What are fundamental ethical principles?
Working from this basic assumption I created the Centre for Defined Ethics and embarked on a five year, wide-ranging consultation with numerous ethical, philosophical, religious and citizen groups both in the UK and abroad, to ask the question, "What are fundamental ethical principles?"
From the very beginning I found that there is a remarkable and broad ranging agreement, regardless of class, creed or race on the basic axioms on fundamental principles around the world - a real shared Moral Compass exists. Few people or organisations could articulate all of the principles together, but consistently the same fundamental principles were raised time and time again. These are what society already believes are fundamental ethical principles, these fundamental principles are already our shared Moral Compass. Largely unrecognised, these are the principles that are holding society together. Societies across the world already have a sense of shared identity on this list of fundamental core ethics that have been discovered and identified, not created by the centre.
The intention is that the Moral Compass is about Personal ethics, or how we as individuals aspire to conduct ourselves towards one another. Business ethics, Environmental ethics, Medical ethics, Confidentially ethics, Animal ethics, Communication ethics, etc, are separate categories all drawing inspiration from Personal ethics.
This is covenant of the Moral Compass we already have. These are the standards of a civilised society.
The Moral Compass
- Do no harm.
- Accept responsibility for personal actions and the consequences of those actions.
- Accept a duty of care.
- Affirm the individualís right to self-determination.
- Put the truth first.
- Never use a person as merely an unconsenting means to an end, even if the end benefits others.
- Be honest.
- Honour agreements.
- Conduct relationships with integrity.
- Leave a positive legacy to future generations.
The list seems so obvious and familiar because these are the shared principles we already have. They are not merely about a consensus but a benchmark society already shares. These principles are fundamental, not arbitrary. These principles are the antidote to moral relativism. In the increasingly pluralistic societies of the modern world this is the moral cement that binds us all together. It is a powerful vehicle for social cohesion because it puts individual responsibility in a shared social context where we can all celebrate a sense of ourselves and a victory for human dignity.
Society is at a critical ethical cusp, for if we fail to recognise a clearly codified code of core ethics, we are doomed to repeat the inevitable vagaries, ephemeral restraints and conflicts of moral relativism. Now is the time to celebrate and build on this existing ethical infrastructure. By promoting a firm foundation for core ethical concepts and fundamental shared values between people, a codified Moral Compass encourages a strong social sense, promotes trust, unity and an ethically-driven society.