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Should there be such a thing as global ethics?

Should there be a moral system on which all human beings agree independent of cultural characteristics of the community they come from? Is morality defined absolutely or does its definition change from community to community?

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    Jun 14 2011: Is not it there already (though not formalized in any document)...............
    Aren't things like lying , stealing, dishonesty etc against ethics of any country, culture or community ?
    Aren't in all community , culture & country honesty , integrity, truthfulness considered as backbone of one's ethical standard ?
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      Jun 16 2011: Well, you know Salim, dealing with a basic question like this, it's not important how many examples you put forward to prove a theory. You must prove it theoretically once and forever.
      So, the fact that in many or even all countries lying is considered bad doesn't prove that lying is basically bad independent of circumstances, because you can't guarantee that there "will" never be such circumstances that lying is appropriate under them.
      I hope I've made myself clear.
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        Jun 16 2011: Hi Safoora
        I just mentioned fact , not proposing or proving any theory.....

        Other than above few examples mentioned above , all other thing get influenced by country, culture , religion, community etc etc .....

        Another important thing is whether we collectively agree or disagree on something to be moral or immoral doesn't make any difference until individually everyone sticks to that .........
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        Jun 17 2011: Safoora................I want to say that in the story "Les Miserables" when the Bishop lied to the policeman about the candlesticks, I think that in view of the horrific punishment, the lie was justified.
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    Jul 13 2011: I try to avoid the word “should” and find it more helpful to think in terms of if...then.

    If we had global ethics, then that would require a system for promoting it. If that were in place and it worked, the world could be a very different place.

    The Dali Lama provides clear direction in his book, “Ethics for a New Millennium.” My understanding of what he is saying that ethics can be summed up as cultivating compassion and avoiding harming others. Basically, “Do no harm, if that is not possible act in ways so that you do the least harm to the fewest and take responsibility for it.”

    If you think about it, ethics is simply what works over the long-run in living a fulfilling and satisfying life. Someone who harms others in the quest for their own happiness will not feel very fulfilled or satisfied once they and others realize the true cost of what they done.

    If we want global ethics to succeed, then we need to think about how to set up a system that integrates this thinking into the daily life and education of all cultures. Something like a Facebook for global ethics could bring people together to work on it.
  • Jun 25 2011: William Shakespeare's character, Hamlet, challenges the notion of moral absolutism when he states "Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so". A global ethical system would not work, as different individuals, religions and societies all hold different values.

    While we can promote freedom of speech, information and religion in the Western World, are we within our right to enforce it on other countries?
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      Jun 26 2011: Kevin

      ,Consider these hyptheticals and extremes

      Can a culture then pursue genocide without fear of outside sanction?
      Can a Culture then pursue gential mutlitaion without fear of outside sanctiom?
      Can a country then elect to pollute the earrths atmosphere and posion its ocaens without fear of outside sanction?Can a country elect to exploit children and effectively enslave workers to reduce the costs of its good on world markets?
      Can a country that happens to be a wintering spot for humback whales or turtles go and kill every single whale or turtle because they are in the territoral waters of that country ?
      What about a country with a bronze age battle with ancient enemies. Can they just go wage war on that basis ?What about religious freedom.if a country decides to eradicate all non beleivers of an official state religion through hanging or burning at the stake., is that ok?

      As global citizens we do have values and a sense of what is ethical, what values the sancity and oreservation of life, that transcends sovereignty and transcneds culture, religion and tradition when they do not honor life.
    • Jun 26 2011: I believe basic humanity & moralities can be global.
    • Jun 26 2011: Shakespeare also said, "I have a peace withn me above all earthly anxieties, a clear and still conscience." I think you are giving too much license to the quote, outside of the context of the play. It is not good to be so obsessed with guilt that you are paralyzed. But Shakespeare was hardly a nihilist or hedonist. He absolutely believed in people being scrupulously obedient to being as good as we possibly can.
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      Jun 26 2011: Hi Kevin,

      You quote the Bard, "Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so".

      But you take this out to be something special about "good" and "bad". It is not. There is nothing that somehow "is" without "thinking making it so".

      The word "is" asserts a relation between the objects of words. If one says "Snow is white", one is claiming a paricular relation between the objects of the words "snow" and "white". But for there to be a relation between an identifiable object of "snow" and an identifiable object of "white", there must first be a relation between the word "snow" and its object and the word "white" and its object. But where doe that relation come from. It comes from the practice of using these words by thinking persons. In the absense of thinking persons using these words in a way which identifies their objects, the words are just sounds or marks on paper or a computer monitor. Thus, it is thinking which makes that relation which we call "is" possible.

      But you might respond that the objects were there before we ideintified them with words. Yes. But so were the objects of "good" and "bad" before they were identified with these words. They, too, were already there before they were identified with words.

      Your quote from Shakespeare merely refers to the fact that apart from thinking, the words "good" and "bad" do not refer to anything. But that is the case for all words.

      But, you might argue that the words good and bad do not always mean the same thing for all people. True enough. But the same is true of any other word.

      What we are really up to here in asking whether there should be a global ethic is asking whether we should agree upon rules of conduct. Of chourse the word "should" already presumes some shared method of evaluation. Anyone who presumes to answer this question one way or the other already presumes the existence of a shareable standard that we ought to share.
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    Jun 25 2011: There already is one. it's found in every major religion - the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Of course the motives should come from a love of God and of man as Christ taught but no matter the motives the universal ethics system remains incredibly simple. Treat others as you want to be treated.
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      Jun 26 2011: Hi Jordan,

      The Golden rule may be a simple statement, but its implications are far from simple. It refers to a method for making decisions that it is so flexile that it can be applied in every possible situation. But until it is applied in each situation, we do not know about everything it implies.
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    Jun 23 2011: Unfortunately when we talk about global ethics we settle for the least common denominator. I think that we need to focus instead on creating a shared understanding of what is good and right in a positive sense no matter how difficult this is.
    --The first thing that we need to agree on is that inclusiveness has to be a central guiding value.
    --Injustice/oppression are the result or expressions of the brokenness there is in our world. We need to see justice in the 21st century as engaging in practices of reconciliation. Justice is a reconciliatory praxis of care and tenderness.
    --It is important to really believe that there is agreement more than disagreement. To understand this we have to grasp that most differences are not contradictions and that even contradictions do not necessarily need to stop us for they might not be relevant to the point being considered.
    --Dialogue is not about convincing the other but about coming to shared understandings and practices that are based on our own experiences, on the experiences that in our lives have helped us realize and live what is good/right.moral.
    --The capabilities approach developed by Sen and made very concrete in the Capabilities list developed by Nussbaum seems to be a very comprehensive list of what is good/right/moral. Find Nussbaum's list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_approach The list is NOT a universal list but she presents it in response to a given situation, as a possible place to start for other situations to consider.
    --It is also extremely important that we approach dialogue firmly rooted in compassion and an understanding of the radical need there is for solidarity.
  • Jun 22 2011: Interesting topic. Always loved C.S. Lewis' definitive defense of the Laws of Human Nature, "The Abolition of Man" and the grave warning of trying to develop, reduce, invent a moral code from outside the Tao (he uses the term for the ubiquitous laws found in almost all cultures and religions. Paraphrasing Lewis, the moral law must be accepted a priori as rationality itself. They are not deduced by another other means. If you pass out of the authority of the Tao, the authority that the moral laws are universal and objective, you cross over to the abyss of relativism. No scientific, or rational means exists to invent or define morality. Religions offer different world views, however they are extremely uniform on morality. The question stated above was "should there be a global ethics". The issue is not "should", there IS. How we adopt morality as individuals, communities, countries and cultures is the challenge. How we claw back from the pervasive moral relativism that is so pervasive today, I have no idea. On the topic of legislating morality, I do not agree. Make good people and they will make good laws. Interested in continuing the dialogue.
  • Jul 13 2011: Already there are acceptable global ethics as represented by International Law and a Court judiciary in The Hague (Netherlands).
    It is agreed that there are actions for which perpetrators can be held responsible as demonstrated currently with the re-examinations of the affairs in then Serbia/Bosnian conflict and the conduct of major characters during that period. The issue of an international warrant for the arrest of Lybian Gadafi is another example of global ethics in action.
    More importantly, there is the phenomenon of Natural Law, that encompasses those innate senses of justice and fairness, goodness, generosity, compassion and mercy that are part and parcel of a normal human being's make-up. Even very small children display these values in some form at a very early stage of life.
    I would also suggest that many of the agreements between nations on values as set out in the various United Nation statements are a reflection of global ethics.
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    Jul 12 2011: The old Golden Rule (very similarly expressed in many ancient cultures) has brewed misunderstandings, violence, and horrific wars throughout the ages. We shall learn that fundamental Nature's law is that every creature is unique, has different needs and different circumstances. However our old mane-made Golden Rule is teaching "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," or "treat others as thou wouldst be treated thyself". Our old Golden Rule and mentality recycling for millenniums need to be replaced with wiser basic ethics.
    I think that the new ethics shall teach:
    "Never (!) treat others as you would like to be treated yourself—unless they agree to it first—because what is good, right or amusing for you may be deadly damaging for others."

    (We are working on a project WWW.NOVATOWNSITE.ORG that aims to practice new, wiser ethics and sustainability of all kinds, allowing each unique individual to develop his/her best abilities and character. "Our society can live as a harmonious orchestra where every person, just like a more or less unique instrument, plays its part meaningfully." V.N.
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    Jul 1 2011: What do we mean by Global Ethics?

    What is Ethics? In Philosophy, it has been the study of how to determine what actions or choices are right, or an investigation into what is necessary for a good life, or an investigation into which character traits are good (virtues) and which character traits are bad (vices).

    The word Ethic can mean the set of norms that some person or group tends to follow. Alternatively, it can mean a set of norms that a person or group tend to affirm. An Ethic defined as a set of personal or cultural norms (mores) will not necessarily be internally consistent. We are not perfect beings. It is quite possible, perhaps even probable, that any such set of norms we follow or affirm will tend to be somewhat self defeating and harmful because inconsistent with our nature as human beings.

    And so within Philosophy there has been the attempt to discover the ideal set of norms. Sometimes, this has been refered to as the theory of morality. Morality is an ethic which is not defined as the set of norms we actually do follow or affirm, but rather, is defined as the set of norms we all ought to follow or affirm. It would be universal and hence "global".

    But isn't it true that we can only determine what set of norms we ideally "ought" to follow and affirm from the perspective of the set of personal or cultural norms we already affirm or follow. It is. How then can we transend parochial norms and find the true, universal (global) set of norms? It is possible only if on reflecting upon our norms and the human nature which generates them, we can find something fundamental that is their source, and their justification, which is shared because it belongs to the nature of what we are. Only by identifying this natural shared normative source, and then drawing out its implications, can we uncover the one "true" and "global" ethics which applies to us all, which is internally consistent and consistent with our human nature.
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    jag .

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    Jun 26 2011: Ethics is basically preventing human suffering from happening, or dealing with it when it does happen. So global ethics is in all of us, as (most) people feel compassionate when human suffering occurs.
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    Jun 25 2011: Yes. There is such a thing as global ethics.

    It should be incorporated into every culture to the extent that it is not. It should be accepted by every culture as a basis for critique of that culture.

    Each of us is born as a being that experiences desires. In this we are equal. If God created us this way, then God created us as equals. If evolution lead to our existing this way, then evolution resulted in our being equal in this respect: we all experience desire.

    Ethics has to do with pursuing good and being good. To understand ethics, one needs to understand how "goodness" is related to desire.

    Desire provides us with cares and concerns. We have cares and concerns because we have desire.

    Sometimes desire is experienced as unsatisfied. We call this suffering. Sometimes desire is satsified. We call this enjoyment. Sometimes we experience desire as something that is in the process of being satisfied. Because we desire this process, its presence provides enjoyment and its absence provides suffering.

    We give the names "good", "bad", and "evil" to certain aspects of things. The same thing can have (and usually does have) both good and bad aspects. We give the name "good" to the three kinds of aspects that things can have, all of which are related to desire: (1) the presence of things we desire, (2) usefulness for obtaining the things that we desire, and (3) the kind of consciousness that has desires. We give the names "bad" and "evil" to three aspects of things: (1) the absence of the things we desire, (2) hinderance to obtaining what we desire, and (3) the destruction or absence of the kind of consciousness that has desires.

    Ethics has to do with being the kind of being that respects those conscious beings who have desires by making ourslves into tools for well distributed minimization of suffering and well distributed maximization of enjoyment. This is how we treat others the way we would want to be treated. (A start. 2000 characters is not enough)
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        Jun 28 2011: Hi Abe,

        It appears to me that you underestimate the flexibility of the standards I suggested. It also appears that you incorrectly suppose that the primary function of the global ethic I am suggesting is the judgment of persons.

        I would suggest that the actual primary function of morality is the guidance of decisions. Only a small number of decisions pertain to the judgment of persons and I would certainly argue that , morality significantly limits the extent to which we should be involved in the judgment of persons, especially where the lack of ability or wealth or biological assets provide significant excuses. As I indicated, the point of morality is to pursue the development of a well distributed minimization of suffering and a well distributed maximization of enjoyment. That would seem to me to require a very sensitive approach to differences in cultures and human situations. One does not avoid suffering or bring about enjoyment by ignoring the specific situations of particuar persons and other organisms that experience suffering or enjoyment.

        What I am arguing for is hardly a simple rigid moral code like don't lie, don't steal, etc.

        Rather, I suggest that the standard by which action should be judged is the very factor that motivates action in the first place: desire. If desire is our ultimate reason for doing anything, then that desire is also the standard that determines what counts as good choices and good actions.

        What removes my position fom selfish subjectivism is that it recognizes that if desire is the ultimate standard, it is all desires (not just my desires) that together form that standard.

        When you introduce more arbitrariness into the judgment of what matters by indicating we are free to use whatever standard we choose, you do not do more to repect the person living in poverty in Sudan. Rather, such arbitrariness deprives that respect of meaningful benevolent content and thus destroys it as genuine respect.
  • Jun 25 2011: we can start with " 10 commandments " , This is the first blue print of Global ethics , No one will disagree with this , or , atleast majority will agree
    The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)
    1 “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.
    2 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
    3 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
    4 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
    5 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
    6 “You shall not murder.
    7 “You shall not commit adultery.
    8 “You shall not steal.
    9 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    10 “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.”
    ----------------------------------------I think this the best and most comprehensive foundation for Global ethics
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      Jun 26 2011: I would disagree with 1, 2, 3, 4
      The others are ok.
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      Jun 27 2011: Agree with Christophe 1, 2, 3 and 4 don't consitute ethics.
      Also the rest hardly define a faultless moral code. For example, slavery and torture would be perfectly allowed under these rules.
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    Jun 24 2011: Hasn´t the United Nations established a set of rules which are like "global ethics"?
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948: http://tinyurl.com/8mc59
    The central ethical values in this Declaration are to me:
    1.) freedom of speech 2.) freedom of belief, 3.) freedom from want and 4.) freedom from fear.

    Eva - for me it is not about the heart. In terms of a personal ethical standard I favor the value "empathy" - the quality to feel how the other feels....Or as Kant stated in this imperative principle: you should treat others like you want them to treat you.

    If this single rule would apply world wide, we probably would have no wars and torture anylonger.
    • Jun 24 2011: I could not agree with you more Bernd. The golden rule is the one thing that all religions and cultures have as a guiding principal in theory. Unfortunately, western culture has become so focused on self-interest that we are now using a very narrow view of what is right and wrong...."it would make my life better so it must be right".

      I'm not sure how we can return to the interconnectedness that must be in place so that we can become the society we have the potential to be.
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        Jun 26 2011: Elene,

        The return is one by one..each of us raising awareness in forums like this in our own blogs, in our community, in what we teach our children .

        Just your being here and having this conversation you are co-creating what you seek, you are calling it into being.
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        Jun 26 2011: Hi Elena,

        I suggest we work to change school curriculum. Many US state legislatures have imposed a regimen of fact memorization and "teacher accountability" testing of children on fact memorization that move our children farther away from having a moral compass. As this regimen takes over, our children spend more an more time doing more and more homework that largely wastes their time memorizing a standardized set of fact and vocabulary that removes them from the reality of being persons with responsibilities other than the completion of homework.

        I suggest the use literature, movies, photography, etc., to encite empathy. There should be a class every school day in a students life that focuses on the empathy inspiring arts.

        I suggest we provide them with another class that would focus on having children think through practical problems. Start with a premise like all people matter or treat others the way you want to be treated and work on discussing and writing about what follows in particular situations or for particular policy questions. Engage the children in learning how the facts matter, and thus, how the other discipllines are relevant for answering these questions. This class should meet just as often as any other core curriculum class. Have the students keep a journal with regular writing assignments on such matters. Hold small group discussions of three or four students to discuss the journal entries. Have students write responses to other students journal entries.

        For the most part, these two classes would replace Language Arts. They would effectively teach writing, reading, and the analytical arts through the hands on practice of doing them...
    • Jun 25 2011: Yes , but , Then the question comes that of equal ( just ) implementation , ( UDH 1948) , as you mentioned Freedom of Speech and Believe etc. While its OK to discuss every thing in the name of freedom of expression but we have excluded "same " issues . We discus God , religion believe but there are things which you cannot discuss

      I personally thing that U N has lost its validity , its un democratic , we can't leave issue of Global ethics to UN, I think we need forums like these where people can come together and discuss , only then can we form Global ethics.
  • Jun 24 2011: There IS a global, universal ethics. It is in the hearts of each and every human being, as we are all sensitive to what is hurtful between us and we all know what supports unity and love. We all have the hearts that would tell us every moment what is the right thing to do. The heart would guide us without failing towards moral and beautiful life, that is full of love and goodness.

    The problem is not that we miss universal ethics. The problem is we deny that we have it. People deny that they know what is wrong and what is right in order not to submit themselves to the high standards that their own heart would require them to live by. People are in denial, that is the problem.

    The moral codex provided by culture falls terribly short comparing to the real requirements of the heart. It compromises too much. It allows for the “little sins”, that in reality nobody feels good about, but is trying to justify them and talk oneself into feeling okay about.

    Making a set of rules and asking people to follow them is a vain attempt of the mind to replace what is already there in our hearts. It can never work either, because a set of rules will never be flexible enough to respond to reality. At one occasion it is inappropriate to shout, on the other occasion it is inappropriate NOT to shout. There is no way to regulate human behaviors by external rules and call it morality.

    The only way to provide the world with the universal ethics is to admit that in our hearts we know what is right and what is wrong, and come to integrity with it, moment by moment.
  • Jun 24 2011: If morality is defined by community, we then have situational ethics. I would like to see a moral system on which all human beings agree. After all, beneath our differences, we are all driven by the same emotions and needs.
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    Jun 23 2011: My immediate reaction was the idea of an implementation of Kant's "Categorical Imperatives." How to derive morals and/or ethics when you're in a hurry...

    Simply put, pose the question to yourself; "If every human did this, would it still be beneficial to the human race?"

    Now, you've got your commandments from the Christian God. You've got your suicide bombers. You've got your faith based initiative wars. You've got your dating code. You've got your work ethic. Etc.

    Being quite agnostic about religion I find that people have asked me where I get my morals and ethics from, I often use Kant's "Categorical Imperatives" for this discussion easily.
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    Jun 22 2011: Safoora: I'll answer in order of apparition:
    1) Yes
    2) Yes
    3) It is not absolutely defined, and it does differ across community (and cultures)

    I think Sam Harris is quite right on the matter:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html

    - One can agree on a lot of things, and hence have a basic global ethics.
    - One needs to allow for free interpretation where we are on a moral Pareto.
    - I think there is still a lot of convergence that can happen after a first declaration of ethics of mankind. (Oh, we have something like that already, don't we?)
    • Jun 23 2011: i agree both with you and sam harris, however unfortunately many people do not, and believe that it's very unethical not to force religion on people in order to save them from damnation.
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        Jun 23 2011: If you hold that opinion, you imply that certain people (which ones?) need religion.

        Does it also mean certain children should be educated religious, and others not?

        That feels like "we will give these kids an illusion, and the others not".
        I think that is unethical.
        • Jun 24 2011: personally i think nobody needs religion, and to the contrary it's actually doing them harm by creating divisions between them and those that could otherwise be friends and by skewing their morality. however, those people would probably strenuously disagree with me and insist that they and everyone else need religion.

          my own personaly belief is that it's a great moral injustice to give any child a religious education, i think if they must be introduced to religion at all it should be when they're are fully mature and able to make up their own minds. again though billions of people around the world would condemn me as immoral for saying that.

          my point i guess is that while you and i have strong convictions about what is ethical, plenty of people are equally convinced that the opposite is in fact what is ethical.
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      Jun 23 2011: The problem is who gets to have sway on the ethics board. If I can have a large say then I am all for it since I am logical and well reasoned ( a bit of friendly sarcasm intended). There are many cultures I may not wish to take my ethics from though. How could we even tell which ethics were good or not if we had no cultural comparison. There are many legitimate difference on how to behave ethically. Westernization has improved the lives of many, but it has also given us a plastic trash continent in the pacific.

      To live within our own ethics is the best way to spread them, that is of course if they are as helpful to us as we think they are.
    • Jun 27 2011: In reference to Sam Harris' TED talk. He said, "We can no more respect and tolerate vast differences in notions of human well being than we can respect or tolerate vast differences in the notions of how disease spreads". Did anyone catch this monumental phrase! Last time I checked the human race was hunting down and eradicating disease. Is this the behavior we are now to apply to those we find morally inferior? Where does it stop after the Taliban? Harris is no fan of 40% of America who are conservative Christians, are they not to be tolerated and treated like a disease?
      Surely the first principle of ethics that can be derived from Darwinian evolution is that all life, sentient or not, has the moral right to compete and evolve in the biosphere. Therefore we have no more right to kill a disease than it does to kill us. To suggest that more specialized life or sentient life has more say on the moral landscape is merely a convenience to us who have clawed our way to the top through our evolution. I fail to see how care for posterity or human well being can be derived from evolution. If evolution is true, we have had a violent, and ruthless ascent to our lofty position.
      To borrow (again) from Lewis, thankfully men are often better than their principles. Harris is espousing that we return to objective morality from the morass of moral relativism that has been plaguing and confusing the human race of some time now. But this is not a revolutionary idea that merits thunderous applause. He is only returning to the fold of traditional morality. To single out human well being and the elimination of suffering and poverty to be the highest ethic is to only borrow from The Tao. These principles are derived a priori from the sanctity of life, not science. Reason is the vehicle from which ethical principles are perceived, not created.
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        Jun 27 2011: Harris is not as monolithic as you try and imply here. (That would indeed be the old modern view)
        He says there are highs and lows on the moral landscape.
        And we don't know the highest peaks, and there can be many of them.
        As such, he gives moral relativism the room it deserves (the post-modern view)

        He is against the moral valleys, the pits: those need to be in-tolerated.
        A "moral landscape" also indicates multi-dimensionallity

        In accordance with probabilistic thinking, we now hold a well adjusted stance that does not negate uncertainty and different options, but we also see differences that cannot be denied, and sometimes need to be fought/eradicated.

        I think you could agree that violence and killing without any reason would be an example of behavior we wish to eradicate?
        • Jun 27 2011: I wholeheartedly agree that we should condemn violence and killing for any reason. My point is I do not arrive at this ethic through a scientific process, or through trying to implement the medium common denominator of a reasonable social contract theory. I derive it from the sanctity of life, and as a deduction of do as you would be done by. These are ethical norms which have been re-asserted and maintained over much of human history across many great religions. If an athiest does not have access to this source, from where is the same princple derived?
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        Jun 28 2011: Indeed, a naturalistic thinker cannot use those principles, as they are discarded.

        I don't think ethics should be grounded in order to be upheld. So a convenience point of view is a good start.
        But I do think science (the scientific method) can contribute a lot in why we act and how we act. As we can think about what is good and bad for an individual and what is good and bad for a community,society or humankind.
        We can find (probabilistic) guidelines and psychological insights that help us to make laws that further the prosperity of humans and humankind alike.

        the avoidance of harm, and the idea of self-development are good criteria (though not sufficient) to take into calculus.

        In the end, we can find what and why the gut-feeling about ethics is what it is, and how we can overcome our more toxic or violent behavior.

        Concerning sanctity of life: I would not name it that way, but I assume every person wishes to live (there are exceptions), and that should be a parameter with high value.
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    Jun 21 2011: Yes, I think so. The League of Human Rights formed in 1948 outlines those "bottom line" ethics I think you are asking about. Here is the link:

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
  • Jun 21 2011: The basic core code of morality should be the foundation in global ethics.
    What are these moralities?
    1. Non-Killing & Non-Violence 2. Non-Stealing 3. Non-Cheating / Slandering
    4. Anything harmful & hurtful to oneself & others (betrayal / breach of promise)
    5. Self-abuse & abusing others
    6. Anything (immorally) against the law of any country.
    7. Respecting others
    8. Non-discrimination.
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      Jun 21 2011: I'm pretty sure you'd have trouble getting #6 past most people.
      I find many of the laws in the middle east pretty repelant tbh and I'm sure they reciprocate.
      I also find many of our laws immoral for that matter so equating law and morality is a bit of a non-starter i'm affraid.
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        Jun 21 2011: I am 100% against legislating morality. Who are the gate keepers going to be? I am an atheist, but that does not make me an immoral person, I in fact act more christian than my christian wife. When talking about morality, esp. in the US, it is implied that you are talking about Christian values. So when you go down this road it sounds like we are going to turn it all over to religions. We have been there and done that already, it was a mess.
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          Jun 21 2011: Well said Dain , fully agreed.Even many people (here in TED it's visible as well ) have the fallacy that morality can't exist with out religion !!!

          So seems the situation is that, to bring morality under one legal umbrella globally , we have to agree first which religion to be followed by everyone .......... then defintely we will have lot more bloodshed and mega crusades ......

          Will Middle East agree supressing women is immoral ?
          Will they agree treating immigrant workerss less than slave is immoral ?
          Will they agree not ensuring human rights is immoral ?

          So we will have crusade of nuclear age...... though legal backing never can ensure implementation of morality at personal level.
        • Jun 23 2011: but what is the morality that will get legislated? unfortunately many people around the world honestly believe that it's perfectly moral to kill the follower of another religion, or even someone in a different sect of the same religion.

          i also think it's extremely immoral for a company director to get a raise or bonus without giving the same to every other worker in the compnay, since it's those people who did the hard work of carrying out the orders, yet how many do think will fight tooth and nail for their 'right' to have more than their fair share?
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      Jun 23 2011: Carole your list seems reasonable, but when spread out over a global canvass cultural differences will create problems. Take rule 5 for example are piercings tattoo, or circumcision forms of self abuse. There is much argument on both of these issue. Or number 2 can lead to all sorts of debate about the right to private property vs the rights if the community that will clash. As for rule three at some point everything is harmful to someone at some point.
      I not taking apart your argument because I disagree with anything in particular, but to illustrate how difficult issuing any sort of universal code.
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      Jun 23 2011: Hi carol

      The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a good start and is pretty complete as a statement of what we as a global community should recognize as global human right

      The Milennium Global Democracy Project, headed by some good international thinkers who were ethicists and humanists did some excellent work in this area and were defeated by issues of soverignty..what justifies over riding how a nation is governing itself.

      We have explored it at TED Conversations in conversations on World Governance and my own conversation, still active on foundations for a global alliance.

      It seems clear that we are de facto global citizens just leraning what that means and without a common ground in values that unite us. Even here at TED it is interesting to look at the votes on Common Ground Values.(www.goo.gl/mod/0073) Freedom of Speech is way at the back of the pack with several dissenters.
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    Jun 14 2011: @Edwin & Simon............I don't view justice as punitive but as restorative and rehabilitative. In order to carry out the kind of justice you speak of, I would have to be perfect myself and I am but full of faults some of which I recognize and others I am still not aware of. And even if I were able to judge perfectly, I would still be in the business of destroying life instead of trying to save it.
    the value of a person does not depend on what he does or does not do, what he has,what he knows or who he knows. These are status symbols.which we then use as criteria for judgement. Life is its own value and needs no enhancement other than that. By being compassionate I am not saying "Oh, that's ok I feel sorry for you" Indeed I want this person removed from society and rehabilitated if possible or incarcerated until either s/he is restored and if not then incarcerated until death. Simon, I have no knowledge of S. Harris's "The Moral Landscape" but I will look into it and get back to you.
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    Jul 13 2011: "Do no harm" - how would this be interpreted in different minds? According to some individuals "harm" is "fun" , but for others this "fun" is "harm".
    Many of us believe that we "know" what Good is, however our personal "good" may be Harmful others.
    We need many different communities/societies governed under a great diversity of ethics, because each of us has a more or less unique character.

    However I believe that "Do Not do anything to others until you have a mutual agreement with them" would cover the fundamental issue of Global Ethics. Some people want to be restricted by their beliefs while others cannot take these beliefs seriously. Some people want to fight to get what they want, so let them be in their own closed community and follow their own rules that they all accept. And Let peaceful, learning people live in their own society under their ethics. But we all have to respect "Do Not do anything until you are asked for it."

    I see that children's life is still unprotected from manipulations by "rules" in any kind of society. This is something to think about.....
    Speaking in general we have to accept that we are born to be unique one way or another, and are here to live different lives.
    Lets do not forget that all our man-made systems are serving no real person but a collective non-existing prototype.
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      Jul 13 2011: I agree that everyone has a different view of good and evil, and that what is "good" and "fun" to you may end up being "evil" and "hurtful" to me. The problem with that is that if more people see it as evil and hurtful, should you be able to continue to do what you see as good, at the detrement of others? Are there people whos opinions should be held in higher regard than others? Should we listen to someone like Charles Manson on Ethics, or the Dalai Lama?? I think the answer is clear, and the answer matters. Everyone may be an individual and have their own ethics, but that does not mean that in context to the rest of the world, that they are correct, or should be listened to, and that includes myself.
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    Jul 13 2011: Ethics is a system of morality that can be different for most. That is not what is at stake here though, the real question is...

    Should that system have different values depending on where you are from? I think that if we look at Ethics as a system of values based on the well being and suffering of conscious creatures, as per Sam Harris, than the question becomes much clearer. Are there things that we can say that is common to all conscious creatures to alleviate suffering and foster well-being? If so, this should be what we are striving for as a system of Global Ethics. What is needed is the ability to look at morality from a secular viewpoint, as arguing from Religion is just an argument from authority that falls flat at the gates. We need to be worried more about the suffering/well being of other more than ourselves, therefore when we view our morality only as personal characteristics, we fall short of the real point, helping others....
  • Jul 13 2011: Ethics and morality are personal characteristics. They are informed by many things, parents and community large among them.

    Still, they are personal characteristics. We are each of us responsible for how we choose to respond to our world.

    Whatever community or communities we identify with, be they local, global, even virtual, we must choose which ethics to accept and which to reject. Failing to choose is to surrender our selfhood to the person or group that is doing the choosing.

    So we are either responsible for our choice, or we are responsible for our lack of choice.

    This is a good and hope-filled thing. It means that we can learn from our mistakes and make better and better moral and ethical choices as needed in our lives. We don't need to wait for our community or anyone else, we are responsible and response-able.
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    Jul 13 2011: Assessing something as large as an absolute for nearly 7 billion would be nearly impossible. There are few of any true absolutes in nature. As the globe fills with humans many ethics will be understood as the same. Also differences will challenge traditions that have held identity for generations causing strife/friction for a generation or two and a new ethic will arise and evolution of proceed. We are not far from a global identity but there are factions of politics, religion and commerce that are arguing to keep old seats of power intact. If we can recognize what is ethical and what is control then we may have a chance at global ethics. When the tiny group of leaders, armies and corporate conglomerates fall to the power of the other 6 billion we can champion a global ethic that serves humanity and all it's possibility.
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    Jul 12 2011: So what you two want to conclude is that we cannot lay down the law based on a global ethical system, right?
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    Jul 2 2011: Yes! I like it. Something like a "secular ten commandments."
  • Jul 1 2011: Global ethics = global minefield = good luck walking through it

    The reason i say this is because the diversity of human races are nothing compared to the diversity of human customs, norms and religion. In someplace picking an ugly potato and smashing it in the face of the nearest male might be considered a no no but in the Andes Mountains (if memory serves me right) it is a custom of the local people. Global ethics will squash every national identity into a mold only enforceable with force. I agree that everyone should share my ethics but i don't think everyone will want to.
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      Jul 1 2011: Jaeyun,

      not so at all..read below.".global values would be those that supercede soverignty not erasing culture or traditions at all. I would hope we would always cherish cultural diversity and always not only tolerate but enjoy the obersvance of custom and tradition.

      Global human rights, global moral, global goverance..none of these things imply or would seek homogenization.
  • Jul 1 2011: If the global ethics is introduced then this will not seem to be new because most of our people in this world does not follow their professional ethics and even their nation's constitutional rights and ethics.The best example is- In you forgot to wore helmet while you are in a hurry to go to office and on road if an inspector catches you then we absolutely try to give bribe and escape from him as soon as possible.Here even though the morality rules are introduced then this will be compromising to one and will not compromise for another.Hence a person tries to break the rules of the morality regarding his necessity.Instead of introducing global ethics and following that rules if a person follow his professional ethic rules and the constitutional rules then there will be no chance of introducing a new rule and following it.
    In simple words if you are interested in following the rules follow this principle and make others to follow.That is -
    "Be perfect in what you are.."
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    Jun 29 2011: I just want to try one more time to make the point that "ethics" is right action and speech with respect to a moral standard. It is about faithful adherence to the moral standard in speech and in action.

    We have been using it here in this discussion as if "Human rights", "morality" and ethics" were all interchangeable..which they are not.

    So to speak of global ethics, one would first need a global moral standard ( which at the moment is the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.(.whatever issues we may have with the UN and the in group outgroup aspect of that).

    Global ethics would then refer to whether the UN upholds these standards in its actual actions and speech and the extent to which the signatory nations actually are striving as promised to achieve these standards in their own countries

    .By that standard, II would say, right now, our ethics are definitely not in line with the written standard.

    .My question though is "ethics" a strong enough reference for enforcement and upholding of something as important as Human Rights. A breech of ethics is punishable by exclusion of membership or revocation of certification but is not otherwise criminal or very serious

    . Is a breech of the ethics the standard we would want to apply globally to the UN's failure to uphold the Universal Declartion of Human Rights? Do we want nno complying member nations to simply be excluded as signatories to the UDHR(which theoretically also excludes them for certain UN benefits)? Expelled from the UN itself?

    In otherwords is ethics a high enough standard for compliance with things that are important enough to be global moral issues?
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      Jun 29 2011: Hi Lindsay,

      I am wondering whether you think law precedes morality and defines it, or whether morality precedes law and tells us what our laws should be? The reason I ask this question is that you said that for now, the current gloal moral standard is the UN's Universal Declaration of Human rights. It seems to me that the Declaration, which was created by international legal processes is law that attempts to declare that certain moral rights exist. Thus, I see the Declaration as an attempt to state gloal moral principles that existed prior to and independent of the Declaration.

      With regard to your final question, it would seem to me that we are stuck in a difficult quandary. On the one hand, in the best society, ethical motives would be adequate without law to motivate action in accordance with true moral standards. In such a society, if we had laws, they would be guidelines rather than enforceable inflexible rules. they would help organize cooperation but leave room for useful departures from rigid requirements.

      The problem in our world is that there are too many people that are unwilling to be moral in the absense of sanctions. Thus, we are stuck with the problem that if we define the laws rigidly so that we can implose sanctions, we end up with laws that do not fully coorespond to our moral obligations. Furthermore, we freeze moral discourse, taking the lawyers, judges, and legislators as the experts when they are not because we constrain their authority to engage in genuine moral dispcourse in order to prevent them from becoming dictators.

      See ya later. Gotta catch a flight.
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        Jun 29 2011: Dear Indigo,

        The order, I think is written Law, Common Law,morality,ethics ( the last two having no weight of law and no enfrcement outside of what might be established by an organization promulfating the code of conduct.

        I am not an expert on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( I have read it and its history several times and read afew articles) but It does not have the weight of law. It is in effect a moral statement. Members are not required to actually be in complaiance but agree to make good faith efforts to bring themselves into compliance . Supposedly certain benefits of United Nations membership are available only to the those who are in compliance ( for example grant sin aid for nation building?) But I understand the U.N. quite often looks the other way when there is a greater need to do so. .( Any Tedsters with better knowledge, please correct me) Interesting side note, Gadhaffi by the way was the elected representative to the Human Rights Commission by the African nations and was affirmed by the U.N. in that capacity.

        So, to recap, I believe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not have the weight of Law..it is only a standard of conduct to which member nations agree to endeavor. Althpough tied to certain benefits of U.N. membergship non complying nations frequently receive those benfits anyway/ We would all need more information about specific instances to evaluate whether the U.N. itself or its memeber nations have a pattern of repeated "breach of ethics" with respect to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

        I have a vague recollection that in the TED Conversation on our Obligations to Third Wolrld Countries someone mentioned Bangladesh as an example of the U.N. giving aid and overlooking extreme violations of Human Rights. My own reserach on Libya leads me to beleieve the U.N. wrogly cited "Humanitarian concerns" as the basis of U.N. approval of the flyover.
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          Jun 30 2011: I have a doubt, when it is said - Global Ethic - Is it for the people, by the people variety (which it should be) or is it for the people, by the ... dubious? corrupt? representatives (puppets?) of the people....

          Global ethics should be shared not just by law.... but by all party to it - that means, ethics should be taught right from the cradle.... n not just depend on its enforceablity.
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        Jul 1 2011: Kumar,

        Ethics have no force of law..they are about "right action and speech" with reference to an agreed upon code of conduct, action and speech consistent with the avowed or agreed to.code of conduct.

        To me ethics is really a personal matter as you suggest Kumar. Only entities with consciousness can have either "morals" or "ethics". Corporations can't. Governmental units can't.

        In this conversation we have all de facto agreed to waive these ideas and distinctions and to accept questioners apparent intent to use "ethics" as equivalent to "morals","rights","principles" but I think they are very important distinctions.
  • Jun 29 2011: Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Should have the force of law everywhere. Any group of people whose rights are being violated by force and have no recourse to a public tribunal under the rule of law should have the inherent right to take up arms to defend those rights, and the right to appeal publicly to the United Nations, and have their appeal be publicized in a particular manner.
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      Jun 29 2011: Hi Gerald..he UDHR doesn't have the force of law..it is a moral doument..members agree to endeavor towards those goals..se my further comment above..lots of issues with UN and member ethics with respect to UDHR..in the sens ethat what is actallysaid and dne puts human rights last often or misuses it to "manufacture consent" as in the claim that the Nato involvement in Libya was justified on humanitarian grounds..
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        Jun 30 2011: Hi Lindsay and Gerald,

        I would put the matter differently. The UDHR is law that attempts to protect moral rights.

        When we use the phrase "having the force of law" we are talking aout the fact that law often includes sanction for violations and processes for judging violations and applying those sanctions. However, many laws do not include sanctions.

        In the legal codes I use, when law is enacted on a new topic, a new chapter is added to the code, Typically, there will be a section that defines terms used in the chapter, then there will be sections that create various obligations. Some fo the oligations will be substantive and some will be procedural. Then, in some but not all cases, there will be a section or sections covering the sanctions to be imposed for violations. The sanction can be whatever the legislature chooses. It may be severe, or almost negligible. The code may include provisions limiting the sanction to only certain violations.

        Whether something is "law" depends upon whether it has the authority of law, not upon whether it carries a sanction. Generally, something comes to have the authority of law by the manner in which it was created by persons or institutions having legal authority in accordance required legal procedures, although it is arguable that there is such a thing as natural law. Even in the case of natural law, it does not get enforced by legal institutions until legal institutions recognize such law in a manner that conforms to required legal processes.

        Lindsay has indicated that the UDHR provides for sanctions although they are not always imposed. I wonder if the UDHR explicitely allows for exceptions to the imposition of sanctions. If the sanctions would actually do more harm to the people the UDHR is trying to protect, then an exception would make sense. Unfortunately, that's ussually the case.

        If the Declaration was enacted by the UN, then I think it is "law" whether or not it carries sanctions.
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          Jul 1 2011: Good morning Indigo,

          It isn't the presence or absence of penalties and sanctions that make something "law"..it is the excercise of authority to act over others, hopefully for an on behalf of serving the "common good"

          .If we all conducted ourselves morally and ethically we would need no written law. That is what "common law " is in effect..it is for those countreis who apply it, universally agreed upon behaviors that further the common good.that define where personal speech and action transgress anothers freedoms.

          .Whenever we have to pass a law to REQUIRE a standard of conduct we have failed culturally to self regulate.A pattern or course of action not in the public interest has been taken up that is not subject to oversight or control. So force of law means there is a body that either has been given or has taken authority to regulate what is not self regulating ( hopefully in the public interest interest and for the common good)
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    Jun 29 2011: Any ethics must go hand in hand with methods of self control that enable us to conform to the ethics. I have begun a discussion focused on the question of what techniques we might use for that purpose:

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/3885/what_are_effective_ways_of_gai.html

    Please contribute your insights on how we might gain greater control over our emotions, desires, and ourselves.
  • Jun 29 2011: I think there are global ethics--the question is, do we practice them or do we ignore them? I think people generally know right from wrong, but ultimately, it's their actions that create a safe and just world or not. All of the world's major religions have tenets on how people should treat other people, do business, and generally act as a human being---the problem is that we are wired as humans--therefore, we disappoint and act in unethical ways.

    In the wake of our world today, every human being should wake up with the question put to themselves, "What am I going to do today that will make the world a more just, ethical, and moral place?"
    • Jun 29 2011: That sounds simple enough, but some religious leaders in Saudi Arabia TRULY believe they are making the world a more just and moral place by stopping women from driving and keeping their heads covered. In the sub heading to this conversation, the question is posed, "Is morality defined absolutely or does its definition change from community to community?" I think we cannot just assume that people will agree on morals if they're all going at it with the best intentions.
      Tricky stuff. It would be nice to think that representatives of various cultures could sit down together over a long span of time, hash out issues and come up with an agreement about global ethics. But I'm doubtful. This is humanity, afterall, as you point out.
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        Jun 30 2011: I am not a supporter of what some 'leaders' are trying to 'hold' on to power... riding on a wave of fanatism.

        I think it is morally wrong to stereotype the whole community and try to build a wall around them. There should be reason, logic and a respect for humanity.

        To diverge a bit n point to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster. Union Carbide is now owned by Dow Chemicals Co. DCC has outright refused to assist the victims. Isn't this TRULY more inethical. Isn't it more heinous... and is so non cultural.

        I think global ethics should take being human, equality of human life and a more human approach to life as the basic premise.
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      Jul 1 2011: Hi Elizabeth,

      Traditions like "hajib", or not eating meat on Friday during lent are not about morality or ethics. They are practices that express identity with a specific culture and often express underlying values of the culture. For example not eating meat on Friday is a practice about living more simply and less self indulgently.

      . Even as we learn to grow into being global citizens, for most of us cultural identity will remain important and will continue to be part of personal identity. Hopefully these cultural traditions would never be homogenized or lost.Civil law takes precedence over religious or cultural traditions and observance. It sets the boundaries for these practices. For example acts of violence are prohibited by law and in some progressive places like California and Canada, "hate speech" is circumscribed by law

      .When we talk about "global morality" or "global ethics" or "global law" we are speaking about a set of conditions, or concerns that supercede sovreignty..we aren't speaking about making the laws of all countries the same..but circumscribing in the global interest. When we talk about "global law" we are talking about how to manage those issues where one country's set of laws and practices iterferes with another countries set of laws and practices ( which is wha tthe U.N. has mainly focused on ..that's what "peace keeping is"..and increasingly now we ar also talking about universal human rights and global enviornmental policy

      .So a nation's decisions to forbid women from driving, or requirng women to be fully covered in public is not matter of "global concern". That's a cultural issue .
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    Jun 28 2011: Interesting Topic and Conversation: I think: day in and day out about those that don't have the opportunities in Life that give them the moral compass we would like to see from them. Walking 2 miles to get a bucket of Muddy water for their family, or taking another Drink at the Bar before getting behind the wheel of a car. Or Sending a Job overseas for an extra Buck. But what is it we truly want in our own lives. Would a Moral System we can all agree on, or live our lives by be the answer: this would help but only be Part of the Solution. As we all can see there are So many that can find and identify the Problems, but only a handful that come up with solutions. And as unfortunate as it may be: if there is NO PROFIT to be gained from the solution then it probably won't see light. If you are the Father of Children walking that 2 miles for your Muddy Pale of Water to be boiled for your family to drink, and prepare what food you have, or the Father of Children Drunk behind the Wheel of a Car. YOUR desires will be from a totally different State of Mind. As I stated a very interesting Conversation indeed!
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    Jun 27 2011: lets practice the existing ethics. We already have libraries of such but no action.
  • Jun 27 2011: morality is, in my opinion an independent, self-developed trait.

    Quite often we discuss Religion as the basis of morals - religion was created by humans!

    What is the natural reaction of any one person to causing another person pain?
  • Jun 26 2011: Degenerating into subjectivity doesn't really address the notions and actions of evil or misguided traditions of ancient civilizations. Nor does it excuse the actions of current 'civilized' nations. Those who commit evil (i.e. against right to life and some form of happiness) acts always require the greatest powers of rationalization behind them to justify and 'correctly interpret' events to their captive audiences. And when that fails, violence becomes the default position; a sort of social entropy.

    Ethics requires a knowable, pliable agreed upon set of criteria. As long as the educated try to control the uneducated or visa versa there will always be questions regarding a unified code of ethics.

    One World Governments and unity of standards across the world are dangerous as is 'fair competition' which provides a mandate for each nation's ventures/vultures to set out to reap the global bounty as fast as their wings can carry them. Meanwhile this leaves the world open to exploitation and corruption while also leaving it open to increased standards of living, as temporary as they may be.

    What is the long term goal of this international ethic? It is only to benefit some association of multi-national corporations that we all give up our 'culture' and 'traditions'? We are raising up each nation economically to the detriment of our precious Western World, but to what end? What ethic is there in giving away the family farm to indulge but a single generation?

    What is the consensus Western ethic now a days anyway? I am young, maybe someone older, a Zoomer maybe, can fill me in?
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      Jun 26 2011: Hi Brian,

      I'm not a zoomer but a boomer.

      I suggest that the consensus will not be found on the surface. People have many standards. But those standards came from somewhere and so far as the source has not been forgotten, they are justified by their source. Even if the source is forgotten, a review of a communities' standards may imply the source as the justification of the standards. The argument that there is a true global ethic must typically rely upon the thesis that all of our standards come from, and are subject to evaluation by, a standard that serves as their source.

      Please see my post in this discussion on the relation between desire and a global ethic. That is an attempt to locate the source of all standards and to draw out the implications of that source.
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      • Jun 27 2011: Can we make a distiction in terms? I agree that ethics are developed, and that it is a living a breathing process. When we decide how to deal with criminals we utilize many ethical assumptions such as safety of the community, protection of property, compassion for victims, and humane treatment of offenders. In this example, we sift these and many more ethical considerings to develop laws, and enforce them. Can we more appropriately label this process as "moral development" "moral progress" and not "moral relativism". Yes, essentially we are trying to relate all the conditions we are trying to maintain. But if we are to stand in condemnation of the programme of the Nazis or other such glaring examples, we need some better definition of terms. The Nazi ideology was coherent and "relatively" reasonable and even moral to them. We need to reach to higher ground if we are to confidently label certain acts as not only unacceptible, but also evil.
  • Jun 26 2011: Of course there should be a moral system, external to the individual, upon which actions should be based. Swami Vivekananda was asked this question, in the form of "what is sin?" His response was, sin is harming others. Morality is based on trying not to harm others. All the major religions not only have moral dictates, but pretty much the exact same ones. Nihilism is just a cop out. Ascribing moral dictates as some kind of authoritarian abuse is ludicrous. Morality frees. Hedonism binds. We "do what we want" - then, pretty soon we pay the price. As Shakespeare said, "I have a peace within me above all earthly anxieties, a clear and still conscience." That purity is freedom. Doing "what we want" is for four year olds. Morality is pretty simple. Try not to harm others. Do good, be giving, be kind, be honest. If we want to find a way around doing so and being so...that says it all - that we just want some system to justify our personal greed and moral irresponsibility, as we let the poor, sick, disabled and suffering twist in the wind without helping...or find some way to justify not being nice to other people.
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    Jun 26 2011: I think that a World Committee on Ethics is essential, particularly in regard to technological advances and their applications in the future as genetic engineering and robotics.The drifts are close, and to choose her unborn child in a catalog becomes possible ... Humans should not behave like gods but let nature take its course (even if preventive action against prenatal diseases seems reasonable). Robotics made ​​extraordinary progress and man will become obsolete in many professional fields. Eventually humans will be formatted and will feel more and more lost and useless. Live on earth in harmony with nature will become utopic and mental depression will be the evil of the 21st century.
  • Jun 24 2011: I think it is complex and simple at the same time, complex because for global ethics first we have come to an agreement what is good and bad .Now the concept of good and bad has always been different at different time and place, Like in the past it was immoral to be homosexual ,even in western society but now it has been excepted to same extend , Similarly different cultures has different standards for morality or good and bad, Like it will be very unethical to kiss once face and hand of a person , if you have met him for the first time , but accepted in money cultures .

    It is simple , because we already know some of the universal ethics ,e.g; not to say thank you or sorry, to go naked outside , and there are money things which are common in every time and culture or place ,
    one thing which I would suggest is the internet pornography , no one is against banning this , if any global ethics or morality code is made , include banning internet porn in it please...
    I thing we must engage in discussion like this , we may disagree with one another but its nice to talk
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      Jun 24 2011: Ethics and morality are not about dichotomies of good and bad..

      . What you are referring to are customs and manners, cultural traditions. Cultural traditions are expressions of the shared heritage that unite a people in historical identity, the "language" of the culture . These, I hope would never be lost or homogenized. Cultural diversity is as important as bio diversity

      Ethics and morals are a unitive positive expression of humanity.an expression of that within us that which values life and seeks to serve life, human life and all living things on earth now; human life and all living thing who will inherit the earth.
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          Jun 24 2011: Mohammad,

          My point is that underneath all those "add ons" which are cultural morays and traditions, there are root expressions of humanity on which global ethics can rest. Actually there is a lot of consensus on what those global ethics are in the many links provided here.

          My point is that global ethics does not inply or rqeuire a homogenization or suppression of cultural traditions and expression.

          Global ethics and cultural moral expressions are not in inherent conflict.
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          Jun 30 2011: I think what u imply @Md. Bin Iftikhar is that human life should be measured or counted in the same way with the same standard, globally!

          On the other hand @Lindsay, ur viewpoint is that global ethics can be applied where locsl customs and cultures are respected.

          I think these are two different things ... though related can be managed separately. Doing either supplements the other!
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      Jun 24 2011: ABDUL
      Most of the examples you quote are moral questions not ethical ones. It's a bit of a semantic argument,but the distinction is important. When you enter any profession you have a code of ethics not one of morality. Ethics are reasoned by people in that profession (or culture ) for specific reasons and are open to change as needed. Morality concerns itself more with giving rules for cultural identity. Some rules are arbitrary, while others meet ethical guidelines.
      Perhaps a global summit could take place and we could devise some universal code that is agreeable to all, but I am doubtful because most people don't see their national transgressions for what they are. As a US citizen a country with 20 % of the world prison population, who regularly blows up mountains to get coal I would much rather focus inward to problems at home than to look at other countries for problems. There is something to be said for being a good example.
  • Jun 24 2011: In considering this question, I remember Antigone. In brief, this young girl violated the king's decree that her brother, his slain enemy, should not be buried. In their belief system, that cruel decree condemned his immortal soul to wander eternally. In respect of her brother, and to save his soul from such a fate, she covered his remains with a thin layer of sand, was caught in the act, and interred in her own tomb. Before she could be freed, she hanged herself.

    Viscerally, we all empathize with Antigone. This ancient Greek tragedy reflects a belief system long passed from the world; why then do we universally empathize with her, and roundly condemn the monarch as doing evilly? It is, I believe, that we all recognize that there are some aspects of life upon which the State has no right to trod. There are, indeed, "Certain inalienable rights"!

    As to Edwin's comments regarding justice and mercy, he is, I believe, astute in his analysis of the requirement that justice trump mercy. However, even within the justice system, mercy can have it's day. I live in North Carolina, in the United States. This state has a death penalty law. If my son were murdered, and I took the stand in the sentencing phase of the guilty party's trial, I would beg the court to spare the perpetrator's life. I would to so because I oppose the death penalty. Since I am the aggrieved party, It would be my place to extend such mercy, not the State's. Society is, I believe, enriched when we "love justice, and show mercy," as the Old Testament prophet declared. As to my hypothetical murder trial, no court in this land would violate my plea, and the murderer would be sentenced to life imprisonment. Mercy trumps justice, but only when extended the right way, at the right time, by the right party; unless, of course, you believe as I do that the death penalty is universally unjust. In that case, justice triumphs in this instance, together with mercy.

    I
  • Jun 23 2011: There are Global Ethics already, we're at a great point in history with instant and easy ways to communicate with each other, share ideas and understanding. The world becomes more peaceful when we educate and allow freedom of expression. A place of creating value, sharing and co-operating. I am excited about the future and for global ethics.
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    Jun 23 2011: There are global ethics, they are the human rights.
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      Jun 28 2011: Hi Maxime.. In relation to universal human rights ( and we have that alreday in the United Nations 1948 decalartion of universal Human Rights) is the practice of honoring that..ethics is about speech and action in alinement with a value.

      For example the U.N. often "looks the other way" ..when a country has eggegiou shuman rights violations and will still frant aid or protection. To have an expressed value and not act on it is "unethical"..

      That is part of the trouble I am having with this conversation because ethics is always about what we actually say and do or promise to say or do. That can be and usually is framed against a set of values and standrds. Ethical practice means acting and speaking consistent with stated standards or values.

      So Global ethics to me really means "Right action" with reference to Global values ( like Universal Human Rights)
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    Jun 23 2011: In the United States, we cannot even get our politicians to behave ethically. They continually act in the interest of business, party principals and their own pockets, leaving the middle and lower classes out of the picture. How are we going to get a global community to commit and act ethically?

    Also, I thought the United Nations acted on this front. Might not be directly spelled out in their charter but that is certainly the image they project.
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    Jun 23 2011: No. Such a thing as "global ethics" would eventually destroy Nation-hood, ethnic and National based cultures, and place a tighter clamp around the already shrinking individual allowed rights.
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    Jun 23 2011: When we talk about global ethics, we talk about our global mutual interests: basic rights for all - food, shelter, education, healthcare, safety, earth-sustainability; freedom of diversity and our need to make our government-business systems work by the principles of truth (transparency) and justice (accountability).

    It is good when we all have these needs and rights, it is bad when we don't.

    In order for us to reconcile our own beliefs and convictions to this global ethics, we translate them in the language of our mutual interests.

    In order for us to make it work, we translate and contribute the power of our beliefs and convictions into this singular worldview of our mutual interests and wield it to transform our world.

    PM Gordon Brown said that this is our moment, this is our decade to right our planet - we have the power of our moral sense allied to the power of communications and our ability to organize internationally ... One of the reasons why an institution is not in itself enough is that we have to persuade people around the world to change their behavior as well ...

    ... national identity remains important. But it's not at the expense of people accepting their global responsibilities ... And whatever the short-run price for taking action on climate change or taking action on security, or taking action to provide opportunities for people for education, these are prices that are worth paying so that you build a stronger global society ...

    We make adjustments and sacrifices and what I think we all need to do is eliminate our wastes and excesses, improve our productivity and reduce the cost of our justice, welfare and healthcare systems by enabling the right dynamics of our hearts and minds - our love, our search for useful scientific knowledge and our true happiness. http://Bit.Ly/KeyPower
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      Jun 23 2011: as always, beautifully said joe

      .There is always much concern that any global initiatives on governance or even on human rights with a force of law will erode culture and national identity and put smaller less owerful nations at a disadvantage

      Preservation of cultural hertigae and cultural diversity should be high on the list of what we value ethically, morally so long as that heritage does not include human rights violations.

      The first principal of global ethics is the dignity and value of each human life. What we need to strive for is a global moral foundation that serves life..people and all livings things..those who are here on earth no, life that will inherit the earth.
  • Jun 23 2011: i think the problem with global ethics is that different parts of the globe have different opinions on exactly what 'ethics' consist of.

    for example if a law against blasphemy was introduced worldwide it would automatically contradict itself. the mere mentioning of one god would be blasphemy against all other gods. with parenting, some say it's unethical to fail to reprimand naughty children because it deprives them of essential skills they'll need in order to live amongst others, while other people say it's unethical to be scold even terribly misbehaving children.
  • Jun 23 2011: To me the clinching and decisive is achieved by reasoning ad absurdum.

    Can we say that people are so different, that different moral judgments must be made upon their actions based on their country or origin, gender or religion?

    I don't think so! As Kasparov once argued, in a US TV show, there is no such thing as people preferring a strong regime. There is no more difference between south and north Koreans, than there was between east and west Germans. In fact, must we not say, that bearing impaired or immature (children) judgement, we should hold all people to the same standard of moral behavior?

    If we go the other way, and deny the existence of common moral standard, should we not have to judge people differently based on their origins, gender, religion (or whatever)? Who would consider that fair and for what reason? Who would decide which standards to apply to whom?
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    Jun 14 2011: Also wantd to invite all who join our visit here to vote on values/ethics that you think are global and universal at our TED Conversations survey:

    www.goo.gl/mod/0073

    A ;little loosey goosey in structure and organization so the results won't be interpretatble but still a place to take some sort of poll.

    If after voting yes or no on each one there is something you feelis missing you can add.
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    Jun 14 2011: Helo all..great topic..I have had an oen conversation going onthis where you all might enjoy seeing what wehave explored .http://www.ted.com/conversations/2178/foundation_for_a_global_allia.html

    My conversation like yours has been lookng to models of universal values, universal morals, universal ethics.
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    Jun 14 2011: What about Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion. I cannot see how anyone could not agree to this unless s/he was irrational.
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        Jun 22 2011: Edwim Jose................"every man must be judged for what he is :"
        In your opinion, What is man ?
      • Jun 24 2011: i'm with you there edwin. to show mercy to a person who has done wrong is an insult to the person wronged, and an invitation to others to also do wrong.
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      Jun 14 2011: Focusing on the golden rule is a good start but rather limited. Also the Karen's Charter suggests we look to ancient scripture for this wisdom; I would say this is at best unnessesary and at worst counter productive.

      The works of people like Christopher Hitchins and Sam Harris discuss how religion gets these ethical norms from us rather than us getting them from religion. Sam Harris's "The Moral Landscape" in particualr deals with how we can define a system of morality in scientific and rational terms.
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        Jun 23 2011: Simon.................I would have to agree that wisdom lives within and but has to be awakened.
        It seems that because we can do that we can find the seeds of wisdom in ancient scripture.
        At that time it had not yet bloomed because it was so encumbered with legality. Regards