What Endures: Sustaining Ethical Thinking

By Charles V. Blatz.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Suppose both the political and the social depend upon ethical thinking. Then they rest upon thinking found in mutualistic work yielding life-integrating judgments and articulations of values, as well as accountability relations that form a space for this work and the testing of it. Ethical thinking sustains the social in generating and testing reasons and saliencies. What are the details? The discussion sets aside a number of leading alternatives: seeking the source of reasons in retributive relations which define a space where responsible agents look for past compliance instead of future collaboration; seeking the source in nihilistic thought leading to chaos in social systems and leaving no explanation for an ethic; turning to relativism in ethics where only the speaker or the speaker’s group counts as a legitimate source of reasons for action but where there is no explanation of the choice of any particular reference point; relying on self-interested thinking which is no better than a form of relativism; or appealing to any of a number of principles without clear personal attachment leaving deductive systems notoriously removed from incorporating personal salience. Mutuality and an account of what I call the ontogeny of ethical reasons instead plausibly generate ethics while founding and sustaining social relations. Such mutuality allows reasons to arise personally, to be recognized by others while being articulated, and to either gain or lose legitimacy within various spaces of accountability relations. Such reasons will avoid the difficulties just mentioned. Thus the suggestion: the feature of ethics enabling the social and political to endure is a capacity for being part of the ontogeny of reasons, a capacity for personally founding and discovering reasoning, or for helping articulate and test these personal reasons in accountability relations.

Keywords: Ethics, Ethical, Mutualistic, Articulations of Reasons, Reasons, Personal Reasons, Articulations of Values, Accountability Relations, Personal Salience, Ontogeny of Ethical Reasons

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.309-320. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 774.632KB).

Charles V. Blatz

Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA

After study at the University of Michigan in philosophy (Ph.D. 1971) I took a teaching post at the University of Wyoming. During approximately 15 years at UW I developed a state-wide project of infusing critical thinking into secondary education classes. NEH funded the project for a year. After a 1.5 year visit at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana educational policy studies department, I went on to the University of Toledo as chair of the philosophy department (until 1996) and this coming year will be my 23rd at UT. While at Toledo I also directed the Humanities Institute and co-developed an NEH funded project in teaching the humanities in area secondary schools--Humanities 2000. I specialize first in ethical theory, ethics of the environment, of international development and of agriculture--see Blatz, Ethics and Agriculture: An Anthology on Current Issues in World Context and second in critical thinking and reasoning in communal contexts--see Blatz, Critical Thinking, An Introduction to Thinking and Living Well. I have numerous journal, book chapter and proceedings publications. Two recent pieces are “Ethical Impartiality, an Expression of the Spirit of Critical Thinking?” and “Reason, Peace, Transitional Justice and Punishment.”


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