Why You Should Develop the Habit of Looking Both Ways -- Ethics (By Ms. Hali Bash March)
Updated: Nov 23
(Disclaimer: The guest posts do not necessarily align with Philosocom's manager, Mr. Tomasio Rubinshtein's beliefs, thoughts, or feelings. The point of guest posts is to allow a wide range of narratives from a wide range of people. To apply for a guest post of your own, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org)
When we all were children we were taught (hopefully) to look both ways before crossing the road.
Why were we taught that? Because there was something important that demanded our attention
that could potentially arrive from both directions.
This way of looking at the world is somewhat like a giant crossroad that is consistent of many
It is known that our world is very complicated to comprehend, thus many search for the easiest way
of navigating it - by seeing "black and white", meaning simplify reality into dichotomous "good" and "bad" concepts.
But a person who is mature enough should know by now that reality isn’t that simple. A person who stole something is called a thief- a thief meaning he is a bad guy.
Now we receive new information that the person stole food, we are starting to think -- well, maybe he isn’t that evil, maybe he was just hungry and desperate. Maybe we are told that he stole gold -- now we think he is a greedy person (bad). But then we hear that he is stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Suddenly he becomes no less than a hero (Robin Hood).
So, by understanding the concept of context, we can understand that there is no "black and white" morality that we can rely on in the way that we are observing the world.
What should we do, then?
The spectrum way of perceiving the world suggests to always define the 2 edges of the spectrum,
the most extreme ideas for each way, the "blacks and whites". When we defined our domain of ideas we can imagine the spectrum of ideas relevant to this specific spectrum.
If we take the previous example of the stealing man -- we need to define what is good and what is bad by spectrums, so stealing as defined by law is prohibited and thus bad, and distributing food for the poor is good by morality.
(Mr. Rubinshtein's note: A more-developed person would indeed be morally complex, as in the example of the anti-hero. I view myself as an anti-villain because I am a vengeful man with a moral code and with good intentions).
So, we decided to create our spectrum with law on one side and morality on the other. I want to note that the spectrum is not a built in concept, and like we did right now -- it can be defined however you want, as long and there are 2 edges. Spectrums that are not balanced will just be useless when trying to use, and of course when using them with another person, the other person needs to be aware of the spectrum or they won't understand your argument.
Back to our spectrum of law and morality on the subject of stealing. Depending on the extra
information given to us, we can decide where we put our case. Since the spectrum is subjective, it is important to remember its place as a tool. Tools are great help in the hands of people who knows how to use them, as seen in this video of a katana master challenging his student to cut down bamboo target cleanly. The students and the master use the same tool, but the master knows how to maximize its effectiveness (Example video).
So, in order to use this tool effectively, you should prepare your arguments for the percentage you
choose to place your case on the spectrum. For example if I'm a big fan of the law, and perceive the law as morality chosen by people smarter than me, I'll choose greater weight for the law, placing the case closer to law.
Ultimately, my argument concludes of an explanation of a value system in which law is above the morality of a single person, but never ignores the other side of the spectrum -- meaning that respect should be given to the act of helping the poor, even if we think the person should be punished at the end. Maybe they deserve a medal and also a few years in prison. It's all about balances of both sides.
(Mr. Rubinshtein's note: Ms. Hali's arguement is also about the importance of equity over bias, which is a very important priority that's required to understand the bigger picture, and be more objective).
Another example of a spectrum on the same subject is the System versus the citizens. Now we are looking at the same case but from a totally different perspective -- and we ask ourselves what is the relationship between the system and the citizens? We can argue that the system's role is to keep order and to protect from chaos. We can also argue that the system job is to provide good enough
environment for the people to be able to have enough, not needing to steal food in order to survive.
In that way of perceiving the case, we can conclude that although the system job is to keep the order in the city, once it failed to provide essential resources for its people, the authority of the system is put in question, and thus we can argue that it is, in fact, very moral to take law into your hands when the system is unjust or had failed.
Of course, we can use the same spectrum on the opposite argument and claim that in order for the
system to provide for the people, the people must play along and respect the system's authority.
So as you've learned here, the spectrum is a tool of looking at problems from a more holistic perspective. It can vary greatly upon how the person chooses to use this tool.
So the most important guide lines to keep in mind here are –
1. Never forget to respect and include both sides of the spectrum in your arguments. It doesn’t have
to be a 50\50 case, but without including both sides in your argument, you can't use the spectrum tool.
2. Be open minded and creative -- try to look at the case from different angles and perspectives. Try
different edges to the spectrum to further strengthen your argument.
3. Share and explain this method to the other person in order to create common ground of
understanding when arguing. A debate without guidelines or context can be very tiring and
4. And last one -- Be respectful of others and their opinions. Debates are not just for winning, but for conveying ideas. Be smart in your arguments but also be smart in your listening.
This method of looking at life can help you see the world as a more balanced, whole concept, and
helps you avoid drama and prejudice in your own mind, since it's "forcing" you to look at ideas you don’t necessarily agree with, but have to accept their existence nevertheless
So, in conclusion -- learn to look both ways.