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How does emotion and language influence ethical understanding in order to change the social standards?


June 11, 2016 by yukidaru

Missing Japanese boy left in woods as ”punishment”

One week ago, Japan news website was full of one news. A child’s parents left a boy in the mountain during their family vacation. When we just look at what had happened, people would think how horrible the parents are, but the story haven’t ended yet. The father came back to the place where he left his son after 5 minutes to get him on the car. Parents had a reason to have such kind of action. The boy threw stones at other people’s car and the parents were very mad about it. They asked the boy if he know what he has done wrong, but he did no admit his false. This is when the parent told him that they will leave him because he is not admitting what he has done wrong. The parents had no purpose to hurt their child because they just wanted him to know, what he has done is wrong. But the way they choose to teach the child some manners, led to a bigger problem. After the father coming back to the place where the father left the child, the child was gone. It was not suppose to be a big deal at first, but by the boy leaving the place where he was suppose to be, the parents were in panic. The news soon spread all around Japan, causing debates about if the way the parents treated the child was right or wrong. There were many criticisms, but also some voice claiming that parents are not totally wrong. One week later, the boy was found in a gym a bit far away from the place where he was left. The rescue teams were searching for the boy in the mountains, but the boy was safe in the building for one week. It is a happy ending, and everyone that saw the news that he was safe, was very happy about the result.

Social standards created conflict between the outsiders, whether the action of the parents was right or wrong. Social standards are the public opinion of the judgment of what is right and wrong. People wrote whatever they wanted to say on websites and blogs about the problem. This raised a question for me, that who actually decides social standard about what is wrong or right, and how it is influenced by external factors such as language, ethics and emotion.

Language can change people’s decision a lot. Like for instance, if the media wrote the phrase ‘’Parents left their child in a mountain where there are bears and dangerous animals’’, people would immediately think that the parents are crazy to leave their child in such a dangerous area. But, there was another article that said ‘’Parents left their child in a mountain, just for 5 minutes to teach him a lesson, which unfortunately led to a bigger matter.’’ The use of language is much more different in the previous one. The previous phrase was clearly accusing the parents that they were a horrible people. However the other one is justifying the parent’s action that it was to teach a lesson for the child. I thought it was something really scary to witness, because the first article that the people would read will fix their opinion and view about the event. So their argument depends on what they read and the message that the language gave to them. Which influences their way of knowing the event. The social standards can be deeply influenced by the shared knowledge and the more there is detail about the personal knowledge about the event, the deeper the understanding of the event will be. There are some other real life situations where the media’s use of language had influenced the understanding of the event of the people, which led to different opinions in was the action right or wrong. Like for instance in history, Japanese government used the media to justify them about the invasion of China. They claimed that it was not an invasion but a self-protection. The media wrote that it was a holy war for the Japanese people, and send the message to the Japanese people that what they are doing was justice. The use of language influenced the understanding of the event again. It is a bit irrelevant but I think media is the greatest evil through the history, since they used language to influence people’s emotion and judgment.

Emotion also plays a huge role, in the ethical decisions. People a lot of time judges by their emotion about the things that they see in their eyes. When one feels depression and hatred toward the child leaving event, that means that that person has high possibility of thinking that the parents are wrong to do so. Emotion is an interest factor, because most time, it cannot be explained by words or logic about what a person feels like. Which means that social standards can be set really easily by emotion. Emotion will stick to one person a long time, so once the social standard is set, it is hard to change it, since the emotion work as a chain.

In addition, emotional language diminishes the reasoning and logic of the ethical decision. Once the language is emotional, people receives the message that the reasoning does not matter much but feeling matter more. It is not step-by-step thinking, so the decision has no logic to it. It makes the ethical decision kind of unreliable, because it cannot be explained clearly, which is hard to become a shared knowledge for people. Emotion creates personal knowledge, and the personal knowledge created by emotion is hard to become one of the shared knowledge.

In some AOK like math, there are answers to the question that is asked, but talking about ethical problems, there is no ultimate answer to it. The theory and equation are used to solve the questions, but in ethical questions there are no such kind of tools to determine the definite answer. As a conclusion, emotion and language plays a great role in the ethical understanding and the social standard.

1 comment »

  1. Akane Kuma says:

    Ethics and language has always been a field of my interest. Sometimes, we do change our understanding of an event based on how the event was told. That difference in language about a same event can lead you to misunderstand someone. That misunderstanding can never be solved sometimes.
    From my personal experience, I learned that when you get angry and if that emotion was expressed in any ways, the chance of that person listening to you diminishes. Emotion gets into the way of my expressing ideas and thoughts and emotion has got into that person’s understanding of my words. How many times have we judged other people based on how that person made you feel? To what extent ethical decision is based on emotions triggered by inappropriate language?
    What decides or who decides what’s right and what’s wrong? This view can be easily changed. If I saw a murder on a street, I would call the police immediately because that is what I believe is the right thing to do, even if this action might bring me danger. However, if the person who committed the murder was my sister, I would never tell the police about this. Emotion has changed my value of what is right and wrong.

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