Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Challenges to contemporary ethics in no particular order (almost none of which will be addressed by the academy)
1) Business ethics. Corporate governance is just one issue. The whole foundation of a shareholder system in which owners’ liability is limited, growth is emphasized over profits, and workers share unequally in the profits needs to be analyzed and challenged.
2) All science-related ethics. Just because we can, should we? And whose responsibility is it to ensure that someone is performing research that tackles the problems of the day? There are risks when technical know-how outpaces normative understanding, or when understanding takes a back seat to current deleterious practices, or when public health is not understood as a public trust.
3) Global vs. local. An eternal conundrum in practical ethics, perhaps, but somehow this seems a more urgent question in a rapidly globalizing, post terror-attacks-within-the-United-States world. In any event, many of today’s policy questions hearken directly back to this nagging issue.
a. Ethical content of proximity? Is the guy on my street corner more worthy of concern than a guy in Cambodia? What about 10 Cambodians?
b. Statecraft and the basis for a just society. Where should the idea of sovereignty be headed? Is the state the appropriate guarantor of human rights and opportunity? Special status/obligations for superpowers?
c. Open society vs. security?
d. Protectionism vs. Free trade (our workers/farmers or theirs? Or, how the world will look once everyone’s exploited, all exotic vacation spots look eerily the same, and none of us have social security? Just kidding. This is a big issue, also linked to (1) I think.)
e. Environmental protection and/or labor standards vs. development and/or profit/rising standard of living?
4) The ethics of planning for the future and making up for lost time. What do we owe future generations? To what extent are we obligated to right past wrongs even if we really didn't have much say in the matter at the time?