Morals Should Not Be Limited to People

Morals are codes that we follow because they contain distilled ethical analysis from many decisions about what is right and what is wrong. Moral codes may vary across different cultures, philosophies, and religions. But it’s easy to find common ground also. Most moral codes include prohibitions against killing, stealing, and lying. And most moral codes ask us to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.

Ethical analysis should be applied in a series of concentric circles moving outward from the considering point of view, which is generally self. First we consider what is best for ourselves, then we move outward to also consider others, usually focusing on others that are close to us, like family members. We gradually add in others who are not as close and then eventually groups of others too. This can include small local groups or large national groups or international groups.

The common moral codes mentioned above all focus on people. In the process of reaching out across the concentric circles, we eventually come to the largest group of “people”, which is all of humanity. Ethical analysis doesn’t just stop there. The next group is other species. The largest group of species is all life forms. Beyond life forms, we still need to continue expanding our analysis into non-living material substances. Continuing beyond matter, we can step through the logical sequence of energy, space and time, which encompasses the entire universe. Anything beyond that is best considered as “spiritual”, or that which is not bound by matter, energy, space or time.

It should be clear that while ethical analysis and their associated moral codes may deal primarily with people in day to day practice, they should not be limited to people. Eventually, we also need to consider animals, plants, and components of our environment and nature. Different frameworks of ethical analysis may assign different weights to the many factors involved, yielding differing or even conflicting conclusions, but all frameworks must consider to some degree the same basic map of concentric circles.

SEE ALSO:
Artificial Ethics
Ethics is the Best Measure of Civilization
Ethics of Groups
Ethical Considerations of Non-Humans

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