The term ethical calculus, when used generally, refers to any method of determining a course of action in a circumstance that is not explicitly evaluated in one's ethical code.
A formal philosophy of ethical calculus is a recent development, advanced primarily by Jason Delaney, in the study of ethics, combining elements of natural selection, self-organizing systems, emergence, and algorithm theory. Ethical calculus is based on the premise that moral and ethical codes are emergent algorithms, epiphenomena of large groups of sentient beings, and that a given moral code or ethical code behaves in organic ways, seeking to prolong itself.
According to ethical calculus, the most ethical course of action in a situation is an absolute, but rather than being based on a static ethical code, the ethical code itself is a function of circumstances. The ideal Ethic is the course of action taken in a given situation by an omnipotent, omniscient being. The optimal ethic is the best possible course of action taken by an individual with the given limitations. The standard of judgment is the continuation of situations in which ethics are relevant.
While ethical calculus is, in some ways, similar to moral relativism, the former finds its grounds in the circumstance while the latter depends on social and cultural context for moral judgment.
Ethical calculus would most accurately be regarded as a form of dynamic moral absolutism.
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