Ethical Guidebook

A discussion of the difference between our personal values and our public ethics, how mature citizens can support both, and why our love for public ethics must trump our love for personal and group values when they conflict in the public space. Ethics offers a guidebook for evaluating public issues and finding multilateral solutions to endless cycles of values centric conflicts and unilateral violence.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Let's Start Using Our Ethical Calculators

There is growing recognition that fundamentalist values alone cannot solve many real-world challenges. It's time to get past our love affair with values based solutions. Complex problems require ethical, principled answers for the long-term good, not just imposition of the values of a current majority.

  • Ethics is different than values in insisting on scientific considerations rather than belief systems.
  • Ethics is stronger than values in upholding the rights of minorities while accommodating slowly changing majorities.
  • Ethics is wiser than values in upholding principles of fair play even if they do not always benefit our home team.

This is not a trivial choice. Ethical thinking and action must trump values and self interest if citizens of a democracy wish to avoid falling into theocracy, monarchy, oligarchy or creeping fascism.

Fortunately there is an Ethical Calculator in each of us, as well as our individual values. All we have to do is apply science as well as beliefs, and principles of fair play as well as personal values, to the questions of the day.

Good citizens, statesman-like politicians, and honest journalists will make sure their analyses include consideration of both ethics and values, not just different values butting heads.


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