Ethics Post


Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action ethics)?

I believe that good works or acts are more important than being a good person. The quantifiable aspect of good acts (i.e. you would know how many someone did and like be able to measure the outcome of them) outweighs the value of being an intrinsically good person. You could be a good person and not seek human contact or interaction for decades. You could be a good person and not do anything harmful, but not do anything good for anyone either. You could be a “good person” and have a definition of “good” that registers as a very low bar for others, so would not have anything to show for that definition. In these examples, goodness doesn’t hold water where good acts would. Even if the individual doing the good acts was filled with malicious intent, if the act was genuinely good, it wouldn’t matter because it wouldn’t impact the outcome, which would benefit others.

Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?
I absolutely do not believe that procedural justice is more important than distributive justice. In my work, there is a procedural justice process for projects and problem solving. What happens in the practice of procedural justice is that a lot of partners in the process feel valued, but the outcome is harder to obtain and, regularly, there is so much compromising on the solution that no one is truly happy with the outcome because they have had to compromise their ethics in some way. Conversely, I value distributive justice because the outcome is what is valuable. How you test that outcome would depend on the situation, but if you could neutrally evaluate the outcome and it benefitted the most individuals or elements, whatever process you used to get there would be better. Unfortunately, I think that people regularly become so enamored with their own goodness in the decision making process that they fail to see that there is a potential for the outcome to not be a good decision or have direct negative impacts. 
Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs. altruism)?
It has taken me a long time to admit this, but I do believe that my life values more than the lives of others. Specifically, I believe that my life has more value than the value of some other people who fall into distinct groups like rapists and murders. That might sound logical, but I sincerely did not believe that I discriminated against anyone for any reason; in reality, I believe that people should own their decisions no matter when or where or how they committed them. So, if there were a real scenario where my life was put in immediate judgment against a rapist and the evaluation lead to one of us being killed, I would sincerely believe that I should survive and am actually entitled to live. On less absolute scales as life and death, I believe violent criminals should not have the same rights I do, so I should benefit more directly (from governing bodies and just walking down the street) than they do or ever could.

Coupled Human-Environment Systems – Erica Golden

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When drawing my diagram, my core idea was to focus on the ideas of resilience and sustainability. Specifically, the notes of the biogas generator helping the women become independent money makers and the compost producing improved yields both with help increase the social system and ecosystem resilience and sustainability in any area where the biogas generator is used as it should.

I think my diagram is remarkably similar to the figure in the Marten reading. The gathering of cooking fuel drove the key elements on both the social system and ecosystem side of my diagram. I think my diagram breaks down the human population/impact piece more specifically. If I had space in the diagram or if more subtext was asked for, I would have broken down the responsibilities and outcomes to the women in that community into more detail, as well as emphasized the negative outcome to the children (mainly their education). I think there are similarities because the Marten diagram is a well-constructed one about the same topic and I think mine is different because of the perspective and history I bring to the assessment, notably the additional attention I gave to women and children. In comparing the two, I think that I could have spent more time looking at the common factors between the major components. I am clearly more comfortable keeping contributing elements in their unique categories, where the Marten diagram has more connection points.

Getting to Know You – Erica Golden

My name is Erica Golden and I just moved back to Chicago after a couple of years living in Texas for work. I have lived in multiple areas of the United States and China over the last 10 years, which has been amazing, but I am glad to be back in the midwest. I have worked for Apple for more than a decade in Human Resources and do a significant amount of travel. I am interested in this course because I have always cared deeply about environmental issues, but because I also travel, I am taking this course to enhance my understanding of the different environments I am in.

Working in Human Resources as long as I have, I am surprised by the number of leaders I interact with that do not believe that their environment has shaped their perspective on their beliefs or, simply, their views on people. The clip from The West Wing from the first lesson is one of my favorites from that series because of what it isolated out: the inherent judgement we may have that is derived from things we may have never questioned. I think that geography can help level some of those inaccurate perspectives that may increase ego or decrease the value weight of a people from a particular part of the world because of the way that others see it (read: small).