Volume 15, Issue 1, Spring 2015
Ethics, Transformation, and Practice
A Perspective on Liberal Education in the Global Age
Ethics, as basic to liberal education, is often overly abstracted in philosophy departments, laboring under an unexamined assumption that ethics consists in construction and application of the one best theory. In professionally oriented programs it often becomes relativistic or merely procedural. Centered on the essentially ineffable quality of good or right action, this essay offers a suggestion as to the design and pedagogy of an interdisciplinary ethics course suited to the global age. Components include: consideration of the alternative positions on cases; ongoing inquiry into the nature of good action; examination of the philosophical perspectives (or “theories”) which inform positions people take in particular cases/situations; experience of dialogue/deliberation, as the practice through which we can cultivate ever expanded ethical awareness; and appreciative recognition of ethical maturity as it is articulated in the great traditions, for example, as practical wisdom (phronesis) or “action of non-action” (wu wei).