Ethics In The Arts And Natural Sciences

1363 words - 6 pages

Ethical judgements often add complex implications to the pursuit of knowledge, regardless of the area of knowledge. In the areas of the arts and natural sciences, ethics can pertain in diverging ways. For the arts, ethics often comes into question when determining whether or not it is worthwhile to sacrifice ethics for artistic choices and messages. For the natural sciences, in contrast, ethics is often debated in the pursuit of new knowledge. There are many different criteria to when it comes to the ethical justification of knowledge, all based on different perspectives; whether these judgements have a direct impact in knowledge production or come into play in hindsight depends largely upon how ethics is perceived.

Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory that suggests that the goodness of an action is dependent on its consequences. When we consider the two areas of knowledge from a utilitarian perspective, ethical judgements would be made based on hypothesis by weighing potential advantages against consequences. But are results alone a well-founded basis to raise ethical limitations from? This is problematic because in the sciences, it is often difficult to foresee the implications of scientific research; likewise, in the arts, it is seldom possible to anticipate what messages the audience will attain from a work. Furthermore, when unintended effects in either area arise, ethical considerations may often be re-evaluated. Adhering to utilitarianism, conflict exists between limiting knowledge production from the beginning or moving forward and risking repercussions. When viewed with reason, utilitarianism is a practical method of judging ethics because we are generally concerned with not only gaining knowledge but how it is applied. However, this theory can also be used to justify the undertaking of commonly perceived unethical measures based on presumed beneficial outcomes. So it is perhaps necessary to consider not only actions themselves, but the reasons behind them.

Kantian ethics advocates for the goodness of an action being based on the principle from which the person acts. Through this deontological standpoint, it is the actions themselves that should be ethical rather the consequences; therefore, while also based on reason, Kantian ethics stresses the importance of adhering to a set of moral duties that define universally right and wrong actions. This theory can become precarious when over-generalized moral duties contradict one another. For example, if we consider drug-testing in chemistry, two incongruous duties would be, "it is wrong to harm the innocent" and, "it is right to test product safety before release". When it comes down to which duty should supersede the other, the potential outcomes of the drug testing, such as that they will result in newfound treatment of a disease, are disregarded. Despite those prospects, because innocent animals will certainly be killed in the process (in determining the lethal dosage of the...

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