Thinking Ethics was a project launched in Geneva to foster the debate about ethics. A few friends, fed up with only reading about abuses in the media, decided to hold a forward-looking seminar on five subjects: ethics and performance, ethics and knowledge, ethics and consciousness, ethics and disobedience and ethics in real time. If moral has to do with right and wrong, then ethics is its application in society. We believe that people need to talk about the subject to determine the level of ethics they want. The book Thinking Ethics, a result of the seminar, is to start the discussion. This blog is a contribution to the conversation. :
Ethics have in time always been reinvented see the case for the main religions over time. Mr. Gardner took a lion’s tale to paint his calligraphy. It was Prussian law that dictated society at the end of the eighteenth century on part out of need and on part out of the ongoing intellectual fashion. Weimar did not meet par. He also forgets slave and opium trade prevalent during the empire days and arranged by prolific personalities in this sector as members of parliament and congress.
Many persons were doctors, others lawyers, all were gentry and all belonging to the elite. The ethical professional then reminds me of the whistleblower of today.
In China there has always been a balance between Confucianism and Legalism depending on gusto and circumstances. I see little or no ethics here but a set of working rules to manage a society effectively.
That society as such can have two very different views as with Japan and China – see Funaoka Seigo on Chinese and Japanese outlook between family and government. We must go back to the golden rule… The advantage of the rule is in it’s flexibility and therefore ease of implementation into individual societies. The global village story is a myth. Origin, history, background, family values, language body and spoken language, a conglomerate of personal points of view composed out of need, outlook, opportunity etc. etc. define the accepted ethic or moral in a specific region. Ethics are diverse, local and temporary. The introduction of cell phones and social websites make for fleeting values.
There are also physiological and psychological questions to reply as – what is greed and when and why does it set in?
The suggestion of an agora or a trustee committee is inspiring but is it realistic? It’s certainly worth the while.
The way will probably be slow and tedious very much like an opening of the free mason’s ideology and they too had their problems over the centuries.
Brian D. Earp on the Pratical Ethics blog of the University of Oxford posted an interesting exchange of opinions on using an unpaid-for copy of an article in the New Scientist for his research. Is it called "Twitter, paywalls and access to scholarship - are licensing agreements too restrictive ?". He felt that if somebody had let him read their print subscription there would not have been a problem - this is true. And also if somebody had given him a printed copy - it would also be OK, especially since he is using it for academic purposes. I don't think this reasoning will fly. Even if he accessed it in the library - somebody paid for a subscription. So passing around copies without paying for the article or the subscription is not right, and the use of it for academic purpose does not correct the wrong, or even mitigate it in my opinion.
He asked his friends on Twitter if someone could provide him with a pdf of the article. I don't think the fact of asking by Twitter is the issue, it is the deliberate going around the paywall with intent to copy that is illegal. He did go on to buy a subscription. He could have also lobbied the New Scientist to allow for the purchase of one article, instead of just offering subscriptions - this would fix the problem.
And of course - one could argue that I am piggybacking on his debate stream on my blog and that that is also unethical...
I have been meaning to post this article by Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for a long time. It is entitled Reinventing Ethics.
Basically, it covers the difficulty of using a traditional moral code in a society where democratization and digitalization have substantially changed behavior and respect for authority. He is calling for a sort of agora type public discussions by profession to discuss complex issues and determine appropriate codes of behavior. And as I have said before - we need to start talking about this now!
Or should one give up ? Often, after blowing the whistle, the powers that be deal with the problem, but in a way that does not really punish the offender, nor prevent him from continuing his/her behavior. The whistle-blower is often left frustrated by the method chosen to deal with the situation. Letting someone go instead of firing them, moving a child molester to another location or job instead of total public disclosure and prosecution.
And yet, examples of exageration abound on both sides. The whistle-blower who makes it a personal crusade and is never satisfied with the punishment. The offender who goes on to another position and keeps transgressing... Hard to come up with a black and white decision on many of these issues. Ethics is often just dealing with the grey zones.
The case of private Bradley Manning passing on thousands of documents to WikiLeaks raises important questions that have no clear answers. Depending on where you stand, his behavior lies somewhere between breaching national security and fostering the right to know of the public. He did plead guilty and might stand to receive a life prison sentence, but this raises the issue that these extreme sentences might discourage future whistle-blowers.
Great quiz from McKinsey on Society on finding your socially conscious consumer quotient:
"Global consumers have been flexing their purchasing muscles for political purposes since at least the 18th century. From the Boston Tea Party to Gandhi’s Salt March to today’s campaigns against conflict diamonds and fast food, we present highlights in the history of consumer activism and ask you to decide how you would have responded to each campaign. Based on your answers, we’ll tell you what kind of consumer you are. - See more at: http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/the-socially-conscious-consumer/#sthash.gQnJeVHZ.dpuf"
Take the quiz and find out what is your social quotient.
Sustainability has a study called Rate the Raters - and tries to understand how sustainability ratings are being used by stakeholders - mostly investors, sustainability analysts and the companies being rated. They partnered with Bloomberg to do the survey to see how investors were considering the environmental, social and governance ratings when making investments, and the results can be seen/heard in a 12 minute video here.