Subjective and Cultural Relativism - UBC Computer Science

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Class 4: Introduction to Ethics

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Where is Kevin and who am I ?

Jude Walker Post-doc in Education Social science researcher Uses technology Here today and Thursday

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

First clicker question for participation points! Where is Kevin? a. b. c. d. e.

In Paris at a computer science conference Teleported to the Starship Voyager Currently giving this class, only in Second Life Who’s Kevin? All of the above

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Department of Computer Science Undergraduate Events Events This Week Women in CS Roundtable Date: Mon., Jan 16 Time: 12 – 2 pm Location: Rm 206, ICICS/CS Resume Drop-in Editing Date: Tues., Jan 17 Time: 2 - 4 pm Location: Rm 253, ICICS/CS IBM Info Session Date: Wed., Jan 18 Time: 5:30 – 7 pm Location: Wesbrook 100

CS Faculty Lecture Speaker: Michael Friedlander Title: Robust Inversion, Data Fitting & Randomized Sampling Date: Thurs., Jan 19 Time: 3:30 – 4:50 pm Location: DMP 110

CSSS Board Game Night Date: Fri., Jan 20 Time: 5 – 9 pm Location: Reboot Café More details to be found in the weekly email that Michele Ng sends out.

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

The point of today’s class To: • Introduce the concepts of morality, ethics, an ethical point of view, and ethical theories • Examine some of the reasons why certain ethical arguments are stronger than others • Explore two ethical theories related to relativism: subjective relativism (and cultural relativism) • Get you to practice your powers of persuasion

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Where are we at?

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

What does any of this have to do with ethics? Ethics Study of morality Morality What people ought to or ought not to do

Why do we have a course about ethics and technology? • Generally need a way to decide the best thing to do • New problems accompany new technologies • “Common wisdom” may not exist for novel situations brought about by new technologies Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Mom sells kids' toys on eBay as punishment

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Definition of terms • Society – Association of people organized under a system of rules – Rules: advance the good of members over time

• Morality – A society’s rules of conduct – What people ought / ought not to do in various situations

• Ethics – Rational examination of morality – Evaluation of people’s behavior

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Where does our study of ethics come from?

“Man should not simply live, but live well with conduct governed by moderate virtue. This is regarded as difficult, as virtue denotes doing the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, to the proper extent, in the correct fashion, for the right reason.” Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

An ethical point of view… Most everyone shares “core values”, desiring – Life – Happiness – Ability to accomplish goals

Two ways to view world – Selfish point of view: consider only own self and core values – Ethical point of view: respect other people and their core values Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

How do we evaluate whether something is ethical?

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Ethical theories

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Ethical dilemmas Scenario 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEkmO3gQQAs

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Questions we may ask when evaluating something from an ethical point of view • • • • •

Did Sheldon do anything wrong? Who benefited from Sheldon’s course of action? Who was hurt by this course of action? Could Sheldon have achieved his goal in a better way? What additional information, if any, would help you answer the previous question?

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Scenario 2 Kao lives in Laos and really enjoys watching movies. The only way to watch movies (that he can afford) is to buy the illegally pirated versions sold on the streets of Vientiane, which he does when he has the money Is what he does unethical? Scenario 3 I also really enjoy watching movies and am a tourist in Laos. I buy the pirated ones on the streets to take back to Canada; I also know this helps the local economy. Is what I did unethical? Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Questions • • • •

Who benefits? Who gets harmed? What other ways can Kao or I achieve our objectives? What additional information would you need to evaluate whether this was an ethical decision?

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

• Ethics: a rational, systematic analysis • Workable ethical theory: produces explanations that might be persuasive to a skeptical, yet open-minded audience • Good, persuasive arguments. Really about argumentation drawing on Western philosophical framework (Aristotle, Plato, Socrates)

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

What makes an ethical theory persuasive? • What makes a good argument? In pairs: New technologies have made us more social

Person A: (Higher in the alphabet): Argue for Person B: (lower in the alphabet): Argue against Try to convince your partner

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Relativism Morality is relative No universal norms of right and wrong Me or my group can say something’s moral, you or your group can say something’s immoral. I cannot judge you, you cannot judge me Two unworkable theories

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Subjective relativism We each create our own morality—we each decide what is right and wrong “I think it’s immoral for a CEO to make 400 times her employees. I think extreme wealth disparity is unethical. You don’t think that. That’s just your opinion; Let’s agree to disagree”

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Case for subjective relativism • Well-meaning and intelligent people disagree on moral issues (e.g., taxation & wealth disparity) • Ethical debates are disagreeable and often get us nowhere.

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Case against subjective relativism: Anything goes 1. Blurs doing what you think is right and doing what you want to do. People are good at rationalizing bad behaviour 2. No moral distinction between actions 3. Confused with tolerance. Does not mean tolerance 4. Not based on reason

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Cultural Relativism What is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ depends upon the group’s guidelines Guidelines vary across time and place Particular action may be wrong in a society at one time and wrong in another society or in another time—e.g., slavery

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Cultural relativism examples

Brainstorm as many issues you can think of for which cultural relativism arguments have been given

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Female genital mutilation Polygamy (Bountiful) Capital punishment—stoning, Women not driving cars Hazing (fraternities) Residents working 36 hour shifts

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Cultural relativism: the case for Different social contexts may require different moral guidelines (think resource constraint) It is arrogant for one society to judge another’s We rarely understand enough to be able to judge fairly or adequately

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Case against cultural relativism: Gag order • Because two societies do have different moral views doesn’t mean they ought to have different views • It doesn’t explain how moral guidelines are determined • What if there are no cultural norms? • Cultural norms may not be accepted across the board • It doesn’t account for evolution of moral guidelines. • It provides no way out for cultures in conflict • Existence of many acceptable practices does not imply all practices are acceptable (many/any fallacy) • Societies do, in fact, share certain core values • Only indirectly based on reason. History not reason.

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

Wrap up

Be alert over the next two days to subjective and cultural relativism arguments—from family, friends, in the media… See if you can come with an example next class that relates in some way to new technologies

Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley

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Subjective and Cultural Relativism - UBC Computer Science

Class 4: Introduction to Ethics Based on slides © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Pearson Addison-Wesley Where is Kevin and who am I ? ...

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