About this blog

  • 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.


  • Andrea Spencer-Cooke
  • Pascal Marmier
  • Kelly Richdale
  • Stephen Whittle
  • Steve Bowbrick
  • Beth Krasna

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April 02, 2006


April Barton

A couple of related items from the NY Times that were not given front page status: a correction, and a letter to the editor.

April 14, 2006
Because of an editing error, a front-page article on April 1 about a $200 million gift to New York University for an institute of ancient studies misstated the policy of the University of Pennsylvania on accepting money from the Leon Levy Foundation or from Shelby White, the widow of Leon Levy, who has been accused of buying antiquities looted from archaeological sites. Richard M. Leventhal, director of the university’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, said it “would always carefully consider any monetary gift, and the use for which it is intended.” He said that neither the university nor the museum had a policy of declining to accept Levy-White money.

A Clash Over Antiquities
Published: April 5, 2006
To the Editor:
Re ‘’$200 Million Gift Prompts a Debate Over Antiquities'’ (front page, April 1):

The ill grace with which some archaeologists have greeted the magnificent Leon Levy and Shelby White gift to their discipline comes as no surprise.

For the past few decades archaeologists have increasingly adopted postures that assume their own virtue and deny that of others. They do not seem to understand that acquisitors (museums, collectors and the art and antiquities trade) also have valid interests and important roles to play in our nation’s cultural life.

The interests of acquisitors and those of the general public sometimes conflict with those of archaeologists. But that does not prove that acquisitors and the public are iniquitously wrong.

Archaeology is an important profession, and archaeologists do important work. They do not, however, inhabit a higher moral universe than acquisitors or the general public. Their growing habit of character assassination of acquisitors is unattractive and unwarranted, and should cease.

Archaeologists should accept the fact that there can be legitimate differences between them and acquisitors, and adjust to those differences and build on what they have in common.

John Henry Merryman
Stanford, Calif., April 1, 2006

The writer is emeritus professor of law and affiliated professor of art at Stanford.

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