News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Ethics Precedes Economics

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ethics Precedes Economics

Our responsibility to others goes beyond or at least subsumes the economics of the situation. In other words, ethics precedes economics. An economical model simply works in terms of what is "owed." A valid ethics, I argue, cannot be based on such an economic model, but should be based on a different basis--call it the sentiment of sympathy, to allude to Hume and Adam Smith.

This theory of ethical responsibility does not assume that self-interest is at the base of a true ethics towards others bu instead is something related to our ability to sympahtize with the true conditions of those we encounter and whom we must respond to in some way that accords wit their true condition as human beings.

Responsibility, you say, is first to ourselves. Is that a given? I imagine the counter to this is what?... that it's to others? How do I learn this assumption? Certainly, as children, we grew up in an environment where we depended on and trusted that others would support us. Without their help, for example, I could not do anything, since as a child I am only capable of so much. Now, a child sees the world in me-terms. It does not recognize, and does not have the cognitive skills to see how much that they do really depends on others giving them the "space" to do what they want to do. Often, in fact, doing just what I want to do simply cannot be true since I must learn that there are some things that I cannot do because it infringes on others and their ability to do what they want. Yet, this assumes or occurs within the context of others guiding me through the maze of wants and desires and curbing those where and when necessary. Without this guidance--without the other's care for me--I could not be me and do what I feel I need to do.

It is a very dysfunctional situation where a child grows up in an environment where there are not others to teach and nurture them as individuals--as others who care about and need to be aware of the "responsibility" rowards others. Indeed, isn't it this sense of responsibility that others feel and believe that they have towards me that allows me to be who I am? Where does this sense of reposnsibility on their part come from?

I am suggesting that it is based on something called sentiment--that is, the ability or capacity of others to sympathize with me and my joys and pains and to take a concern in me such that I accomplsih or attain those needs and desires that I have--those things basic to being a human.

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