Wikimedia Ethics/The fundamentals of ethics

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The fundamentals of ethics[edit | edit source]

There is a tendency of the mind to engage in what could be called "conceptual proliferation." Rather than being aware of the utter simplicity of a particular situation through experiential insight, we would prefer to chop it up into a bunch of tiny bits of pieces, look at each of these pieces under a magnifying glass, labeling every tiny piece, discussing the nature of each piece by itself, and in the process, we end up causing more confusion for ourselves than we had at the outset. This is clear from the huge abundance of problems in western philosophy which are not present in eastern philosophy, where the problems are often clearly resolved. Much of the success of 20th century western philosophy has come through either borrowing from eastern philosophy or re-discovering the same ideas without specifying the originality of these discoveries or giving credit where credit is due.

So, a lot of Wikipedians would therefore like to talk (a lot) about how to improve the wiki-process: in this case, it is geared towards making the process more ethical. If we talk enough about it, hopefully we can make Wikipedia more ethical, hmm? A clear perspective finds that all particular views (for or against identity verification, for example) are merely partial truths, because definitions of terms are personally defined, language is rooted in a deeper human psychology, and so no personal expression of truth can be wholly ingenuine, while on the other hand, if its validity relies solely on language, it can't be totally accurate either. And because managing social situations and resources involve trade-offs, often, it seems totally arbitrary to implement one policy over another (i.e. giving more authority to sysops, or taking such authority away).

In order to have a full understanding of the reality of ethics, we have to therefore understand the deeper psychology which underlies the language in which it is discussed. This kind of thing really cannot be picked apart through conjecture, because it is a direct experience; it can only be understood by means of clear intuition about one's direct experience around them while, once it's taken to the level of logical analysis, its full depth is lost.

With that said, as it seems to me, all ethical actions are rooted in and lead to:

  • Intelligent Observation - Realizing what is going on, distinguishing truth from false, distinguishing useful from the not useful, good from bad, encyclopedic from unencyclopedic.
  • Non-attachment - Not clinging, not being hooked, not being addicted, not being stuck to one's own opinions, others' opinions, particular ways of doing things, one's own personal gain, etc.
  • Reciprocity - The golden rule, treating others the same way you'd like to be treated, seeing others as being inseparable from yourself.

Conversely, all unethical actions are rooted in and lead to:

  • Ignorance - Lack of knowledge and intelligent observation.
  • Attachment - Wanting pleasurable things, wanting things to go our way.
  • Aversion - Wanting to avoid unpleasurable things, not permitting the possibility of not having our way.

Once this is understood, it seems like obvious common sense, "Well, that's so idiotically obvious. Why even mention it?" If it were so obvious, Wikipedia and people, in general, would not have ethical problems.

Anyway, not much more can be said about ethics than that, other than to elaborate on those basic principles. You also need to distinguish conventional ethical standards ("Don't edit war") from the underlying values ("Wikipedia is an encyclopedia") which might override particular rules, under specific contexts. Ethics is defined both by specific rules, but also by transcendent values which, when appropriately generalized, are usually but not always in accordance with the ethical conventions. Because the possible contexts in which the rules may be applied outnumbers the amount of time that can be devoted to analyzing and preparing the rules, there will always be certain cases where it is useful to blatantly ignore the rules, just as there are cases when it is ethical to break the law.

To put it in a different way: Humans are dynamic, sentient beings which cannot simply be predictably thrown around by bureaucratic deliberations on wiki-process. Any social setting will be dominated by some degree of chaos. Furthermore, what is more important than the process is the virtues of the editors themselves. If the virtues of editors are maintained, then it automatically follows that the process will also be maintained as just. If the virtues of the editors are not maintained, any amount of deliberation is a waste of time. Therefore, it is far more important that Wikipedia focus on certain virtues rather than certain processes or policies. 23:49, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for that. I will copy it to the learning resource Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia/The fundamentals of ethics. WAS 4.250 18:22, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
Above copied from Talk:Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia. WAS 4.250 18:33, 25 August 2008 (UTC)