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.
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!
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.
The UN wants to hear from YOU! On their survey website - MY WORLD. The global survey aims to capture people's voices, priorities and views. They ask you to choose 6 issues out of 16 which would make a difference in your life. The results will be used to prepare the next development agenda.
More people are buying less, but buying better. It will come as no surprise that the results show that consumers won't compromise on cost and performance. There is still a big issue with trust - about the producers' claims on packaging. So certification and labels will probably gain in importance. It's an easy and interesting read.
There is a saying in French that one's freedom stops where somebody else's freedom starts. And so the debate going on about freedom of speech vs protection of values is particularly interesting. The outrage caused by the crummy video insulting the Prophet is hard for us in the West to understand. How can we explain that this is not a political statement or a wide held belief but just some strange person's interpretation that he is allowed to air?
Some of us go around bemoaning the loss of civility in society. I found this article in Ethics Newsline entitled "The link between Civility and Ethical Behavior" by Ed Collins interesting, in view of the fact that he suggests ways of doing something about it. We then should all stand up and protest - let our views be know.
So, for the all the bashing in politics - call or write your congressperson. In a public debate, stand up and protest to the Chair. In entertainment - start a boycott (good luck with that one!), and last but not least - educate your kids to be respectful. I am all for these actions - but hope a critical mass forms soon to have an impact, otherwise, it is a losing battle. On the other hand, look what has happened to acceptance of smoking.... there might be a reversal on the civility front too!
It is not that I am a vegetarian out of conviction. I do occasionally eat meat. I try to reduce my meat intake because animals use more water than plants for an equivalent amount of food delivered. But I sometimes feel empathy for plants and have a bad feeling when stabbing an eggplant before putting it in the microwave. Although plants don't have a central nervous system, we do know that they communicate with their envrironment and apparently, in this study on peas, with each other. They do have a responsiveness.
In this very interesting article in the New York Times entitled "If peas can talk should we eat them?" by Michael Marder, a professor of philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, who is writing a book to be published later this year entitled "Plant-Thinking: a philosophy of vegetable life", he puts forth arguments that upset our view of what we can eat with a clear conscience. He says with the new research on plant life, we may "have reached the final frontiers of dietary ethics".
Between mass production of animals and vegetables, responsiveness of the different species, sustainable fishing, use of the environment and of water... Hard to know what and how to eat.