Ethics of Groups

Most ethical analysis processes will include some scrutiny of self, of other individuals that may be connected to the outcome of the decision, and of groups that are also in some way related to the outcome. “Self” is likely to be given some level of importance or priority over other individuals as this is the center or origin of the point of view. Other individuals will likewise have a gradation of importance, from very important individuals (like family members) to individuals who are judged to be not so important because they are on the outer edge of consideration in the analysis process. Eventually, it becomes easier (and even necessary) to consider an aggregate of other individuals as a group.

A key starting place in considering the ethics of groups is trying to set some standard of weighing the ethical “value” of how some action will change a group versus how it will change an individual. It seems obvious that an equal amount of “good” applied to each of many individuals should be more valuable than the same amount of good applied to a single individual. But since ethics starts with a consideration of self and moves outward to include others and then groups of others, self seems to be more important.

If we give self a higher starting position than some individual in a group, then a large improvement to self may outweigh a small improvement to a group of several or even many other individuals. If we also assign a “confidence” factor that represents how sure we are of the impact, most evaluations near the center of the point of view will be more confident than evaluations far from the center. Analyzing a group usually involves a greater level of abstraction than analyzing a single individual and level of abstraction should be key in the confidence factor. If we are honest and objective, evaluation of self should also involve less abstraction and higher confidence.

Once we figure out the basics of balancing between self and groups, we also need to work on balancing groups against other groups, small groups against large groups, actions on groups that produce higher value against actions on groups that produce lesser value.

SEE ALSO:
Vector Analysis of Ethics
Ethics and Psychohistory
General Applied Ethics
Ethics as Prediction

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