TED Conversations

Aldous Blair


This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

How might we come to liberal universal virtues?

General enough to be politically universal, but specific enough to promote action and be liberal in the centrist sense. Please read first, and accuse me of contradictions after.

I would agree with many leaders today who want a return of morals and virtue to politics. The difficulty is doing so for the sake of progressive causes not unlike Mahatma Gandhi, Martian Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and in rhetoric Barack Obama.

I can only conclude the following virtues as universal, virtuous, and generically liberal in application:
Aristotle's Practical Wisdom (see Barry Schwartz)
Equality of Opportunity (Social mobility and business equity included)
Authenticity (public figures and politicians who are selfless in their honesty)
Public Dialogue (openly discussing our public mistakes to learn from them)

There is an idealism that is present with 'Authenticity' only for the sake of discussion. I'm also aware 'Public Dialogue' is far to generic a label, open for suggestions other than 'Trial and Error'.

How could this be constructively criticised or expanded upon?
I will check up twice a day.

progress indicator
  • thumb
    Mar 31 2012: If you haven't read Alisdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue", then you should. He explains that virtues can only be established within the context of a narrative practice. In a way that you would like, I think, his approach in grounded in Aristotle's (and Ancient Greece's, really) notion that a life well-lived is one in pursuit of certain kinds of excellence (arete). If we are to grow and spread the role of the virtues, we must recover the idea of virtue - not merely moral virtue, as we now mean it, but in the larger sense of the virtuoso. Part of that recovery, though, means restoring respect for a virtuoso carpenter as well as a violinist and for a baker as well as a dancer.
  • thumb
    Mar 26 2012: Very, Very interesting thread...I never thought about such a question before and as I see, your a huge fan of Aristotle.

    Now before we get into what I hope would be a deep discussion, are you trying to figure out how the universal liberal virtues that you have mentioned could be implemented into our modern political systems?

    and do you think governments should do what they can to maximize these virtues?
    • thumb
      Mar 27 2012: I'm much more influenced by Will Kymlicka now, but key ideas of Aristotle have stuck....

      Firstly yes, exactly how these universal liberal virtues could be implemented in a more pragmatic and modern way.

      And yes, I still think government and social institutions set examples for citizens. A key worry about classical liberalism/libertarianism; the example set by those institutions would cultivate citizens altogether indifferent.
      • thumb
        Mar 28 2012: Ok I understand what your saying

        In what way do you think social and governmental institutions set examples for citizens? Do you not see them in any way coercive or arbitrary? In our modern world, I honestly do not see social and governmental institutions bringing about universal liberal virtues but this of course depends on the type of society one lives in. Being that the U.S. has their hand in just about every cookie jar (meaning other countries), I doubt, they would want to such a thing to happen (especially the Republican and tea party members). Given the massive amount of ignorance, I am with you on one aspect: The government, intelligentsia or someone with influence would be responsible for bringing about such virtues, which is quite depressing in my eyes.

        Your comment about being worried about classical liberalism/libertarianism intrigues me but I must ask what exactly are you worried about. In theory it seems ok but how do you think it would make people indifferent?

        (oh by the way, if we have a lot more to discuss before your thread ends, do you mind making another one, that way we'll be able to continue this conversation)