The project that follows is my attempt to respond to two serious problems within the field of ethics. Firstly, I believe that too many ethical systems begin with an abstracted conception of how human beings should act in the world, only afterwards taking account of a conception of the way we are in the world, a conception that becomes deeply influenced and distorted by the ethical imperatives already formed. This type of ethical approach is characterized by unfounded metaphysical assumptions about a certain type of nature lurking below the surface of the world, marking out that which is good and that which is evil. I find this type of ethics problematic, for, instead of asking how we should act based upon an existing world, it asks how we should act based on a description of a non-existent world, a world distorted by the imperatives formed before we can even begin; the reason this method of ethical practice is problematic is that, in overlooking our experience as human beings, in twisting its descriptions of the world to fit those ethical imperatives it wishes to push, it pushes actions that are often politically ineffective, frequently misunderstood, and always subject to the sort of refutation and conflict brought on by a disagreement with the flawed worldview formed by the system itself. Secondly, I am troubled by the difficulty that arises in practicing any ethical system in the world; quite simply, this project begins with the admission that to exist in a world with others is an often overwhelming proposition, a proposition that is complex beyond perhaps our wildest imaginings. Yet, most ethical systems operate through a mode of simplification that seeks to clarify the complexity of experience in order to prescribe action as unambiguously as possible. This mode, however, is a dangerous one, because ethical concerns and dilemmas are rarely simple, and the move to make these concerns unambiguous all too often dismisses complex considerations within them, simplifying richly complex issues and thereby positing a false understanding of the way we should conduct ourselves in the world. This simplification leads to a great deal of misunderstanding and dogmatism, and, thereby, to a great deal of hate, oppression and pain in the world. I will attempt to respond to these problems by arguing for a practicable ethics that grounds itself in the complex reality of human experience.
Summers '03, Zachariah B., "To Ourselves and Others: Toward a Human Ethics of Relation" (2003). Honors Projects. 8.