mind. We should never aim to harm another being.
The reason this subject has caught my attention this week is because it is just as confusing and relative as it is crucial to be aware of. And when all theories contradict each other and we don’t know in which direction to go – awareness is our best tool.