Relativity of Ethical Standard in Determining Human’s Positive and Negative Action

Rilliandi Arindra Putawa

Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia

Undergraduate Student

Terrorism, damaged environment, war, are issues due to ethical problem which becomes global society’s challenge to deal with. The absence of standard ethic in global society is the key cause of the emergence of such global issues. Both terrorism in Suriah and other countries in Middle East and crisis in Myanmar are all caused by different perspective among the global society in responding the meaning of virtue.

Not all kind purposes may be accomplished by a good action. With the reason of defending God or state, one may cruelly conduct unethical attitude for others. However, he believes that he has done appropriate action to achieve the intended virtue. This is in line with the ethic of utilitarianism, which states that one’ positive or negative action is determined from the intended purpose of such action. For individual performing terrorism-oriented action, it is common to kill other people in order to achieve particular purpose, in which he think it’s good, but other people with different perspective might not think in the same way. Thus, in world’s history, it has been quite a long time for human to know about war.

War seems to be the most favourable mean for human in achieve their good purpose (according to them). The existence of illusion upon the insufficient natural resources becomes one of common reasons for colonialism and imperialism several centuries ago. Both principles conduct war based on its respective ethical consideration. Immigrants performing colonialism-related action, imperialism-related action and war because they have particular consideration relating to the needs of natural resources by the society in their home countries. Meanwhile, indigenous society surely participate in war due to their willingness to stand for their land. Both of them have different ethical standard, so it is difficult to determine the right and wrong ones. It is also not easy to state that, in this case, the right one should be indigenous society since as matter of fact, there are a lot of countries established due to the immigrants’ achievement in winning the war. Therefore, in the end, it is only the winner who has the right to state that they have done good action.

Every individual has his own ethical standard in performing action. This may be based on the background of religion, culture, politics, and even education. The effort of creating a universal ethical standard is not a brand new step, since several individuals and world’s communities have performed such thing for long time ago. Jon Lennon was one of musicians who actively provide critics towards ethical standard organized by particular religious and political groups. Through his song entitled imagine, he shouted his opinion in humanity values for the purposes of refusing violence which are based on religious and political interests. Mahatma Ghandi also introduced ahimsa to all society around the globe which then affected humanity movements in the world.

Humanity value is global society’s kind of value that is considered as the standard in determining the ethic of actions by human, so that none of them, which violate humanity value, may be considered as good action, eventhough the purpose is to achieve virtue for particular community. However the question is, how about other living things’ position if the ethical standar is only based on humanity?

Humanity itself is based on the word “human”, which in this case, we can see the existence of anthropocentric side in the concept of humanity. Human, in the meaning of humanity, is used as the centre for ethical standard applied in the world, so everything good according to human, both for himself and the world. Therefore, a question stating about the animal and plant rights when the ethical standard is only based on human interest is emerged.

As we know, global issues are not only in relation with social and political problems. There are also issues related to worse physical condition of the world itself. The issue of global warming and various natural disasters around the world are two of all the impact of human negligence towards nature. Several actions that result in natural damage is performed based on the purpose of human interest. Such actions, in this case, can’t be considered as negative actions. Because as matter of fact, such actions is performed based on human’s necessity.

Deforestation is often done for opening agricultural lands. In agricultural activities, plenty of animals and plants are depredated for the life of crop plants. Countless animals have been sacrificed for satisfying humans’ needs for meat. All of the aforementioned are done none other to meet global food needs. Agricultural activities are not necessarily bad. We do not necessarily have to turn into vegans to be good people because the food chain has in fact existed since the beginning of life on the earth, and it is normal to do such actions in order to meet humans’ needs for food. This all will depend on the standard of the extent to which we are allowed to utilize natural resources. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed”. According to Gandhi’s words, we can say that human’s actions toward the nature is good if they are intended to meet humans’ needs, and if they are not excessive actions done for satisfying human’s greed.

Human’s greed is based on the paradigmatic fault emerging from the beginning of science and technology development. Anthropocentric paradigm that has made humans the center of the universe becomes the starting point of humans’ striving to conquer the nature. The belief that humans are entitled to control the nature then sets aside the rights of other living creatures, although this arbitrary attitude toward the nature will do harm to humans instead. This is exacerbated by the cultures that are only oriented to the present, without considering the impact to the future. This gives birth to the mass use of synthetic pesticides for satisfying the transient food needs without considering the impact on the future of mankind.

Both of the mistakes should be corrected as soon as possible to avoid more substantial impacts in the future. To substitute the anthropocentric paradigm, Fritjof Chapra introduced exocentric paradigm that assumes that humans are equal in position to other living creatures and abiotic factors in the nature. By changing the thinking paradigm, it is expected that humans will be able to appreciate the importance of the nature and everything in it for their lives, either in the present or in the future.

We can still maintain values of humanity as the ethical standard with a note that there should be an awareness of thinking oriented far to the future, thus humans will consider the goodness and badness of an action based on not only their temporary needs, but also their needs in the future. What is good for humans now is not necessarily good for them in the future. Hence, ethical considerations should be based not only on spatial perspective, but also on temporal perspective. From this simple beginning, hopefully humans’ ethical actions will not only apply to those living in the present, but also in those living in the future, including the biotic and abiotic aspects all over the world.

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