What does Voltron, Defender of the Universe have to do with ethics? Nothing directly, but the term is fitting and hopefully it will all make sense by the end of this post.
I’ll just quickly bring up an extract of what Sir Gerard Brennan AC is quoted as saying to the Queensland Bar Association on 3rd May 1992.
If ethics were reduced merely to rules, spiritless compliance would be replaced with skillful evasion.
I do wonder how much skillful evasion currently occurs, or whether my concerns are caused by the protrayal of ‘TV lawyers’. I have no doubt time will tell
Our textbook ‘The New Lawyer’ points out that the earlier Greek approaches to ethics can be frustratingly vague and generalised. Certainly this can be annoying, but as critical thinkers do we not owe it to ourselves and to others to question that which is presented to us anyway? I find the idea of religious ethics to perhaps be the ‘easy option’. I have no doubt however that the ideals they present have potential to be good and solid foundations for ethical structures. Modern ethics certainly seem more defined, but still require critical thinking about the choices you make.
So at this point I feel it would be astute to talk about my own ethical background. As a child I was taught and raised around Christian ethics, and during my early teenage years even would have been referred to as a ‘Churchie’. At some point I came to the realisation I was acting to be someone that I was not, became Agnostic, and then an Atheist. It was during this turning point that I began to forge my basic ethical foundations that I built upon over the years into young adulthood. Some of this was built around fictional writings at the time, and some around my own experiences, thoughts and feelings.
In the mid 1980s (eerily close to the date I was born) a young programmer named Richard Garriott began designing a video game where in order to complete it, your character (aptly named ‘the Avatar’ in later sequels) must master eight ‘virtues’ (Honesty, Compassion, Valour, Justice, Sacrifice, Honour, Spirituality and Humility) drawn from three principles (Truth, Love, Courage). Garriott spent some time researching existing ethical structures and theories to really define what he felt each virtue and principle truly meant, and so we can see many influences from modern, religious, greek and other ethics in the work he has done. For those interested, the game itself starts with a series of ethical questions where choices are ultimately between one virtue and another in order to determine which virtues you begin favoring. It’s fair to say that it’s from Garriott’s work that I built my own ethical foundations.
And this is what I mean by Voltron Ethics. For those unfamiliar, the colloquial term to “Voltron” something means taking components of different areas, items, ideas etc. and putting them together to form your own ‘version’ of something. And now looking at my own personal ethics that’s what I feel I have. I can see influences from deontologist ethics, in that I do see doing things that I feel it is my duty to do as acting eithically. However, I balance these choices with consequentialist ethics; yes I feel it is my duty to do this, but will doing this have the best possible consequences. Or, if there is no feeling of duty, I tend to run almost solely by consequentialist ethics. In hindsight, when considering “have I acted ethically” my self-opinion is much more heavily around virtue ethics. This is because sometimes choices and consequences do not always go to plan. If I make choices that at the time appeared ethically correct, but did not have the intended outcome and resulted in negative occurences, have I still acted ethically? For example, using consequentialist ethics in a hindsight context does not feel like an apt application of it’s tenants. And so personally I think, what virtues are displayed in your actions are more relevant in a hindsight context.