I teach a class at Southern Methodist University on the Ethics of Video Game Development. If that sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen… well shame on you, you cynic.
We have good discussions. “Good” by some definition. Oh, all right—invigorating then. Invigorating to me anyway.
But I am not always persuaded by the ethical arguments that students advance in class and in papers. So by way of:
- letting off steam,
- seeking commiseration from teachers of ethics in other institutions,
- warning future students away from poor courses of reasoning, and
- reveling in the unbridled use of numbered lists
…I hereby offer this Top Ten List of my least favorite ethical arguments; or, if you prefer, my favorite unethical arguments.
- Hollywood has been doing it for years; therefore it must be ethical for the games industry to do it.
- It’s hard to decide what is right or wrong; therefore there is no right or wrong.
- People disagree about what is right or wrong; therefore there is no right or wrong.
- Because of Evolution, new things are always better than old things; in the old days, people used to perceive X as wrong; therefore X is right.
- It’s evil to say that something is evil; therefore there is no evil.
- You are unlikely to get caught performing action X; therefore action X is not wrong.
- Ethical intuitions and urges are a product of evolutionary biology; therefore people simply do what they are “wired” to do; therefore there is no right or wrong.
- “Everyone” (contemporary society/everyone we know/everyone in this room) generally agrees that X is right; therefore X is right.
- I perceive myself as generally doing good; in my experience of people so far, consisting as it does of parent-child, teacher-student, casual romantic, and generally low-stakes peer relationships, I perceive other people as generally doing good; therefore people are generally good; therefore discussion of ethics is pointless, because people generally know and do good anyway.
- To me, X; therefore X.