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Ethics In Knowledge

Quote of the day:

"Do what is right, not what is easy "-Unknown

The Ethical Responsibility of Knowledge 

"Why don't you just shoot us?" A Nazi official would say during one of the thirteen Nuremberg trials after World War II. What this man did not realize however, is that these trials were not just going to bring a small piece justice to a world that had been bruised, broken, and left in ruins. The Nuremberg trials would become so much bigger that a symbolic gesture. Their grandeur exceeded a group of Nazis in a court room. These trials in fact would be the most famous in history, as they were the first to condemn their caused based on principles, rules, and guidelines that came to existence on the spot, and that had been created for the sole purpose of these trials. They were based on the abstract moral principles of humanity and philosophy.

The Nuremberg trials created several universal laws for the prevention of crimes "against humanity," and out if the came something just as monumental: the Belmont Report. This is kind of a big deal for any scientist or social worker who has ever triad to do an experiment with human subjects anteater in the world. It sets up all of the rules and guidelines for ensuring an ethical treatment of subjects so that no abuse happens, whether that be in a major, Nazi-level, scaring experiment, or a simple questionnaire that may make someone feel uncomfortable.

So... Why does this matter is relation to TOK?

The Belmont Report and the Nuremberg trials show us that with knowledge often does come an ethical responsibility in two ways:

1. The responsibility of looking beyond ourselves

And consequently...

2. The responsibility to share our knowledge with the world for its benefit

1.Looking beyond ourselves

During the Nuremberg trials, many of the Nazis did not understand how their actions were punishable. In fact, many of them said things such as “I die innocent. The verdict is wrong.” They were so twisted and blinded by their work, their goals, and their biases that many of them were truly convinced that their mass genocide, torture, and cruel experiments were not wrong. To them it was amazingly a means to an end.

In the same way, but (hopefully) in a much much much much much smaller, and less twisted a d drastic, scale, we are the victims of our own biases, beliefs, goals and visions. We look at things the way we perceive them , without looking at what we do from a different angle, or a perspective that differs from our own. This is especially harmful in areas of knowledge in which bias or failure to include certain population can influence results. For example, many medicines that have been developed for heart disease have been tested mostly in men but not in women, and they tend to be less effective on the female population.

Even areas of knowledge which are not as directly involved with people, looking beyond your way of doing something can be very crucial. For example, data scientists chose what inputs to put into a machine, they could leave out data because they may find it unimportant or it may not fit their ideals. This ultimately creates bias in the way a computer program works and the results that it gives you.

All of this means that when finding new knowledge/ information, or even when analyzing preexisting facts, we take into account what is being neglected, who is benefiting from this knowledge, and who is being neglected and left behind. We must as ourselves what piece of the puzzle is hidden beyond the borders of our own knowledge and into the realms of things that may not be clear to us, but that others may be well aware of.

2. Sharing our knowledge

Sharing knowledge with the world can solve many problems. New technologies, the development of vaccines, or even something as simple as teaching a girl In a developing country how to read or add can create a change, both in a smaller and in global scales. The more knowledge we all have as humans, the easier it is to progress together by understanding the world, each other, and ourselves.

Ethics and the philosophies used to create them, from Kant to Locke to Rawls to Eastern philosophies, are widely based on benevolence, justice, peace, and order. There can be none of these things in a world where there is ignorance and lack of information to make the best possible decisions. It is therefore our responsibility as human beings, and as citizens of the world to share knowledge to everyone, and to recognize the complexity and ambiguity of the world . This is not only for the benefits of others, but also for ourselves, because we never know what me may learn or gain when we share.


  1. Nice post. Great link from the Nazi's to the everyday! "Don't be a Nazi: disclose your experiments to your participants!" Your point about checking our own biases is so important, but so difficult to do. How often are we claiming, "We die innocent," when what we really need is a shift in perspective that will expose us to our "guilt".

    Good point about sharing, too. Of course tell that to JSTOR, amirite!? Joking aside, sharing knowledge raises its own set of ethical difficulties.


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