I am sure “Ellen S.” is a sincere, caring, lovely person, but the Ethics Police need to put an electric monitor on her tongue that sets off a warning every time she tries to utter the word “ethics.” There are many divergent ethical systems and many legitimate ways of analyzing an ethical problem, but Ellen’s sincere, caring blog illustrate why so many people’s eye glaze over when ethics comes into a conversation, and worse, it shows why so many otherwise educated people let their conduct be governed by rationalizations. The latest post on Ellen S.’s blog for the WEGO Health website illustrates my point; I didn’t have the courage to read more, and you will see why.
The post is entitled “Was Hitler More Ethical Than You?” Ellen S. answers that silly question in the affirmative, because she has, and apparently teaches, a cockamamie definition of “ethics” that condemns the whole philosophical area to the garbage heap. (In fairness to Ellen, it appears that she was recently taught this is a class, which means that someone else is warping sincere, kind minds with a definition of ethics that makes Hitler an ethical leader. This is why a reckless and incompetent teacher can be the educational equivalent of Typhoid Mary, spreading ignorance far and wide.)
“Ethics and morality are actually worlds apart,” Ellen writes. “Someone who is ethical follows what they believe. They are true to those beliefs no matter what, even if those beliefs may seem crazy to someone else. They may not believe the same thing as someone else – one society may be for something that another society in another part of the world thinks is terrible, but both can be ethical. Morality is the difference between right and wrong. Ethics is what you do with those beliefs. For example, if you believe it is wrong to eat meat, then when you eat it you are not being ethical.”
Uh, no. By no stretch of the imagination is this correct. Ellen, or whoever programmed her, is talking about something akin to integrity,when an individual’s conduct doesn’t waver from core beliefs. Even integrity, however, is seldom applied to unethical beliefs. Saying that Ted Bundy had integrity because he consistently followed his belief that killing young girls was good way for a law student to spend his time is an insult to the virtue. Even her definition of morality is useless: “the difference between right and wrong”? If anything, this is a sloppy way to define ethics, which is, among other things, the ongoing inquiry into what we should regard as right and wrong.
An ethical system can be proposed and tested, of course, but the hypothesis has to be that the system will ultimately lead to “good,” and it is only a hypothesis until there is some conclusive data supporting it…and that takes a long, long time. One can propose an ethical system based on cruelty, subjugation, racism and genocide, but it is still a hypothesis until the system is tested. While it takes a long time to prove that a system works, it doesn’t always take that long to show that it doesn’t. For Hitler’s theory, results are in. Hitler’s test ended in millions murdered, world war, his nation in ruins, and him with a bullet in his brain. Good plan, Adolph. Guess it wasn’t so ethical after all.
Ellen’s definition is an invitation to ethical anarchy, with everyone and anyone claiming that they have a right to their own ethical system, and as long as they are consistent, nobody can call them unethical. To be ethical, an act and a system must embody and facilitate principles that benefit society, not just one individual.
For giggles, Ellen’s post also throws in another ethics whopper, stating that a powerful disproof of something she states as her belief will “make her a liar.” This is the horrible and increasingly popular false definition of dishonesty one commonly encounter on in e internet, as well as at homes for closed-head injury patients. One cannot be “made a liar” if one sincerely believes what one says, even if it is dead wrong. Ellen is not a liar because she says Hitler was ethical, unless she is intentionally trying to mislead people. Being a liar doesn’t mean one is mistaken, it means one is dishonest.
Ellen’s not dishonest, but please, someone stop her from saying that Hitler was ethical.
You can read her post here. Please clear the room of bystanders, in case your head explodes.
5 thoughts on “Hitler’s Ethics, and Ethics Malpractice From A Health Activist”
Interesting post. I was watching a video which featured one of my favorite theologians, R.C. Sproul. He said that the definition between morality and ethics has been blurred. According to him, morality comes from the “mores” of a community, what is generally accepted as right or wrong. By definition, this can change across time and cultures. While ethics comes from “ethos,” an higher standard or virtue that is unchanging and should direct human behavior across time and cultures. An interesting analysis, but Hitler would be wrong by either standard.
I also heard a presenter at a Character Cities Conference, Wes Lane, speak about a study of university students. They were asked if Hitler was ethical or not. The prevailing answer: “we don’t know…” Scary indeed…
Thanks once again for an insightful post.
“We don’t know”? “WE DON’T KNOW”??? One of the problems with ethics is that even ethicists disagree about which definition to use. Morality is based on defined rules, which can (or should) evolve, but don’t always. Ethics is the search for those elusive “absolute” principles, but there is where the confusion comes in—ethics may be unchanging, but since we can’t be sure what that absolute ethos is, our assessment of what is ethical changes all the time.
“WE DON’T KNOW???” Hitler? Who ARE these people, “The Daughters of The Third Reich”?
The children of moral and cultural relativism.
I read Ellen’s post. KA-BOOM!
As my head is exploding, my last fond hope is that somehow Ellen’s “teacher’s” head will do the same, or that he or she will just spontaneously combust because of his/her affront to the universe.
There you have it. Now you can’t even prosecute serial child molesters anymore. After all, he’s being consistant! And, as the ethical bastion of Hollywood tells us, children are “little adults” and “sexual beings”. Ergo: They’re fair game! Now we won’t have to worry about Roman Polanski’s being repressed in his creativity. Ain’t modern ethics a wonderful thong… errr, thing?