The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility. Discuss.
Theory Of Knowledge Essay 2013
“The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility.”
When children are small they are taught that if they see another child being bullied, they should either try to stop the act, or find and adult and ask for help. Yet, as the children grow up, the term ‘tattle tale’ becomes associated with children, who abide by the earlier learnt skill, who seek help and potentially place others in trouble. The child knows that there is something wrong and seeks to restore balance therefore applying an already learnt moral. According to Plato’s Definition of knowledge as justified true belief, for something to be knowledge the pervious statement has to apply. By using the four different ways of knowing: perception, emotion, language, and reason cone can combine the ways thus justifying their belief. From a young age, ethics, which are morals that influence the way that an individual or individuals manage their behavior, are passed on to us through various teachings and upbringings. This set of values we carry throughout our entire life, which is what shapes societies. The different theories of ethics, such as utilitarianism and the self-interest theories are key opposing theories that help understand the issues with ethical responsibility. Utilitarianism is a school of ethics, which implies that what should be done would be fore the greater good. However, does possession of knowledge imply that one must share the information when asked? How can we determine when ethical responsibility surpasses the need for self-preservation? This knowledge issue spreads across various areas of knowledge such as, the natural science, the arts, and human sciences.
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One area of knowledge is the natural sciences. The natural sciences include all the hard sciences such as chemistry, physics, and biology. The hard sciences tend to be the ones that people believe the most in, without questioning the answers that they produce. However, attached to the sciences, there is a phenomenon called pseudoscience that, unlike science, needs no justification or proof and yet, some accredit it with the same credit as that of science. In the case of the Homeopathy research that was done in the late 1980’s and the world rebound scientific journal Nature released the information that homeopathy worked. This was then tested twice more just to be sure that the tests were coherent. The lead researcher conducted the primary test and his team and the results showed that homeopathy was possible. On the contrary, when a completely new team, who had no affiliation with the whole research project, conducted the experiment the results showed the opposite. When looking at this situation from utilitarianism’s point of view one can see that there automatically rises a dispute as to which of the two benefits the greater good more so than the other. Even when looking at the ethical theory of self-interest, two different personal goals arise. The use of language and reason allowed for the opposing test results to be presented in such a way that they debunked what the other tests has proven. However, what determines which ethical theory prevails over another?
A second area of knowledge that is affected by ethical responsibility is the arts. When an artist paints, does the artist have an ethical responsibility to paint what is indeed there or does this not apply? Throughout the years, there have been different art movements, such as impressionism, cubism, and surrealism. In the early years the paintings depicted real life situations, however as the years pressed on the need for people to see what was actually there changed. Artists started to depict what they saw, what they thought the world would be. The change in mentality was primarily due to emotion, and perception. These two ways of knowing contributed greatly to artists’ different stylistic periods. The responsibility of the artists becomes more Self interest rather than utilitarianism, this is because the artists does not paint for the audience, he paints for himself and does not worry about the greater good. Now there are types of art that aim to educated the views which could be interoperated as being for the greater good. The concepts of cubism and surrealism, allows for individual interpretation of everyday objects, however one could argue that it is teaching false information to the viewer. To what extent does distortion of information acceptable? When talking about ethical responsibility, there should be no question as to if distortion is acceptable, however it is acceptable in the arts.
As well as there being ethical implications in the natural sciences and the arts, there are also going to be ethical implications in the human sciences. Experiments such as the Stanford prison experiment, and the Little Albert experiment both have moral and ethical implications yet they were still conducted. When is ethical responsibility acceptably neglected in order to obtain certain knowledge? Taking the Stanford prison experiment as an example, the lack of distance between the psychologist and his experiment, caused there to be a mix up in the ethical morality of the experiment. The Distance should have provided the psychologist with the ability to see what the prisoners and the prison guards where actually doing and act accordingly, yet seen from the point of utilitarianism, the suffering that a small groups of people had to endure was for the greater good of the human population and the academic world. This experiment also falls under the Deontological Theories, which mainly has to do with following the set rules. On the contrary the participants of the Stanford Experiment did not break any rules specific to the experiment, however the experiment as a whole crossed a multitude of other morals. Another example of ethical responsibility, in a more applicable situation, take an innocent bystander who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, can either chose to testify as witness, or not. This brings up the question of: can a person become a victim of knowledge? And can knowledge be a burden? In the case of a witness, both of the Ethical theories mentioned previously apply, however the choice of which to follow is in the individuals’ own hands.
The examples given before are not so much used in every day life. An example that relates closely to students such as me, is when taking a test do you allow a friend to copy off of your test, or do you cover you paper so that you are the only one that can see your answers? It is a question of which ethical theory the individual chooses (as stated before) do you help a friend and run the risk of getting caught by the teacher, or do you leave your friend to try and figure it out by him or her self, and run the risk of them failing? From the claims and counterclaims that have been looked at through out the essay. It is clear that it depends on two things; the individual, and the situation presented. To answer the question: how can we determine when ethical responsibility affects the ability to obtain knowledge? We must keep in mind that it is individualized yet there may be certain social expectations in specific situations.