Ethics and Codes

Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Aug 29, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes

There's is something I can't quite put my finger on with regard to recent proposals that students be taught an internet 'code of ethics' but I think I'm getting close. In response to a post from Dave Warlick today, I wrote, in essence, that "the problem is that ethical codes presuppose that ethical questions are settled, but thy are far from settled." Consider downloading, for example - people (including Warlick) still treat file sharing as unethical, and yet it's as though they had never seen the opposing view. So what's going on? Do we just say some things are unethical, by fiat? Do we remove all option, all choice, all thought in the matter? And who benefits when certain behaviours - such as file sharing - are deemed unethical, and other behaviours - such as corporate influence over media - are not? Tom Hoffman is also puzzled, and, I suspect, for similar reasons (I owe both Tom Hoffman and Norm Friesen more discussion on points they've raised, and I hope they'll be patient with me).
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