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Notes on Heather
Widdows, Global Ethics:
An Introduction, chapter 1
Preliminary Questions
What is philosophy?
What are some examples of philosophical
What are the main divisions of philosophy?
Is everyone capable of doing philosophy?
What is Philosophy?
This compound word originates from two Greek words:
philia = “(friendly) love”
sophia = “wisdom”
Some Important Philosophical
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Does God exist?
Why is there evil in the world?
Who am I?
What happens after I die?
Am I free or determined in my beliefs and actions?
What is the relationship between the self and
What is a just society?
When is it morally permissible to break an unjust law?
How should political change happen?
Is there progress in history?
What is the meaning of life?
The Four Main Divisions of Philosophy
Metaphysics = the study of reality
Epistemology = the study of knowledge
Axiology = the study of value
Logic = the study of correct reasoning
Types of Philosopher
Justin Smith has usefully classified philosophers into six ideal types:
The Curiosus (or Curiosa) = inquirers into the natural world
The Sage = seekers of wisdom beyond the realm of ordinary human
The Gadfly = challengers of social norms in order to correct and improve
The Ascetic = renouncers of conventional social roles who seeks inner
self control
The Mandarin = members of a social elite who seeks to provide advice to
The Courtier = public intellectuals who, unlike gadflies, seek not to
change society, but to advance their careers and reputations
But we could add a seventh type:
The Militant = organizers of collective social transformation
An Example: Climate Change
Metaphysical Questions: Is climate change real? Or is it a
Epistemological Questions: Is climate change human
caused? If so, how can we know? Or is climate change just
a matter of natural variations?
Axiological Questions: Should we care about climate
change? If so, why? If not, why not? What should we
(individuals, groups, organizations, states) do, if anything,
about climate change?
Logical (Conceptual) Questions: Has humanity altered the
previous geological epoch, the “Holocene,” and entered
into a new one? Should it be called the “Anthropocene”? Or
should it be called the “Capitalocene”?
Is Everyone Capable of Doing
According to the ancient Greek philosophy Aristotle
(384 – 322 BCE), there are two conditions that are
necessary for the practice of philosophy:
1. a sense of wonder
2. leisure time
MLK on the Need to be “Maladjusted”
A clip from his 1963 speech at Michigan State
The Organization of Widdows’
What is Global Ethics? (chapter 1)
Three Case Studies: Female Genital Cutting, Buying
and Selling Body Parts, Torture (chapter 2)
Ethical Theory (Chapters 3-6)
Applied Issues (Chapter 7-11)
Why Global Ethics Matters
“How we resolve (or fail to resolve) the dilemmas of global ethics will
determine the framework of future global governance. This will shape
and limit the possible relationships and opportunities of all global
actors; moreover, decisions made now will affect future generations”
(p. 1).
Why Global Ethics Now?
“[G]lobalization—the increasing interdependence of global society
economically, culturally and politically—has created truly global
dilemmas that require global solutions. Global ethics, then, is the
response to these new dilemmas” (p. 5).
Hans Küng’s Four “Irrevocable Directives”
as the Basis for His Own Global Ethic
Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life.
Commitment to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order.
Commitment to a culture of tolerance and life of truthfulness.
Commitment to a culture of equal rights and partnership between
men and women.
Three Characteristics of Global
Global in scope
Combines theory and practice
The Global Ethics Commitment
“[G]lobal ethicists have a commitment to making a difference in terms
of affecting policy and also in terms of their individual actions and
commitments. The topics that global ethics addresses cannot be
dismissed as just theoretical issues; they require us to act” (p. 11).
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