Tree Tech Consulting    The Knothole  Hop To Forum Categories  Ethics in Arboriculture    Dear Mr Ethics

Closed Topic Closed
Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Dear Mr Ethics
 Login/Join 
<John Bartum>
posted
Dear Sirs,

I detect quite a bit of deference to authority in your justification for what constitutes ethical conduct. Please indulge me with an answer to the following -
What constitutes an ethical action?
Is it the motive behind the action or the end result? For instance if I mean to do a "good" thing and inadvertently cause harm did I act unethically. Conversely, if I intend to do harm and it results in a positive end is the action ethical?

I would also like to know if the interests of society at large supersede the contractual relationship of a vendor and a client. Or is a vendor under an ethical shield if he stays within the official ASCA ethical commandments?

Do we need to fear alternative ethical structures or will they result in an inevitable slip into nihilism?

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful responses.

JB
Supplier of Quality Animal Material for the Home Landscape
 
Report This Post
<Russ Carlson>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 21, 1999 at 20:57:06:

Ethics and morals are closely wrapped together, and exist on many levels. There is the personal level- the 'code' of conduct imposed by your own conscience, or what your Mom taught you was right and wrong. And there is the higher levels, for society as a whole, for organizations, religion, etc. These are imposed by others, sort of as a consensus of what is 'right' for conduct in general.

The old cliche says 'the end does not justify the means.' Acting in an unethical manner is not condoned as a way to derive a 'good' result. But of course, in a discussion like this, I'm sure there are areas of well-defined muddiness. If the unethical acts are unintentional, does that make a difference? Our laws are a set of ethics for behavior. If you speed to get to work, and as a result land a huge contract, you still were speeding and breaking the code of ethics for highway travel.

Inadvertant acts might be explained, but not excused. The question is not so much whether you intended to act in that manner, but whether you should have known it was 'unethical' to do so. Could it have been anticipated and avoided?

On the flip side, who is to judge the acts and the results? A bunch of dissatisified people decide they don't like the current state of affairs, kill off a few officials of the government, and the result is a lot of deaths. Is this Waco, or the American Revolution?

As to relationships with vendors and clients, the ASCA Standards of Professional Practice explain that. There are various roles a consultant assumes, depending on the assignment. You have a duty to the client, but you have a more important duty to the public or society, as a practicing Professional (capital P). The SPP describes when and under what circumstances the various duties might come into conflict. In particular, Section 3 Primary Duties deals with these issues of impartiality and advocacy.

The ASCA SPP and any other code of ethics is not a shield in a legal sense. They must defer to the laws of government. But they are a blueprint to guide your actions, and help you interpret situations that are otherwise difficult to think through. And they offer a clear set of standards so everyone using them can understand the basis of the ethics, rather than everyone pitching their own interpretation.
 
Report This Post
<Scott Cullen>
posted
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on November 21, 1999 at 20:57:06:

Russ I think your last paragraph is quite important in responding to this question. If there is a sense in these threads or deference to authority it is that in particular contexts we often look to an established standard.

I can say with confidence that one of the principal goal in draftinhg the ASAC code was to make it very specific in many areas precisely to avoid situations where Member X says "well I thought this was OK" and Complaint Maker Y says "well I didn't." At the same time the SPP tried to preserve individual judgment and avoid overly rigid rules. There is clear submission to general societal ethics and laws and there was no intent to shield Members from them.

Finally, the ASCA SPP applies to Arboricultual Consulting Practice in an ASCA context only. It does not shield members from other ethical or legal constraints in other areas of practice or endeavor and it does not constrain them in other areas of endeavor.

But what do you do if your Mom said something was unacceptable and your Dad said it was OK?
 
Report This Post
<John Bartum>
posted
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on November 21, 1999 at 20:57:06:

Thank you sir for your insight. I do have a question however - how have you determined that societal ethics, be they legal, religious, or professional, are above personal ethical structures. I would suggest the inverse is true. I would appreciate any philosophical justifications you might have for your position. Please forgo pragmatic justifications based upon social order theory.
Thank you again for your time and wisdom. As a practicing landscaper I have scant opportunity to engage in high-end discourse.
JB
Supplier of Quality Animal Material for the Home Landscape
 
Report This Post
<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 22, 1999 at 00:28:02:

John, I can't speak for Russ but I'm not sure the ASCA SPP as an example places societal ethics above individual ethics. An organizational code places constraints on members' behavior. I would hope that the organizational code is at least as strict as the societal norms. An individual is always free to follow their own even stricter norms. A difficulty emerges if individual A believes that a certain practice is unethical but both society at large and a professional organization find that it is ethical. If individual B practices according to the societal and organizational norms is it unethical because A thinks so? In terms of judging individual B's behavior I suspect that the societal norms would be given precedence over A's personal ethical structure. Doesn't mean that A's beliefs are inferior or invalid, just that it may not be fair to impose them on others who don't hold them.
 
Report This Post
<John Bartum>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on November 22, 1999 at 09:15:38:

Scott, Thank you for your informed opinion. I appreciate your disclaimer concerning speaking for Russ. In his last response he indicated that he felt there was an ethical and moral hierarchy per the following,

"Ethics and morals are closely wrapped together, and exist on many levels. There is the personal
level- the 'code' of conduct imposed by your own conscience, or what your Mom taught you was
right and wrong. And there is the higher levels, for society as a whole, for organizations, religion,
etc."

While you did not directly address this statement, I do question some of your a priori assumptions. For instance, on what philosophical grounds do you base your statement that it is not fair for individual A to impose his ethical standards on individual B. To provide an historical example: it was once accepted practice to trade in human lives in this country. Slavery was considered an ethical and legal activity by general society. Biblical justifications were even produced to support this economic system. Was it ethical for people like John Brown to condemn slave owners legally operating according to the dominant ethical system? And what of the practitioners of civil disobedience who miss-appropriated the legal property of others through the Underground Railroad?

Is there an ethical hierarchy and is the foundation at the personal level or the institutional?

If it is at the personal then is there a moral imperative to apply these ethical standards to others - to "judge" their actions?

Without invoking a supernatural deity is it all a slippery slide into the chaos of nihilism?

I thank you again for your time and consideration. I am assuming from what I have read on this site that you and Mr. Carlson are prominent in the industry. It still amazes me that I can have a dialogue with important decision-makers through the magic of the Internet.

JB
Mobile Landscapes Inc.
Specialists in vertebrate and invertebrate material for the home landsca
 
Report This Post
<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 22, 1999 at 11:44:41:

John, I got involved in the ethical side of this industry as a researcher/writer for ASCA. I was and am not an ethicist per se.

The kinds of ethical evolution you describe are very thorny. If Thomas Jefferson didn't quite know where to fall I certainly wouldn't have been able to advise him. A current debate in hindsight concerns whether Pope Pius ?? was ethical enough in his denuncaition of Nazi anti-sematism. One side has it NO the other that he had to make a choice between being vocal and causing more deaths or being measured and quietly helping as many as possible. Also beyond my judgment.

I think it's a little unfair to apply considerations at that sort of level, or say the right to life-free choice dilemma or capital punishment to some of the everyday considerations of an arborist. That path was explored in an earlier thread on value.

If there is a global level concern that no trees should be removed ever nohow and that people should be relocated - maybe even aborted - to avoid population presure on trees then maybe ethical voices need to be heard so that the general beliefs of society head that way.

Individual A can certainly say that individual B is unethical in his eyes. Maybe someday society will agree. In the meantime if professioanl organizations or larger societies need to guide as many people as possible on as right a path as possible how else is it accomplished than by reference to the accepted standard?
 
Report This Post
<Russ Carlson>
posted
Reply to post by Scott Cullen, on November 22, 1999 at 00:28:02:

>>But what do you do if your Mom said something was unacceptable and your Dad said it was OK?

This is the stuff of moral dilemmas... The issue here is why did you seek another opinion when you received an undesireable response the first time? Is that ethical? My folks said "No", and I got in trouble for playing one against the other. Ehtics lesson learned.
 
Report This Post
<Russ Carlson>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 22, 1999 at 00:28:02:

I did not mean to imply that societal ethics should necessarily take precedence in all cases. If there is indeed a hierarchy of ethics, then perhaps the minimum level should prevail. IOW, if one has stronger personal beliefs than society, it would seem he is obligated to meet the minimum, even if his own values hold him to the higher level. Or more to the point, others are held to the minimum as the standard, despite some holding the higher level of ethics personally.

Our laws, societal values and standards of practice such as the ASCA SPP should be taken as the minimum, and don't necessarily preclude other value sets.

Philosophical justifications? Well, I'm a pragmatic sort, a practicing arborist, not a philosopher by any special training. I can speak my thoughts and concepts, and present what I think to be the ethical stance. But I'm not participating to lecture, only to discuss issues. That helps me think through these issues and learn from them. Please don't consider me any sort of specialist on ethics, though.

Now, you have presented a series of questions, and deftly avoiding presenting your case. Your turn, Mr. Bartum.
 
Report This Post
<John Bartum>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on November 22, 1999 at 13:20:05:

Scott,
Please forgive me if I have misunderstood the nature of your expertise. I was under the assumption, based upon your intelligent posts and status as an instructor of ethics at the ASCA Academy, that you were well grounded in your position.

I apologize if this sounds like an indictment, as that is not my intent, but without a well- reasoned philosophical base your ASCA ethical code is in essence arbitrary. Its origin as a consensus document put together by prominent elites of the industry does validate its ethical standards. While many will make pragmatic claims concerning the need for standards, if those standards are nothing more than *******ized copies of other industries (which themselves may or may not be ethically grounded), then the standards themselves have little moral weight.

I am somewhat confused by your statement that,

"I think it's a little unfair to apply considerations at that sort of level, or say the right to life-free choice dilemma or capital punishment to some of the everyday considerations of an arborist."

You mentioned an earlier thread on value as dealing with this question. As I am relatively new to the site, I would like to investigate previous discussions. Is there a particular thread I should read?

As I see it, the primary function of an ethical system to serve as a guide in our interactions with others on a daily basis. If a system fails to function under a challenging scenario then perhaps that system was faulty all along. The cumulative impact of many minor daily decisions based upon a faulty system of thought may in summation far outweigh one major decision.

Understand, I am not criticizing the ASCA Code directly. I am just surprised as a working field person, to see that some of the organizations I have looked to for guidance may not really have the intellectual grounding I had assumed.

I can see from some of what I have read of your posts on this site that you are an individual of merit and please do not take offense at my comments. I sincerely appreciate the time you have taken to advance the green industry.

I just canÂt understand how you can claim,

"...professional organizations or larger societies need to guide as many people as possible on as right a path as possible....."

when the direction of the path is uncertain.

In my humble opinion as a landscape contractor all individuals need to be able to produce a reasoned, logical argument for their position if they are going to promote (and usually intrude)their beliefs and values on others. All ethical systems are not equal and we need to be able to rationally compare courses of action. Otherwise we are left to the tyranny of the majority and the use of force in the resolution of disputes.

JB
Supplier of Quality Animal Material for the Home Landscape
 
Report This Post
<John Bartum>
posted
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on November 22, 1999 at 09:15:38:

Russ,

I did not intend to sidestep my ethical framework. I did not feel it was relevant to the discussion. I can always listen to a nobody like myself but I am more interested in the opinions of prominent industry personages.

Besides, I am not promulgating my code of ethics like ASCA. I will be glad to present what I believe to be the basis for a human ethical system if you and the list readers are interested. If you are merely trying to get my goat by asking - "so wise guy, do you have anything better?", then I will pass.

As I have stated to Scott, I came here to learn from the masters. If the masters admit they have no idea then I can respect that.

In the meantime I will continue to advocate widespread spiking and topping as it suits my aesthetic sensibilities (and who is to say what is right or wrong?).

JB
Mobile Landscapes for a Transient Society
 
Report This Post
<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 22, 1999 at 15:01:20:

The ASCA Code of Ethics is quite a spare section of the document espousing the ethical principles of Competence, Due Care, Impartiality, Independence, Integrity, Objectivity and Public Trust. They are all carefully defined in the document and you can obtain a copy from ASCA if you'd like.

The real meat of the document is the Standards of Professional Practice which applies the ethical principles to the specific practice of Arboricultural Consulting. It may not serve specific needs of climbers who need to decide if it's OK or not to use spurs on live trees or top them, it's not intended to.

The path intended for the consultant is, I think, pretty clear in the document. The actual map of the path is specific in some areas and general in others preserving freedom of individual judgment.

ASCA took a pragmatic approach in crafting the document. There was not a great focus on academic or philosophical underpinnings. There was a careful consideration of the ethical structures of a number of professional bodies including those regulating CPAs, engineers, foresters, geologists, homebuilders, Realtors (TM), appraisers, forensic experts and others.

As an instructor the task is to explain the document to ASCA memebrs and prospective members. I am confident that the document is well grounded and that I can explain it's ethical principles well. I have no problem admitting I can't cite detailed philosophical origins for each principle.

ASCA members are free to voice informed opinion on the document and to bring changes to the board.

If you can ask me a specific question about the ASCA Code I can try to answer it. If I can't answer it adequately perhaps you can help us. If you can point out a "challenging situation" in which the ASCA document has been inadequate maybe we can address the deficiency.

As I understand the objective of a set of "professional ethics" it is to guide a group of professionals in a specific practice. The violations or transgressions or departures from "right, true and just" which may be invariable in terms of practices like genocide, or child abuse or slavery may not be quite so clear, certainly not so egregious as to be measured in absolutes at the level of a professional or trade practice. That is what was discussed in earlier threads. This may be the reference, but I'm not sure.

http://tree-tech.com/board/?topic=topic1&msg=313
 
Report This Post
<Russ Carlson>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 22, 1999 at 18:50:03:

I'm not trying to bait anyone here, John. Simply that this is a forum for discussion, not simply lecture, even if you consider some here to be 'masters' in the field. The readers are arborists, for the most part. And following/understanding/promoting the ASCA Standards of Professional Practice doesn't make us special experts on ethics in general. But we gather here to discuss issues like this, so that we can all learn something.

Which brings me back to my original question- What is your position? I can tell you how I think about it, but that gets boring to me, too. If you explain your point of view, we can agree or we can argue the differences. Either way, we can all benefit from the exchange.

And who is trying to 'get the goat', with a comment like that about spiking? (g)
 
Report This Post
<John Bartum>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on November 23, 1999 at 16:55:25:

Scott,

Thank you again for your thoughtful response. I checked on some of the threads under value you mentioned and it appears that some similar issues were indeed raised by other posters. I actually learned something from a few of the deeper posts - who would have thunk it. Me a lowly field person releasing critters in peoples backyards learning about ethical theory. Might be dangerous you know, upset the social order, cause people to draw outside the lines and such. Dangerous stuff. Might upset the status quo. I think I'll stick with orthodoxy. Send away for my official rule book and march in line.

But thanks again for your insight. I need to head back out and check my traps for earthworms - IPM you know!

JB
 
Report This Post
<John Bartum>
posted
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on November 23, 1999 at 17:13:44:

A brief synopsis of my ethical framework:

I operate based upon a combination of radical social darwinism mixed in with free market capitalism. The rich are to be respected and emulated at all costs. Material wealth and possession is the true measure of value. Money is power and power is freedom.

As such, I resent "official" ethical codes and doctrines which constrict my ability to accumulate resources. Nature is red in tooth and claw. Society will funtion best when this is fully recognized.

Topping and spiking? My customers want it. They own the trees. Judge not.

Frightening? Nah, just honest.

Thank you again for your time and insight. Keep up the good work and fight the good fight. (If there ever is a consensus as to what "the good" is).

JB
 
Report This Post
<Eric>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 23, 1999 at 20:23:14:

Topping and spiking? My customers want it. They own the trees. Judge not.

Frightening? Nah, just honest.

"A drug pusher gives a customer what he wants. A professional medical doctor gives customers what they need!" Alex Shigo - Modern Arboriculture
 
Report This Post
<Paul M Davis>
posted
Reply to post by John Bartum, on November 23, 1999 at 20:23:14:

In my opinion Plato and Aristotle lined it out pretty well a number of years ago.

In summary, ethics consist in finding a balance or mean among the conflicting forces arising from a desire to follow after-

Truth
Justice
Courage
Wisdom

Pursuing wealth has it's own rewards, but I believe that their "ethics" argument pretty much refutes that perspective as being the final arbiter of what is "ethical".
 
Report This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  

Closed Topic Closed

Tree Tech Consulting    The Knothole  Hop To Forum Categories  Ethics in Arboriculture    Dear Mr Ethics

© 1997-2003 Tree Tech Consulting. All messages are the property of the original author.