Archive for November, 2012

Management Models   no comments

Posted at 9:52 pm in Uncategorized

Last week I wrote about an introduction to the basic concepts and perspectives in the discipline of management promising a review of some management models this week. This is a summary of Boddy’s second chapter ‘Models of Management’.

Boddy defines a model as aiming to ‘identify the main variables in a situation, and the relationships between them: the more accurately they do so, the more accurate they are.’ A model furthermore provides a ‘mental toolkit to deal consciously with a situation’. Boddy emphasise that managers can draw upon different models according to the varied situations they face – what is important is understanding the values embodied in the model or theory and act accordingly. That is also known as thinking critically about a situation, an essential skill in management.

Boddy and others identify four key types of models of management according to their underlying philosophies:

  1. rational goal
  2. internal process
  3. human relations
  4. open systems

Rational goal models

Some of the first kinds of models to have been developed, their origins are found in the formation of the modern firm, during the Industrial Revolution, where managers were face with the need to manage new organisational structure profitably. It evolved from the tradition of scientific management and operational research. The model emphasise the aim of maximising output/profit through enhanced control and quantitative information as a basis for decision-making.

Internal process models

These come from the Weberian bureaucratic management ideas and from Henri Fayol’s notion of ‘administrative management’ which emphasise rules and regulations over personal preferences, division of labour and hierarchical structure. While the concept of bureaucracy has been widely criticised (notably for stifling creativity) it has been supported when it allows employees to master their tasks therefore enhancing security and stability and is still widely used today, notably in the public sector.

Human relations models

These theories were developed when experiments on working conditions (lighting or other material factors) produced unexpected results. It was shown that altering the environment positively or negatively, output from the experimental team still increased. Elton Mayo, invited to comment on the results, asserted that output growth was the result of the new social relations established in the team. Individuals felt special, they were asked for their opinion, and as part of the experiment fully collaborated with one another. This led theorists to emphasise the importance of social processes at work, including the well-being of employees.

Open systems

Finally open systems models where the organisation is seen ‘not as a system but as an open system’, which interacts with its environment. Resources are imported, undergo transformations and turned into output that generate profit. Information about the performance of the system goes back as a feedback loop into the inputs. Important variants include socio-technical systems where outcome depends on the interaction of technical and social subsystems. Another is the notion of contingency management which emphasises the need for adaptability to the external environment. And finally complexity theory which focuses on the complex systems, their dynamics and feedback loops where agents within the system interact autonomously through emergent rules. These emphasise the non-linearity of change in organisations.

The table below provides a summary of the four models (from Boddy 2010, p. 61).

In fact management theorists Quinn et. al. (2003) believe that the four successive models of managements complement rather than contradict each other, and they provide a framework that integrates these various model – the ‘competing values framework

Next week I will look to read about management and global issues to get a better grasp of the discipline’s approach to an issue that transcends its main ontological actor – the organisation.


Boddy D. (2010) Management: An Introduction, 5th edition, Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall

Quinn, R.E., Faerman, S.R., Thompson, M.P. amd McGrath, M.R. (2003) Becoming a Master Manager: A Competency Framework, 3rd ed., Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons

Written by Jennifer Welch on November 26th, 2012

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Globalisation and Global Politics   no comments

Posted at 12:03 pm in Politics

Having taken some time out to consult my current notes and research I came to the conclusion that there are three areas  that still need more development before I will begin writing out my Interdisciplinary Review. I need to; gain an understanding of globalisation, find a stronger core-text discussing Politics and find a more comprehensive examination of Facebook. For this week’s post I will discuss my readings on globalisation and the remaining topics will be discussed in the order above in the subsequent weeks to come.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Globalization – Wayne Ellwood

This book provides a great overview of the basic notions involved in globalisation and global politics. Though the book does take a somewhat biased view (the author clearly has some anti-globalisation sentiments) the text is easily understandable and details much of the impact and direction of globalisation through recent history. It is written essentially as an American counterpart to the “Very Short Introductions” discussed previously.

Two notions in particular struck me as applicable to discussions of social networking. Firstly, Ellwood notes that the process of globalisation has changed over time. Means of travel, trade, and interaction (languages) have changed dramatically even in recent years and this has greatly modified the way in which globalisation takes place. There are some parallels between this idea and how social networking has integrated with peoples lives. Where previously computers were the terminal of access to your social network now phones, games consoles and various other extraneous devices such as cameras all provide similar or alternative means to access this network. Just as we see the process of globalisation changed by the advances in communication we may expect similar implication for the rates and direction of expansion seen in social networks as our interactions with these networks change. Before discussing the second point I will introduce the second book I have consulted on the topic of globalisation:

Globalization- A Basic Text – George Ritzer

This book provides a significantly more detailed approach to globalisation however, one recurring theme becomes apparent that is seen in both Ellwood and Ritzer’s books and across the topics of discussion within the context of globalisation: control.

Globalisation can be argued to be a positive tool of expansion but this also often results in restrictions being imposed on those that live beneath its shadow. Examples such as the “Tobin Tax”, a tariff charge used to impose restrictions on the flow of wealth between globalised and globalising peoples. Though originally intended to protect the interest of citizens this can also have negative effects by impinging on people ability to interact freely or restricting the ways in which they interact to only those interactions deemed “acceptable”. This theme is seen throughout discussions of globalisation particularly involving issues like imperialism. To what extent do emerging global powers control the restrict the development of global culture by imposing their own norms upon others? Does such a trend exist in social networks with popular networks buying up smaller ventures before they can compete or by forcing users to become dependant on their structure by tying multiple online identities to a single social network user account? Are these kinds of effects deliberate or the natural outcome of expansion? Do networks impose restrictions on each others use just as nations states do on their citizens?

Whilst globalisation provides one useful area of discussion within the context of politics I still feel that I need a stronger political text to support my discussion of the topic. The next post to come will be a discussion of this text.


Written by Kieran Rones on November 24th, 2012

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Free Open Internet? The Battle against SOPA, DMCA, ACTA and PIPA   no comments

Posted at 10:36 am in Uncategorized

This week I have been researching around the current topic of political hacking movements regarding the, recently introduced, government legislation on the web. The political movements have been ‘clubbing together’ to battle the right to a free and open internet. This appears to be something that governmental bodies and political parties are worried about, but however does not seem to stop the hackers themselves crashing, changing or damaging government websites. Furthermore, it seems that word-of-mouth through social sites is something that is a huge battle for governmental bodies to win. If the voice of the ‘everyman’ were to get censored then this would indeed question the level of democracy in our country.

A recent film, found here, inspired me to review this topic in my interdisciplinary study, as it is a current topic that will effect all internet users across the world, and indeed leads me to question whether the grouping together of hackers and hacktivists worldwide will make any difference in the political and legal legislation that has been put forward. I will be following this film over the next few months and hopefully will be able to view the finished film early next year.

I have found it reasonably difficult to find books regarding the SOPA, ACTA and PIPA legislation, as Google and Yahoo appear to be restricting a lot of the content due to these acts (perhaps a minor dictatorship in itself). So far, it has only been possible to find a few books regarding these topics that are not backed by governmental or political bodies and/or are not legislative papers. Also, I believe that books of this nature would indeed be ‘content-controlled’, and so not the full opinion of the author.

However, I did a deeper search and found a book that recognises criticisms of the government-led legislative policies. The book notes that although these policies have been implemented over the past few years worldwide, they are not being enforced in developing countries (Ayoob, 2010). This enables us to question the power of such acts in relation to political state powers of certain countries and furthermore why such countries are being ‘allowed leniency’. Furthermore, acts such as the DMCA have been potentially provided to allow ‘content creators’ to charge for the use of such content on third party sites, potentially damaging and restricting the content on the likes of ‘free’ or non-profit sites such as Wikipedia.

With the Arab Spring appearing towards the end of 2010, many political hacker groups have started to ascend to contribute to state security and governmental systems. These hackers are collaborating with european and american hackers in a fight for digital democracy. The aforementioned film collaborates with these hackers in an appeal to stand-up against political dictatorships and restricting legislative bodies.

In my next post I hope to research the arab spring and hacking in relation to moral philosophy and whether these legislative acts are in motion to restore ‘fairness’ to content creators or whether this is simply an act of restricting freedom of information over the internet.

Ayoob, E. (2010). Recent Development: The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. In The Cardozo Arts and Entertainment. LJ.


Written by Gareth Beeston on November 19th, 2012

Management 101 – concepts and definitons   no comments

Posted at 9:03 pm in Uncategorized

This week I have begun looking at the discipline of management by reading David Boddy’s Management: An Introduction. This book is recommended as a sound introduction to the discipline by many universities, including Southampton and the LSE. In it Boddy (p. 3) outlines the existence of ‘management’ as both a general human activity and as a ‘specialist occupation’. Our focus is on the specialist occupation, which aims to ‘create wealth by adding value to resources, which managers to by influencing others’ (p. 3). Management occurs in organisations, which are defined as ‘social arrangement[s] for achieving controlled performance towards goals to create value’, recognising that the idea of adding value is both subjective as well as relative (pp. 7-8). With the development of such organisation, in historical as well as social terms, the element of ‘management’ is separated from the ‘work’. That is the moment management emerges as a distinct role (p. 10).

Managers influence others in three main ways:

–          Through the process of management

–          Through the tasks of management

–          Through shaping the context

The process:

There are many different aspects of the management role in an organisation. Mintzberg’s research from 1973 shows ten, Boddy highlights more, broadly classified in three categories: informational, interpersonal and decisional, as described in more detail in figure 1. These roles operate simultaneously and are more or less important depending on the level of management and the type of organisation (pp. 15-19).

Fig. 1: Management roles

The tasks:

Figure 2 below is a representation that summarises the four main management tasks of: (pp. 19-22)

–          Planning – setting out the overall direction of the work

–          Organising – actions the plans by allocating time and resources

–          Leading – generate effort and commitment

–          Controlling – monitoring progress and reactive accordingly

Fig. 2: Management tasks

The context:

Managers can also influence their contexts (internal and external) to achieve their objectives. Figure 3 provides a good illustration.

Fig. 3: Management – internal and external contexts

Here we come to a bit of an epistemological discussion within the discipline of management because there are broadly speaking three schools of thought regarding the relationship between context and actions:

–          Determinism – performance depends on external context

–          Choice – people are able to influence even shape their context

–          Interaction – people are influenced by and in turn influence their context

Boddy concludes this introductory chapter by emphasising the importance of ‘critical thinking’ as a basic skill for managers. He defines as a way of thinking which ‘identifies the assumptions behind ideas, relates them to their context, imagines alternatives and recognises limitations’ (p. 26).

So the discipline is concerned with a specific type of human activity, management. But not the universal activity of managing one’s life, family, etc. but rather a specific role within a specific kind of socio-economic arrangement: the organisation. This has strong implication for the management epistemology and ontology, which I will explore further next week after presenting a number of theoretical models of management.


Boddy D. (2010) Management: An Introduction, 5th edition, Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall

Written by Jennifer Welch on November 18th, 2012

Limits of Computation   no comments

Posted at 12:14 am in Uncategorized

In the second post it was stated that theory of computer science draws great attention to the boundaries of algorithms, to the problems than can or cannot be solved with computational methods. This led me to search for an introductory book on the limits of computation, finding Computation and its Limits by Paul Coockshott (2010).
The book provides a clear explanation of what computation is in its second chapter, along with a succinct historical overview of computational machines (more developed in the third chapter). In this definition, the author raises the question of what is evolutionary and what is cultural when carrying out computing operations. It also illustrates with practical examples how, as humans, we are equipped with physical and mental features to perform certain tasks such as counting, adding, or creating aides for calculation. These two first chapters highlight the importance of mathematics as an underlying element of all sciences, therefore including social sciences, although not explicitly. And this is the core conception that can be extracted from this book in order to find out the epistemological processes of computer science: Complex systems can be broken down into simpler ones, and ultimately understood thanks to the simplicity of maths.
The fourth chapter introduces propositional logic, set theory, and predicate logic. Being familiar to their core concepts may be helpful to social scientists who intend maintain a fluid communication with computer scientists, as logic and set theory seems to be the foundations on which computer science is built.
Although the book is somewhat introductory, some solid background in maths and computer science is required in order to understand what is meant with the limits of computation. However, the reading was not in vain, as it made me come to the realisation that perhaps exploring the boundaries of computation for creating an ‘uncrackable’ voting scheme may be an exclusive task for computer scientists, and perhaps interdisciplinary discussions should take place from different starting points.

Written by Manuel Leon Urrutia on November 18th, 2012

Applied Geography   no comments

Posted at 7:11 pm in Uncategorized

Geographic knowledge skills can be applied to the resolution of social, economic and environmental problems and can be viewed as a socially relevant approach to the study of the relationships between people and their environments.  Applied geography is an approach whose reasoning is based on a philosophy of social knowledge and focuses on the application of geographical skills.

There are three principal kinds of science as described by Habermas (1974) and which can also be seen as underpinning the epistemology’s of applied geography.

  1. Empirical- analytical.  The aim of this type of science is to predict he empirical world using scientific positivism.
  2. Historical-hermeneutic.  Interpreting the meaning of the world by examining the thoughts behind the actions that produce the world of experience.
  3. Realist-emancipatory.  Here the aim is to uncover the real explanations governing society and encourage the members of society to seek a superior formation.

These three different types of science all have different goals.

  1. A positivist scientific explanation is the principal route to knowledge.  Its primary goal is to understand, predict and eventually control environmental events.  However, complexity has made this impossible to achieve.  Such an approach ignores human agency and social structures in decision making.  The desire to predict and control events is similar to social engineering, and can be considered ineffective and socially unacceptable.
  2. The aim is to raise self and mutual awareness.  This approach is especially relevant in areas where stereotyping of certain groups and places can lead to social tension, isolation and conflict.
  3. Realist science seeks to promote real understanding by people of their position within their socio-political structure and of the factors that condition their lifestyles and living environment.

This three fold typology of science as described by Habermas characterises applied geographers as agents for social change.  The goal is to enhance human well being through a shared philosophy pursing knowledge in order to resolve social, economic and environmental problems.

From Applied geography : principles and practice : an introduction to useful research in physical, environmental and human geography by  Michael Pacione.

Written by Abby Whitmarsh on November 13th, 2012

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Morality and economics   no comments

Posted at 7:01 pm in Uncategorized

Bernard Gert makes the claim that an analysis of morality as a general term can be made, rather than describing the morality of specific societies. ‘From Plato on, moral philosophers have attempted to provide an account of morality. The widespread disbelief in morality is partly due to the fact that no moral philosopher has as yet provided an account of it…The main problem is that morality has not been adequately distinguished from other guides of conduct.’ He suggests that most people make the mistake of thinking that morality is the code of conduct of a specific organisation or society, ‘…that Nazi morality is the code of conduct adopted by true Nazis. Christian morality is the code of conduct adopted by all true Christians.’. However according to Gert this is not what morality is, other factors than morals come in to play when establishing codes of conduct for specific organisations or societies such as political/economic factors, according to Gert morality has a definite content, ‘Morality is a public system applying to all rational persons governing behaviour which affects others and which has the minimilisation of evil as its end, and includes what are commonly known as the moral rules at its core’. He hypothesises that core moral rules exist such as “Don’t lie,””Don’t steal” and “Don’t kill”. Gert’s viewpoint opposes that of the moral relativism approach. However this view aligns well with Kant’s theory of morality as being equated to rationality.

The centrality of the concept of humans as ‘rational agents’ to Gert’s and Kant’s theories fit in well with economic theories that view people in the same way (as rational agents). The assumption of rationality is key in building economic theories ( and demand curves), as the underlying assumption in economics is that ‘people want more of a good thing’- they want to maximise gain. Once the assumption is made that people are motivated to obtain more of a thing then it is possible to start measuring the expected value of certain decisions. Weighing up decisions where multiple actions are possible by choosing the one that maximises the expected gain. In the same way moral decisions could be made by measuring which one brings the most amount of good to humanity. The key point being that in an economic decision the goal is to maximise expected gain to one’s self, whereas when making a moral decision the goal is to maximise gain to humanity, and it could be argued to nature as well.

Written by William Lawrence on November 12th, 2012

EW V: Philosophy and Law   no comments

Posted at 5:20 pm in Uncategorized

So, I’ve been having go at getting started with the coursework, and having a read of a few law textbooks and one philosophy book in particular, Luciano Floridi Philosophy and Computing 1999.

Harris, P. (2007) An Introduction to Law, 7th edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge =

This is an extremely decent intro to the subject, and realy the first good book of its kind that I’ve come across. He starts by just talking about law generally, and doesn’t make lots of assumptions about what country or what part of history or what kind of area we’re talking about, which is pretty much what all the other books seem to do. Anyways, he talks about law as being at an absolute basic level a set of rules. That might seem pretty standard, but actually it is highly controversial it seems to me in the literature as to what law actually on a very fundamental level. It seems that some people don’t really like to define law as being mostly about rules, because that sounds rather prescriptive rather than descriptive. Waldman (1990) talks about the differences in the nature of the relationship between law and legislation in different countries, while Bix discusses the nature of ‘standards’ in law, especially in regards to constitutions. In some countries, it is the constitution that sets the rules of how law works, but even this isn’t always necessarily true. For example, in the USA the supreme court technically does have the power to amend the constitution – that’s why you the 27 amendments after the intitial 14 articles. There are some authors (Godwin 2003) who think that law is mostly not about rules but rights. This view is that the absolute basic ‘unit’ out of which all of law is created is the idea of the rights of the individual. This line of thinking is very much inspired by the philosopher Tom Paine. Paine says in his book The Rights of Man, “It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few… They… consequently are instruments of injustice … The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.” This is a really famous quote. The argument is that the absolute basic starting position of law is that all individual human beings are born with inherent rights, simply because they are human beings. They don’t have to do anything to gain these rights – they don’t have to become a citizen, for example, or whatever. Also, the government does not have any inherent rights beyond the rights given to it by the individuals who construct it. For Paine, this should be all individuals, and not just a select few. I personally very strongly agree with Paine here. However, I can see that all of this might be rather problematic when it comes to the web. If there are charters, laws, then these charters presumably will take certain rights away from individuals. However would it be worth it to have this if it protected us in some way – from hackers, say, or from criminals or id fraud or whatever.

Rights of Man was partly a response to E Burke, who was a conservative. Burke was the kind of guy who would probably say that rules and precedent and tradition are primary in law, with a view to the common good, and the benefit of the majority, rather than the ad hoc benefit of the individual, which is arbitrary and subjective. Although I am myself a liberal, I can see the point with this. If we say that rights is the primary ‘unit’ in law, well then how do we decide who’s rights trump who’s? If we have a civil or criminal law situation, who’s rights come first? It does seem rather arbitrary. Not much of a precedent or anything vaguely ‘objective’ to go on. Though that criticism very much applies for all of law anyway.

Anyways, the other book is philosophy and computing by Floridi. In general it’s OK, it’s a bit old and out of date, but this isn’t such a big deal. He goes into the history and sociology of the web quite a lot and I don’t see that much of this is really anything original or philosophical. However he does go off on a few tangents doing thought experiments about ‘what if we had this situation’, or ‘what if the internet was this way, then what would happen?’ I think this is very intersting, and these thought experiments that lawyers tend not to do much. Many of Floridi’s thought experiments could important ethical, moral or legal implications. For example, we could make up some thought experiment about, ‘what if we had a situation where the internet was really important for some reason for giving people power, but the government had the ability to take the internet from certain people and not others?’ In other words, what if the government was able to choose who had access to the internet when? I’m not actually certain, but my understanding is that this thought experiment is in fact though reality. My understanding is that the government does, sort of, have this power already?

Written by Eamonn Walls on November 12th, 2012

Musings   no comments

Posted at 3:13 pm in Uncategorized

Last post I talked about how it was possible to understand the web as a cognitively constructed object which in some ways abided by the laws of celestial mechanics. Further to this I now want to expand on the observational approach which is adopted in astrophysics and combine this with the idea of an information spectrum.

To start with, a simple comparison between the astronomer’s telescope and the web user’s device (computer, tablet, phone – whatever it may be) will elaborate on the theme of observing a phenomenon or ‘thing’. At first this comparison might seem arbitrary but upon closer inspection we can see important similarities between the two observational apparatus. Seaborn (1998) points out that “nearly all of the information astronomers have received about the universe beyond our solar system has come from the careful study of the light emitted b stars, galaxies and interstellar clouds of gas and dust” (Seaborn 1998). The telescope is the astronomers most valuable tool to understand the physical world and “our modern understanding of the universe has been made possible by the quantitative measurement of the intensity and polarization of light in every part of the electromagnetic spectrum”.  (

As I mentioned in the last post, astrophysics/physics is a holistic approach which emphasises the objective perspective as opposed to the subjective. “Although observational astronomy now covers the entire range of the electromagnetic spectrum, along with many areas of particle physics, the most familiar part of the field remains in the optical regime of the human eye” (Seaborn 1998). As humans we better understand the phenomena which we can see. Once astronomers were able to identify light and its properties, they were then able to understand more obscure concepts which were harder to detect. It was then the subjective approach adopted by humans and their understanding of the world around them which lead them to the objective study of the universe. That is the subject was removed.

Just as light is the most easily recognised feature of the electromagnetic spectrum, the most identifiable feature in the web is arguably words. Web users observe the web by using computers and other such devices to access web pages. On one level the web consists of language and protocols which humans can consume and understand. Websites are made of varying markup languages. Words then are the most familiar part of the field in what I term the information spectrum. Breaking down the idea of language, we recede along the spectrum and go towards code, metadata and finally binary code. Just as “a wave is a disturbance that travels through a medium”, information is a series of disturbances (ultimately 1s and 0s) which travel through the air and are picked up by our devices. In information spectrum, code is the unit with the smallest wavelength.

Now then, using psychology which is the science that seeks to understand behavoir and mental processes, we can build an information spectrum that incorporates cognitive mechanisms. The result is a profound objective spectrum in the holistic sense, which also incorporates the subject (that is humans) into it. Words are the basis of ideas and as ideas are internalised by humans we grow towards collective thinking. On the internet we can observe communities who share ideas and on the information spectrum, these collectives would occupy the other extreme. This social psychological approach, where the “primary emphasis is on discovering and explaining the causes of behaviour” (Carlson et al. 2007) allows us to explain how behavior is driven by ideas. For example the Arab Springs is an example which emphasises the role of the web, and particularly social media, in communicating information. Ideas were circulated and disseminated by users and “social cognition involves our perception ad interpretation of information about our social environment and our behaviour in response to that environment” (Carlson et al. 2007). Information is the central phenomena which is internalised by individuals at one level, and communities at a higher level. When people share the same idea, we tend towards the psychological concept known as groupthink. The idea that “the people want to bring down the regime” was the abstract thought which was internalised by the Arab Spring protestors.

We can see then that people are attracted to information in a similar way to how masses are gravitationally attracted to each other in the universe. Can we then compare galaxies to the relationship between people and ideas? The idea or collective thought is like the sun, the largest object in our galaxy that everything else is attracted to. People or groups are closer to the idea depending on how much they agree with the idea. Could two polarised beliefs about and idea be representative of two different galaxies which exist in the same system? After all “a galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system consisting of stars, stellar remnants and interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component called dark matter”.

Is the web then, a massive, information bound system consisting of individual thinkers and collectives who have internalised ideas – and an important but poorly understood component called the deep web? Some complications to this idea are the physical concepts of time and space – two concepts which are increasingly complicated when applied to the web. Significantly the web is an object with no dimensions and is decentralized. Does the web have any shape? Also while astronomers were able to observe the universe from within – that is from vantage point of earth they were able to determine what was around us – the way in which we observe the web is more complicated. When we use an observational device such as a laptop, are we observing the web from the inside or outside? Or even more profound, is there one web? Or is it a multi web? Our view of the web becomes increasingly multifarious as personalisation takes effect on the web – what one users observes is different from another. Again this tends towards the dichotomy of subjective and objective approaches adopted by psychology and astrophysics respectively.

Is it possible to create an information spectrum which incorporates ideas and how we perceive them? Human interpretability becomes an important issue in such a conceptual spectrum and the perplexing idea of incorporating a subjective approach in and objective view prevails.

Written by Lawrence Green on November 11th, 2012

Philosophy – meta ethics   no comments

Posted at 3:24 pm in Uncategorized

Last week I spoke about Kant’s theories of how to determine right and wrong. This week I have been reading a few different perspectives on morals. It turns out that the field of ethics is split in to three parts; one is normative ethics, which is an attempt to define rules for what is right and wrong, one is applied ethics in which real life problems such as abortion are analysed, and one is meta-ethics in which questions about the nature of ethics are asked. Kant’s theory belongs to the field of normative ethics in that he attempts to set rules of how to lead an ethical life. A wider view is taken in meta-ethics; in this field of research, it is asked what it means to be morally right or wrong.

One meta-ethical theory that particularly interested me was moral relativism; a standpoint based on the assumption that all societies have different customs and values. This assumption is so well supported by anthropologists and psychologists that it can be considered as uncontreversially true. Building on this assumption certain logical steps can be made (this appears to be a common way of building philosophical theories). It can be assumed that due to the different value systems, different societies can have different ideas on what is right and wrong. It is therefore reasonable to assume that there can be no universally applicable moral rules, as moral systems are socially constructed. This view makes morality simply a description of the moral values of a particular society at a particular point in time.

If this approach was taken towards an attempt to make judgements about the morality of moral behaviours (e.g. digital piracy) it would be impossible to define a set of moral rules for online behaviour, due to the fact that the web is almost universal.

Written by William Lawrence on November 7th, 2012