Re: Ethics

Posted by Amaranth Rose on Feb 04, 2004 at 05:07

Re: Ethics (Pasti)

"If you don't have the prescription for good-wrong given by some more or less holy book, or concepts for that matter, how would one go about building an ethical system? "

I must admit readily that I do not have the answer in an instant, ready capsulized response. I have to assume that we learn ethics the way we learn many other things: by observing the behavior of the beings around us. My basis for that rationale lies in observing my son. Granted, one child does not constitute a research study, nor maybe not even a reasonable approximation of the norm. But when he was four years old, my son was involved in a situation at "Head Start" in which one child was picking on him, to the point of injuring him so as to draw blood. My son never mounted any retaliatory action against this boy. When I, in my parental frustration, upbraided him, asking him why he did not simply haul off and clobber the boy in self defense (He was easily big enough to have done), He drew himself up vertically to his greatest possible dimension, looked me in the eyes and said, "Mother, it's wrong to hurt other people."

Now, you may assume that this is a nice, child-size reciitatiuon of Biblical indoctrination, or else a reprise of similar careful parental inculcation. It was neither, as far as I know. We were and are unchurched, and I had never had occasion to discuss such things with him consciously. If he gathered it himself from such literature as Rudyard Kipling's "The Just-So Stories" and such other literature as I was prone to take an interest in (forgive me, but I read him most of Shakespeare's collected works as bedtime reading; I figured he didn't care what was said as long as he heard the sound of a familiar voice, and I was interested in it at the time) I'd have found it surprising. The child hadn't set foot inside a church since he was old enough to walk.

So understand my surprise when this very set formula for ethical behavior came spouting from my four-year old. Nor would he be dissuaded from his point of view; He could not be persuaded to retaliate against this boy.

My only explanation comes from rationalizing that my son had observed my actions and those of other family members and understood that this was a family value. I certainly act in a manner consistent with his statement; that he was able to inernalize that and then succinctly verbalize it at that young age surprises me. Granted, I torture my fictional characters, but that is another realm, and in the interest of telling a story, it's not how I live my life.

Be careful how you act in front of your kids; you're teaching them far more than you realize. If your behavior is inconsistent with your stated views on situational ethics, you may find them making choices on the basis of their perception of your integrity.

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