Code of Ethics

Charles Nelson, Explorations in Learning, Aug 28, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes

More discussion on the question of whether there should be codes of ethics for internet use. This longish post from Charles Nelson continues the defense of codes of ethics, in opposition to my own position. I think a lot of the disagreement is based on (what I would call) a misunderstanding as to what constitutes a 'code' - a code isn't merely a set of suggestions, guidelines or instructions. It is a definition of what is right and what is wrong. Nelson writes, "Without laws, there would be no need for judges to interpret their application." This is false. While the legal code creates some broad parameters, the bulk of law is based on precedent, which is what judges decide when the law does not state explicitly. Arguably (and I would argue) the body of law could be built up without any laws whatsoever (and might work rather better). Indeed, that's why I would agree with Nelson that "stories work better". P.S. I would never ever take a lesson in morality and ethics from Shell - this company's conduct is exactly what I find wrong about the legal positivism that seems to permeate our society today.
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