Uncovering The Universal Ethic

Ron House
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There is increasing recognition of the need for a Universal Ethic (for example, the urgent call by Paul Kurtz). Western civil society is based, it may be argued, more on consensus of behaviours than values. Appeals for behavioural outcomes (road safety, anti-violence campaigns) seldom explicate fundamental principles. Given this, even the partial success achieved in creating ‘decent’ society is striking. Reasons include common assumptions between Humanists, Jews and Christians; and widespread, though unarticulated, popular acceptance of some version of utilitarianism.

Increasing numbers in western nations from non-western religious backgrounds, with globalisation in general, are forcing cultures into closer proximity. Some seem able to co-exist more or less happily, whilst others raise major issues due to different world-views. We might reasonably suspect the western consensus is close to its limit in creating a harmonious civil society, let alone a global civilisation that respects contributions of all people.

Is it possible to find underlying principles that could serve as foundation for shared consensus on ethical virtues? We examine the Principle of Goodness as a possible candidate. Such a foundational principle would need, firstly, to relate positively to most people’s existing ideals and beliefs (although it might not be recognised as existing common knowledge for many); and secondly, would have to explain, confirm, correct, and enhance existing ethical understanding.

An earlier paper addressed the former requirement, showing that the Principle of Goodness is found in many major world religions and philosophies. This paper addresses the latter, taking test cases from the “Affirmations of Humanism”, and investigates its conformance with common expectations of ethical virtues, while being open to the possibility that it might add to or modify our intuitive expectations.

Keywords: Universal Ethics, Planetary Ethics, Ethics, Philosophy, Social Systems, Principle of Goodness, Affirmations of Humanism, Globalisation
Stream: Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Uncovering the Planetary Ethic

Ron House

Lecturer, Department of Mathematics and Computing, University of Southern Queensland

The author is a lecturer in computer science at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba Australia, with long-standing interests in philosophy, ethics and religion. He was one of the original planners of that University’s cross-cultural course, Australia, Asia, and the Pacific, which aimed to promote cooperation and understanding across the many cultures and peoples of the region.

Ref: H06P0581