Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Responses 003 (May 2013)

The third question in this semester's list is:
"The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility." Evaluate this claim.
It's a rather interesting question, this one.

Why is it interesting? For a start, you'd have to define the area of knowledge known as ethics before you decided how and why possession of knowledge might carry an ethical responsibility.

Ethics can reasonably be defined as the knowledge of moral decision-making carried out by individuals within a defined group. For example, medical ethics deals with people who handle medical issues, but excludes people who are not 'medical'. An ethical responsibility is a responsibility that you bear because you are a member of the group to whom a particular kind of ethics is related.

This has direct bearing on the basic argument to be evaluated. If you possess knowledge, you are a member of the group 'possessors of knowledge'. If knowledge is considered to be a good thing (like food or air or any other useful resource) then to some extent you have a duty to share it. If you don't share it, you ought to have a reason, and that reason would also be a matter of ethics.

For example, if you know how to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time with readily-available resources, you have the general duty to share knowledge (maybe it will save people from you or people like you, but with fewer moral scruples) but you might not want to share it in case somebody else uses this knowledge to kill others.

Well, that's the basic stuff. Now go and work on it.

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2 Comments:

Blogger sibrwd said...

The claim seems truistic if evaluated in this fashion as it generalises to 'The possession of x carries an ethical resposibility', since any x can potentially be good or harmful and requires a decision whether or not to be shared. Might it be better to consider the statement as 'It is an ethical responsibility to posess knowledge'?

Monday, December 31, 2012 8:08:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

sibrwd: the point is not necessarily to say if it is true or false, but to evaluate the extent to which it is true, the nature of the responsibility, and how much one ought to act on that responsibility.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 6:55:00 pm  

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