Ethicologies

April 5, 2012 ginginbonbon

I have few sustained interests that don’t directly involve my own carnal enjoyment (food, music, you know, good times). Judging from what I read, I like feminism and dogs. My intellectual pursuits in feminism as well as dog training provide a kind of egotistical validation–I expect that being fluent in these things makes me a better person, and I am hell bent on being a decent person, because I have always been so very proud, and vain.

Let’s be clear: when I say feminism I mean basically everyone getting yelled at on the internet and me occasionally being able to go yeah! That’s the kind of feminism I’m talking about, the check yourself and mind your privilege, also did you know you are totally racist? kind. At least, I seem to learn way more when someone’s ass is being handed to them by vastly more articulate and intelligent people.

So, my passions fit pretty squarely within either Ethics or Behaviour. Also, I consider Ethics and Ethology (the study of behaviour) to be two sides of the same coin, a coin with which I’ll be attempting some far-reaching conclusions about life in this post.

A blog I sometimes read, by a dachsund owner, once had this pearl in it:

You can be “right” or you can get what you want, and you often have to choose between the two.

It’s easy to apply this to just about anything. True problem-solving is about finding a way to satisfy everyone, whether or not they “deserve” it. Teachers, for example, are constantly being challenged by their students, especially in high school. A teacher can try to be “right” all the time, by arguing, or they can encourage their students to call them out on stuff, which may inadvertently cause the students to give a shit, learn something, and respect their teacher for providing those kinds of opportunities. I don’t know.

I also think the word “right” is interesting in the context of that quote. Where does doing the right thing come into play, and when is that roughly equivalent to getting what you want? When is it not? Or the many ways to protect one’s rights–some of them seem to involve abusing other people, who may or may not have had it coming, in the process. Etc.

A great deal of ethics has to do with understanding behaviour. Certainly with dogs, one must be able to interpret behaviour, since it’s the only language we have in common. I try not to ascribe overly negative motivations to any behaviour, canine or human. I’d prefer to think that my neighbours feel like they have no control over things that happen in their lives, so they act like little tiny bitch authoritarian tin pot dictators in the affairs of our building, rather than assuming they’re out to get us because they’re jealous or something. (Although to be fair, since they do in fact have limited control over lots of things, mostly as a function of their lack of interpersonal skills, I don’t doubt they resent us for appearing to have it all. And we do, actually. Have it all, that is. Except nice neighbours.)

Ethics is also something I believe can only be correctly ascribed to behaviour. I don’t wonder too much about whether a person can be ethical or not, because the only way to ascertain it is through their behaviour. With dogs, it’s straightforward. Do you want to be “right,” feared, intimidating, alpha, top dog, or do you want a happily compliant pet? Do you know that you can’t hardly tell the difference between “respect” and training, when the training is done properly?

It’s a little more complicated with people. Sometimes people think that vindication is what they want, but that’s actually just being “right.” This idea of vindication is much more satisfying when you win people over. To your “side.” Willingly! So actually, not so different than dogs. I’m sorry this post made no sense. I was just sick of it being in my drafts.

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