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  1. 1. Searching for a Shared Ethics in an Interdependent World The Ethical Imagination Margaret Somerville
  2. 2. Searching for a Shared Ethics <ul><li>Everyone on the planet is linked by a Common Humanity and Universal responsibility. </li></ul><ul><li>We’ve often pretend this is not true. </li></ul><ul><li>In the past, this denial, resulted in oppression. </li></ul><ul><li>Now, it harms all of us. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Searching for a Shared Ethics <ul><li>Bridge between vast differences in culture and religion. </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamental values conflicts: Terrorism. </li></ul><ul><li>We live in a world in which when there is a crisis somewhere, there is necessarily a crisis elsewhere, and sometimes a crisis everywhere. (Tony Blair) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Not Optional <ul><li>Finding a shared ethical base in a pluralistic, multicultural, and global society is not optional. </li></ul><ul><li>It is crucial for our physical and moral survival. </li></ul><ul><li>The challenge is to find consensus in diversity and difference. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Elements in the Decision Process <ul><li>Not necessarily a rational approach </li></ul><ul><li>May include stories, poetry, imagination, myths, intuition (especially moral intuition), examined emotions, and the human spirit. </li></ul><ul><li>Science is important, but not the only source of data. </li></ul><ul><li>Use the full richness of human knowing to do ethics. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Two Concepts <ul><li>Developing a sense of the sacred that we can all share: the Secular Sacred. </li></ul><ul><li>Starting with the Natural as the basis from which to start in building a shared ethics. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Something Sacred <ul><li>Deserves the deepest respect </li></ul><ul><li>Nature and the Natural should be considered sacred. </li></ul><ul><li>Define and defend our humanity </li></ul><ul><li>Gives hope that is essential to humanity </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Innateness of Moral Sense <ul><li>Find innate principles that guide moral sense. </li></ul><ul><li>We can find and agree on such principles whether or not we believe in the supernatural. </li></ul><ul><li>Not only can we -- we must. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Crossing the Secular/Religious Divide <ul><li>Must be crossed in order to deal with the advance in science and technology. </li></ul><ul><li>Reproductive technology </li></ul><ul><li>Genetics </li></ul><ul><li>Robotics </li></ul><ul><li>Artificial Intelligence </li></ul>
  10. 10. Nature of Ethics <ul><li>A natural reality. </li></ul><ul><li>Ethics and law are not just social constructs. </li></ul><ul><li>Expressive of the deepest truths of human nature. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Techno-Science <ul><li>The right place to start looking for a shared ethics? </li></ul><ul><li>Ignores the less developed parts of the world? </li></ul><ul><li>--> Science knows no boundaries. <-- </li></ul><ul><li>The ethical issues that science raises on one country will likely effect others. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Techo-Science <ul><li>What one country does may have big effects on other countries. </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult decisions about using new science in developing countries. </li></ul><ul><li>Could be a model for finding a shared ethics in other areas. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Building Blocks for a Shared Ethics <ul><li>Imagination: the door to amazement. </li></ul><ul><li>Imagination links many ways of knowing: scientific, mystical, spiritual, ethical, and moral. </li></ul><ul><li>All are important ways of knowing. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Human Imagination <ul><li>Science does not help us understand many parts of human reality. </li></ul><ul><li>We need other ways of knowing to get in touch with these parts of reality. </li></ul><ul><li>Shared and individual imagination. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Stories <ul><li>Capture and express realities that cannot be put directly into words or expressed in any other way. </li></ul><ul><li>Human universal: awe and wonder. </li></ul><ul><li>Myths allows us to communicate about intangible realities that can’t be communicated in any other way. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Myths <ul><li>Not literally true. </li></ul><ul><li>Metaphorically true. </li></ul><ul><li>Often the only way to communicate the truth they represent. </li></ul><ul><li>Picasso: Art is a lie that tells the truth. By distorting the truth, art lets us see truths that are not otherwise obvious. </li></ul><ul><li>More about meaning and purpose. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Questions that Myth Can Answer <ul><li>What does it mean to be human? </li></ul><ul><li>What am I doing here? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the meaning of life? </li></ul><ul><li>What is my place in the cosmos? </li></ul>
  18. 18. Differences in traditions <ul><li>Finding what we have in common is crucial in searching for a shared ethics. </li></ul><ul><li>However, finding differences in traditional knowledge, expressed through myths and stories, can be an important source of data for ethical consideration. </li></ul>
  19. 20. Going on Ethical Wallaby <ul><li>Walking from homestead to homestead following the tracks made by the wallabies. </li></ul><ul><li>Aussie men looking for work during the Depression. </li></ul><ul><li>Searching for scarce economic resouces. </li></ul>
  20. 21. Going on Ethical Wallaby <ul><li>Following our ethical sense to lead us to scarce ethical knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>May not be a straight line. </li></ul><ul><li>Somerville: dog tracking down a wallaby </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Zigs back and forth. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Following its nose. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Giving priority to one of its senses (nose). </li></ul></ul>
  21. 22. Indirectness <ul><li>Indirectness forces us to exercise constraint and accept uncertainty, rather than seeking our goals through force and domination. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Art is a shy, crab-like, sideways movement towards tenderness, tenderness which connection makes possible.” -- E.M. Forrester. </li></ul>
  22. 23. Warning <ul><li>It would be a mistake to focus solely on myth (or any one kind of human knowing) in doing ethics, as much as it would be a mistake to focus solely on science. </li></ul><ul><li>All ways of knowing must be held in dynamic balance. </li></ul>
  23. 25. Principles or Rights? <ul><li>Should ethics be based on some fundamental principles, or should it be based on rights of individuals? </li></ul><ul><li>What about the universal obligation to respect every person? </li></ul><ul><li>Rights-based approaches may help to implement this principle. </li></ul><ul><li>Counteracts the over-legalization of ethics. </li></ul>
  24. 26. Respect for Persons <ul><li>Human Rights reflects the values of a particular cultural tradition -- a Western cultural concept. </li></ul><ul><li>Responsibility is a more universal idea. </li></ul><ul><li>Not restricted to Western culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Talk of rights is not always the best tool for the job. </li></ul>
  25. 27. What is a Shared Ethics? <ul><li>Not: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One, monolithic, universal ethics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethical pluralism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>We all accept everyone else’s ethics. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Moral relativism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Anyone’s views about ethics are as good as anyone else’s. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethical cosmopolitism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>equally concerned for, and bonded to, everyone. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 28. Human Nature <ul><li>Humans have evolved to bond to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>special people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>living beings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>places </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We bond in a special way within these parameters and ethics should recognize and accommodate these bonds. </li></ul>
  27. 29. Human Nature <ul><li>There are parts of human nature that we should reinforce, and parts that we should not. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anger, intolerance, jealousy, greed… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A human ethics should maintain and promot human goodness. </li></ul>
  28. 30. Ethical Universals <ul><li>Respect for individuals </li></ul><ul><li>Respect for all life </li></ul><ul><li>Respect for community </li></ul><ul><li>Recognition of the right to live fully </li></ul><ul><li>Obligation for the needs of others </li></ul><ul><li>Value for human imagination and play </li></ul>
  29. 31. Not Searching for Agreement <ul><li>Searching for common ground. </li></ul><ul><li>This may result in many shared truths. </li></ul><ul><li>Not all parts of the equation will overlap </li></ul><ul><ul><li>May agree on the goal, but not on how to get there, or the reason for doing so. </li></ul></ul>
  30. 32. The Search for Ethics <ul><li>Is not a single event. </li></ul><ul><li>Is a process that is ongoing. </li></ul><ul><li>May involve different ways of knowing, and different values and emotions depending on the issue at hand. </li></ul>
  31. 33. What do we need?... <ul><li>ethical guidance </li></ul><ul><li>ethics requirements applicable to everyone </li></ul><ul><li>certainty and flexibility in application </li></ul><ul><li>international consensus </li></ul><ul><li>stimulate an ongoing international dialogue – “ethics talk” </li></ul><ul><li>continuing ethics development and education </li></ul>