Why architects can agree
but ethicists cannot

Why can architects agree, but ethicists and moralists cannot?


Imagine selecting at random a Russian, a Nepalese, a Saudi, an Ethiopian, an American, and a Peruvian architect. These six architects would all agree on the principles to follow in order to build a house or a skyscraper.


In contrast, imagine selecting at random six ethicists from these six countries, people who are “trained” to know which principles should be followed in order for a person to live a “good life.” You will have major disagreements on which basic principles should be followed in order to be a good person.

You can get an "ought" from an "is"

Why? Why cannot we have basic agreement about ethical principles, not only among the ethicists of the world, but even among people in general, as they make ethical choices everyday in going about their lives?


One factor that has contributed to the vacuum of creating and promulgating widely agreed upon moral principles and guidelines is the idea that science and technology cannot get an “ought” from an “is," and science tells you only the “is." Consequently, scientists and technologists have largely avoided tackling the issue of building a consistent set of ethical principles and guidelines.


But it is not true. You can get an “ought” from an “is.”

The intention of every behavior is happiness

It’s easy to demonstrate that any and all human behavior is ultimately motivated to move towards pleasure/happiness and away from pain/unhappiness, both in the short-term and the long-term. As the Dalai Lama says, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” No one has been able to show otherwise. This is an “is.” And, from this “is” (which is given by God/nature), the “oughts” can be derived. But, as the Dalai Lama says, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”  It is the purpose of the science of ethics to discover and establish those principles and guidelines which, when followed, are most likely to result in our own happiness.

The purpose of ethics is to establish principles and guidelines to create happiness

Once a goal/result is established (as it is with the goal to design a skyscraper or as it is with a human being whose goal is to design and implement a life of happiness for themselves), then from this point, it becomes a question of following the correct principles and guidelines to reach those goals. In the case of designing skyscrapers, those principles are well established and the results are that skyscrapers around the world function as we would like and as predicted from having followed those principles. We have successful skyscrapers, buy how many happy human beings do we have? Not so many. And the reason is that the ethical principles and guidelines (to guide our everyday choices) that we have absorbed from the ethicists and our culture have not been consistently designed to maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness, both short-term and long-term.


The New Ethics and the Confirmation Bias


As a scientist (and technologist) of ethics, I welcome and encourage contrary (or "yes, but") feedback. Any scientist worth their salt will be looking for how they might be wrong about any of their "discoveries" or assessments. The confirmation bias, which affects all of us, can be especially damaging for the scientist. 

As such, I welcome and encourage from anyone (that means YOU) any and all contrary feedback, especially including any evidence and reasoning you can provide to me. Thank you!

See the video "Is a science of ethics possible?"

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