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Rob Warren

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What makes an ethical society?

Is it religion? The fear of eternal damnation in the afterlife will keep us on track.

Is it a sense of national pride? I love my country, therefore I love all those who dwell within it.

Is it the belief in a strong leader? He/She leads by example, so we must follow by the same example.

Is it wealth? Now I have my house, my car, my yearly holiday I can start caring more about the people around me.

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  • Jan 3 2012: Egalitarian societies seem to be the most ethical realms of public and cultural context. There is no bias, no bigotry, and a live & let live attitude. (Bear in mind that due to the human element we can only try at this goal. Read Mill's treatise on the society born out of a "veil of ignorance" for more information.)
  • Dec 12 2011: Ethics is the discussion of right and wrong, where to draw boundaries. Being ethical means that you are able to discuss where boundaries of behaviour should be drawn, morality is your commitment to respecting those boundaries. The boundaries we, either individually or our communities, choose, flow from values which in turn come from our beliefs. Ethics is the discussion of how and where, within the context of a particular value system, the boundaries of right and wrong are drawn. Morality is then about how we live according to those boundaries.

    Therefore, I suggest that an ethical society is one which has the capacity to engage in continuous discussion as to what its beliefs are, its values and where boundaries of behaviour should be drawn. An unethical society is one in which this conversation does not take place! Personally, I think the comprehensive failure of Western society to engage in this ethical dialogue (and instead defaulting to individualism and consumption) is an important contributor to the malaise that affects the west today. An unethical society often leads to an immoral society because there is the assumption that 'anything goes' precisely because there is no conversation around what behaviour is and is not acceptable.
    • Dec 12 2011: Jan
      I think at least you have added something that needs to be considered. Without dialogue about the boundaries, which we don't have, it does become impossible to speak about cultural values.
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    Dec 11 2011: Realizing that everyone matters and acting that way.
  • Dec 9 2011: There are few ethical societies, there are many ethical people in all societies. One of the things that sparks me on this question, is not your alternatives, but rather the power of an idea. If people could honestly believe some of the things that follow, perhaps we could construct an ethical society.

    Things need to be put to right
    No one should go hungry
    Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.
    No one is above our commonly shaped laws.
    People matter, more than things.

    Now I know that some will automatically say gee Michael you have some "should phrases" in there. Yes there are. There are outside of our own common minds and selves, practices that should take place. Yes there is good and bad outside of what one determines as their own actions. You are free to choose yourself, there are also good and bad choices and consequences outside of yourself. We live in societies, not just I live in society.

    I think that implementing the first phrase, putting things to right, would help any society at least become more ethical.
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      Dec 9 2011: So Colin. Are there any current societies that you would consider ethical?
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        Dec 10 2011: I also know of seven million + individuals out of all nations and tribes and peoples who are currently forming an ethical society worldwide, and consider themselves a united brotherhood. They have united using knowledge of scriptures and are actively trying to teach others how to live in peace with their fellow man. They are politically neutral regardless of where they live. They refuse to bear arms against their fellow man. They have been, and continue to be the object of hatred and misinformation worldwide. People will seldom stop to talk to them and ask questions to get to the truth about their beliefs.

        I admire their work.