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Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Why like Dworkin's hedgehog am I centering on a UNIVERSAL ethic?

  • Because we are now a global species though still with tribal instincts and multiple moralities.  
  • Because our diverse culturally-based religions are sanctifying destructive behaviors.
  • Because we face enormous challenges to and opportunities for the future of our species.
  • Because we need a foundation for international as well as local politics, law, and civilization.  

How can we develop an ethic that is acceptable to everyone?

  • By creating a theory or model for moral reality that connects to the theory of all reality.
  • By using a foundation for this theory that is accessible to all.
  • By testing this theory for accuracy and continued refinement.
  • By offering this theory in diverse, culturally appropriate symbolic expressions.

What is the structure for a universal ethic and how is it discovered?

  • The foundation for this ethic is humanity itself.
  • The structure is human being as it is aware of itself in action, not as it is expressed.
  • Ethics is critical reflection on and interpretation of the symbolic expressions of humanity towards understanding the foundation and structure of a universal ethic.  
  • Ethics as a branch of philosophy, using the method and findings of science, aims for the unity of physical and moral reality, i.e. truth and value, and presents its theory for a universal ethic to the human community for continuing reflection, critique, and interpretation. 

How does such an ethics proceed?

  • Ethics starts by reflecting on itself and articulating its mission and method including a faith in the unity of truth and value in the universe.
  • Ethics reviews the work of others who have developed ethical theories.
  • Ethics studies the latest findings of science in regards human behavior.
  • Ethics immerses itself in diverse cultures and their literary and other symbolic expressions.
  • Ethics imagines a model by which human behavior and being can be understood in all its forms and contribute to the understanding of the unity of truth and value in all reality.
  • Ethics articulates the model and presents it to the community for critique.
  • Ethics explains and refines the model in the light of experience.

What are consequences of ethics?

  • More thoughtful political discourse.
  • Basis for policy and legal interpretation.
  • Commitment to living well by doing good. i.e. personal happiness through social service.
  • Principles and rules for community building.
  • Critique of culture, including history, religion, art and other symbolic expressions.
  • Faith and optimism in the human enterprise towards truth beyond superstition, universal love beyond tribal narrowness.
  • Standards for dealing with crises (choices) in the human enterprise.
  • Honing of the human ability to interpret respectfully, think freely, speak openly, and act in concert.
  • Respect for past learning and openness to future progress.


keith in Fresno said...

I think you are definitely on the right track Rollie - as always - but perhaps 'universal' is too big of an ethical-moral context to conquer.

How about narrowing to some key polarities as a frame we Westerners (and now others across the globe) can relate to and are grappling with? - as Harvard's Michael Sandel does in this month's The Atlantic - in digging into the moral and ethical implications of the differences between a 'Market Economy' and a 'Market Society'

Excerpt from the Sandel article in the April 2012 - The Atlantic:

"These examples illustrate a broader point: some of the good things in life are degraded if turned into commodities. So to decide where the market belongs, and where it should be kept at a distance, we have to decide how to value the goods in question—health, education, family life, nature, art, civic duties, and so on. These are moral and political questions, not merely economic ones. To resolve them, we have to debate, case by case, the moral meaning of these goods, and the proper way of valuing them.

This is a debate we didn’t have during the era of market triumphalism. As a result, without quite realizing it—without ever deciding to do so—we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society.

The difference is this: A market economy is a tool—a valuable and effective tool—for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor. It’s a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market.

The great missing debate in contemporary politics is about the role and reach of markets. Do we want a market economy, or a market society? What role should markets play in public life and personal relations? How can we decide which goods should be bought and sold, and which should be governed by nonmarket values? Where should money’s writ not run?

Even if you agree that we need to grapple with big questions about the morality of markets, you might doubt that our public discourse is up to the task. It’s a legitimate worry. At a time when political argument consists mainly of shouting matches on cable television, partisan vitriol on talk radio, and ideological food fights on the floor of Congress, it’s hard to imagine a reasoned public debate about such controversial moral questions as the right way to value procreation, children, education, health, the environment, citizenship, and other goods. I believe such a debate is possible, but only if we are willing to broaden the terms of our public discourse and grapple more explicitly with competing notions of the good life."

Really glad you are on the case Rollie. regards, keith in Fresno

Rollie in Takoma said...

great comment and advice. I will keep narrowing. but cannot separate the economic (market life and self-interest) from the cultural (values in our denominational and civil religion) and politics (collective speech and action). Critical inquiry like Sandel (and Rawls and Sen) are doing is necessary but not sufficient. Action through organizing like you are doing is what will make our common future.