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I was recently introduced to the term Copenhagen interpretation of ethics in an interesting blog post that defined it thusly:

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it. At the very least, you are to blame for not doing more. Even if you don’t make the problem worse, even if you make it slightly better, the ethical burden of the problem falls on you as soon as you observe it. In particular, if you interact with a problem and benefit from it, you are a complete monster. I don’t subscribe to this school of thought, but it seems pretty popular.

Presumably, such a position on moral culpability has been referenced in the academic literature on ethics before, but I was unable to find an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that seemed similar.

Does the "Copenhagen interpretation" appear referenced in the literature? If so, is there a formal name associated with this ethical stance?

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    No, it does not. It is a pop-culture label piggy-backing on an already established catchy label that reflects current hypersensitivity in public space in the spirit of "children are starving in Africa" guilt trips. Philosophers know better than to insert sweeping qualifiers like "in any way" or "as soon as you observe it" in such contexts (and why even ask for observing, failing to observe is already your fault by this logic). But there are serious discussions in ethics under the rubric of Doing vs. Allowing Harm. – Conifold Sep 12 at 21:29
  • @Conifold: I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is completely meaningless. Some forms of act utilitarianism effectively make very similar claims to what OP is describing (i.e., the only ethical course of action is the one that maximizes utility, and all other courses of action are unethical, so the moment you learn of some problem, you must do everything you can to rectify it). This is not a popular view, but to claim that it is not "real ethics" is in my mind an oversimplification. – Kevin Sep 13 at 4:24

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