Tok Essay. Knowledge and Ethical Responsibility

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The possession of knowledge has no effect on humanity in and of itself; however, it is the

decisions made using knowledge where one can potentially have a significant impact. Here is

where there is an ethical responsibility invested into the possession of knowledge. In order to

properly understand and discuss the inherent ethics, it is imperative to define ethical guidelines

as well as what constitute as knowledge.

Ethics is simply a differentiation of what is right and what is wrong, philosophy on

morals. .There are two major ethical philosophies, Kant and Utilitarianism. Kantian thought

suggests a list of rules, loosely based on doing onto others what you would have done onto you.

In any given situation, the ethically justified action is the one that adheres to these sets of rules,

with no room for deviation. The means is not justified by the end. For utilitarian school of

thought, an individual strives to do the most good, even at the expense of others. In some cases,

the benefits and the harm caused is measured quantitatively against a pleasure principle, where

one attempts to satisfy the most amount of people. In strict utilitarian ethics, it is morally

justified to torture a child till the brink of death everyday if it were to create a utopia. The means

are justified by the end; “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” (Star Trek II:

The Wrath of Khan 1982).

From these two different views of ethics, a modern ethical guideline was developed.

Modern ethics attempt to combine these viewpoints into one. General speaking, the morally

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justified, or right, action is to cause the most benefit while avoiding harming others. It is a more

realistic than Kantian thought, while being less strict that utilitarianism. An overview of modern

ethics is able to be applied to the possession of knowledge. As previously mentioned, the sheer

state of being in possession of knowledge does not in and of itself carry ethical responsibilities,

but the actions one takes using that knowledge is where an individual must be conscious of

ethical implications. There are morals in both how one distributes their knowledge, including

perhaps deliberate false statements, and how one ...

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