Some Objective Ways of Looking at the World
Do you view different parts of the world through the same lens? Philosophically speaking, there are different ways of looking at things, and different considerations that we can apply as we make decisions.
In this session, you’ll be introduced to philosophy and some different schools of thought before working through some exercises.
An Introduction to Philosophy
Over the years, there have been many philosophers who have attempted to define a system for making rational decisions. We’re going to cover a few of them. These tools may help you in some situations, but be warned, all have been criticized at some point in time, and none are perfect.
The Golden Rule
This maxim dates back to antiquity: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The central idea is that everyone wants to be treated well, but the problem is that everyone has different standards of behavior. How I might want others to treat me may not be the same as how others want to be treated.
The Golden Mean
This philosophy was developed by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. He believed that the key to ethical behavior is moderation. For example, acting rashly isn’t a good idea, but neither is being a coward. The virtuous behavior would be courage, which is the halfway point between the two.
Boiled down, utilitarianism means choosing the solution that has the most benefit and least cost to society. This philosophy originated in England in the 19th century.
There are a few key problems with this philosophy. The first problem is deciding what factors to weigh: purely financial, purely social, or a combination. The second problem is deciding what a benefit is and what a cost is. Third, this theory doesn’t allow for human factors, such as exceptions or extenuating circumstances.
The Categorical Imperative
18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that there was one rule everyone should live by: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”
Basically, Kant is saying that if you make a rule once, that rule should apply forever. So, if you impose the rule, “Stealing is wrong,” once, that rule must apply for all time, and so must its consequences.
There are obvious problems with this approach, too. It clearly doesn’t allow for moral development (say, if you change your mind later) or for exceptions.
This philosophy offers the basic creed that everyone’s needs and rights should be fulfilled. While this sounds nice, it is impractical. For example, a drug company has the need to make money, but a mother of five needs drugs for her children, which she cannot afford. How do you fulfill the needs and rights of both?