Frequently Asked Questions
Why a universal ethic?
Because all intercultural co-operation and dialogue are grounded in shared ethical understandings. Conflict prevention begins with common moral ground.
Why are you trying to do this?
I believe that the question is vitally important because it is difficult to argue a case for ethics and citizenship, if you then argue that there is no such thing as definable core principles. Without clear fundamental principles everything is simply enculturation and moral relativism. It is necessary to define and codify Human Rights in order that people can act on them, and I believe that the same applies to ethics.
Don't be silly you can't define ethics.
The very idea that core ethical principles can be codified is 'poo-pooed' by the ethical establishment, which accepts no limitation to relativism. Yet this is the same establishment that promotes "...a common framework of ethics..." for society.
The idea that there are core ethical principles is risible, there is only moral relativism.
This is the current status quo in ethical thinking and the position adopted and taught by the majority of ethical organisations. For them the idea of ethics is merely a starting point for a group discussion on "what would be the best thing to do in this or that particular circumstance" but on no account would there be any application of, or reference to, core principles. The idea of a defined Moral Compass is rejected outright in favour of a more generalised and inconclusive discussion group.
Why is approaching an ethical dilemma better using a clear Moral Compass rather than custom and discussion?
Having a clear Moral Compass based on fundamental core ethical principles makes it possible to apply clear principles to the ethical dilemma in a consistent manner. This provides for a much more measured course of action than applying the 'best of intentions' which may be inconsistent and unethical.
What is the difference between Moral Values and Moral Virtues?
This definition helps distinguish between moral values and moral virtues. Moral virtues (often quoted as moral values), are things like bravery, patience, altruism, generosity, prudence etc, which affirm who a person is, whilst morality concerns itself with defining what a person should do.
Surely it's not possible to define harm?
The arguments against the existence of a Moral Compass tend to centre on the impossibility of defining harm at all. Yet, philosophically it is impossible to define anything.
How can you have a Moral Compass without god?
If you argue that the only reason to have ethical principles is concern about some final judgement from an all seeing god, it doesn't say much for you as a person.
What about the 10 Commandments?
The 10 Commandments or the Decalogue are supposedly the religious rules handed down from god and as such are not core ethical principles.
Who are you to say what the Moral Compass is?
The intention is by the application of clear fundamental rules, to create a benchmark for the Moral Compass by which further discussion on core ethical principles can proceed.
I have a better list.
I believe that creating a better list will be difficult to achieve as the Moral Compass is based on fundamental core ethical principles. If the starting point for fundamental core ethical principles is not causing harm to people and the list is 'Consistent, Leaves no gaps and Moral', then there is little room for manoeuvre.
What about an infinite "duty of care"?
The argument is that even if moral values are clearly defined, the obligations then created by them are so huge, they become impossible to implement in any meaningful way and become ridiculous and therefore one becomes immediately overwhelmed by an infinite burden and responsibility.
What about the "Golden Rule"?
'Do as you would be done by' is found in some form in every ethical tradition. Kant points out for example, that the Golden Rule can be misapplied. A criminal can throw it at a judge, asking him how he would like it if he were being sentenced - yet the sentence may be just. A person in good circumstances may gladly agree that others should not benefit him, if he could be excused from benefiting them. He apparently abides by the Golden Rule. So something with more structure is needed.
What about Animal ethics, Business ethics, Environmental ethics, Medical ethics, etc?
The intention is that the Moral Compass is about how we as people act towards each other. I would be interested in comments about core principles for other disciplines.
Back to the New Site
'Celebrating our Common Moral Compass'
Aims of the Centre
The Moral Compass
The Case for a defined Moral Compass
The Rules behind the Moral Compass
Frequently Asked Questions
Moral principles defined: a decision-making perspective