Monday, October 12, 2009

Economics 12/10/2009: Ethics learning curve

Today, I received the following mass email from Trinity College Admin:

"On Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 5:03 PM, Secretary wrote:
Dear Colleague,

I am pleased to announce that the Equality Fund 2009-2010 is now accepting applications for innovative and creative projects promoting equality and diversity in College. ...The themes selected for this year are:
  • Enriching the inclusive College community
  • Mental health and equality
  • 'Treat others as they would like to be treated' (developing dignity and respect)
  • Men and women in College: achieving full participation and potential
  • Challenging Stereotypes..
Kind regards...

What did catch my attention is the third bullet point above. The theme dictum is "Treat others as they would like to be treated".

Trinity College is packed with smart and erudite women and men. I wonder how many of them have thought this to be an unfortunate (philosophically-speaking) attempt to establish a moral imperative rule. Unfortunate because as with all moral imperatives, the nobility of intentions might lead to an unintended consequence.

Imagine you are facing a person who might wish to inflict self-harm. Should you 'threat him as he would like to be treated'? Or you are facing a person who wishes to engage in an act you find repulsive? Or morally objectionable? Or legally wrong?

In ethics, it is widely recognized that moral imperatives do not provide sound grounds for ethical judgments or action. May be Trinity's Administration can acquaint itself with philosophy 101?
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