8 basic principles of ethics

My moral project consists of trying to articulate my moral intuitions into a consistent set of ethical principles that form the basis of an ethical system of ecological justice. Below are the eight most important principles of my ethics. (More recent versions can be found here, here and here)

1) A just distribution of quality of life. Maximize the qualities of life (values of well-being) of all sentient beings, giving a strong priority on increasing the lowest values of well being. I.e. maximize the qualities of life of the worst off individuals, unless this is at the expense of much more well-being of others. Sentient beings are all beings who have a functioning complex nervous system (they developed the capacity to feel and have not yet permanently lost this capacity). These include future generations, vertebrate animals, some squids,.. See ‘quasi-maximin principle’ in https://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/a-model-for-a-theory-of-justice/

2) The basic right of living beings (plants and all beings with complex interests, such as staying alive). Never allow (or strongly minimize) the killing or injuring of non-sentient living beings for luxury needs. Especially don’t kill a living being to manipulate your social status (fashion, status consumption, commercial advertisements). We are allowed to use plants for basic needs (sharing knowledge,…).

3) The basic right of sentient beings (beings with complex interests and the capacity to subjectively experience their needs). Never allow (or strongly minimize) the use of sentient beings as merely means to someone else’s ends (including both luxury, basic and vital needs). We should not treat someone as property or violate its bodily integrity or freedom without permission in order to achieve a goal. One exception: sentient beings who became dependent (by evolution) on other animals in order to survive, are allowed to hunt for their vital needs, until feasible alternatives exist (but we are allowed to defend the prey, if we feel compassion). See ‘basic right principle’ in https://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/a-model-for-a-theory-of-justice/ and https://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/the-basic-right/

4) The intrinsic value of biodiversity. Protect the biodiversity, because the biodiversity for ecosystems is analogous to well-being for sentient beings: both are intrinsically valuable properties of an entity (ecosystem, sentient being) that is unique and irreplaceable.

5) Restorative justice. Strive for reconciliation, forgiveness, non-violence, and moral growth, instead of retributions and punishment.

6) Universal love. Develop a feeling of universal love, a solidarity and compassion with all life, even with humans doing highly immoral things. Never regard someone as an enemy. This love is like the unconditional care of a mother for her children: Even when her son does the most terrible things, the mother still loves him deeply, she has no hatred or disdain but empathy and respect, but she’ll do whatever she can to stop his immoral behavior. She will not trust her son, and she may use violence, as long as the violence is accompanied with love. See https://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/the-essentials-of-universal-love/

7) Just caring. When helping others, you are allowed to give (to some level) priority to those with whom you feel a personal or emotional concern or involvement, on the condition that you should tolerate the choice of other caregivers to give priority to whom they prefer. So you should tolerate the choice of other helpers. See ‘tolerated choice equality’ in https://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/a-model-for-a-theory-of-justice/

8 ) The golden rule. Abide by those principles which we would like that everyone abides them. Give the good example and do that what every moral being should have to do, even if no-one else does so. This is an unconditional commitment and we should, if need be, swim up against the stream. We should abide by those principles which are generalizable, which means that if every moral being should follow those principles and consequently apply them, there will be no undesirable consequences that violate one of the above principles. Also, choosing an action or a rule to follow, we should ask ourselves: what are the consequences if everyone (who is able to do that action) would do that action or follow that rule? If the consequences satisfy the above principles 1 to 4, then we should do that action or follow that rule.

Note that the above 8 principles are a combination of consequentialist ethics (principles 1 and 4), deontological ethics (principles 2, 3 and 8), virtue ethics (principle 6) and ethics of care (principles 5 and 7). Let’s illustrate a few implications that can be derived from the above principles:

-Eat vegan (100% plant based diet). We don’t need animal products to have a healthy life (American Dietetic Association). Inform yourself about healthy, well-planned vegan diets. Don’t use animals for things we would not use humans for: clothing, experimenting, amusement, trade, slavery,…

-Only use environmentally friendly technology.

-No overconsumption, but sobriety and voluntary simplicity. Lower your ecological footprint, don’t use luxury (all products used to increase social status, needs created by commercial advertisement, fashion trends,…). By consuming less, the saved money should be given to help the most vulnerable life (poor people, animals, nature,…).

-No overpopulation. Help create fair conditions for a worldwide voluntary pregnancy limitation. Financially support organizations working on reproductive health an family planning, especially in countries with high fertility rates.

-Do actions to help vulnerable life (humans, non-human sentient beings and nature)

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Een reactie op 8 basic principles of ethics

  1. Pingback: The three most defensible principles in ethics | Stijn Bruers, the rational ethicist

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