Lou Marinoff, who I first met at Davos did the session on Wisdom. Lou is the one who convinced me to learn more about the Soka Gakkai and someone who I've grown to respect a great deal. This was the first organized session with Lou that I'd ever attended and it was truly great.
Here is the outline of the workshop:
- The ABSs of Virtue: Aristotle, Budha and Confucius
- The cardinal virtues: Courage, Temperance, Justice, Wisdom
- The pace of virtue in the global village
- Courage is implicated in leadership
- Temperance is implicated in creativity
- Justice: doing the right thing at the right time
- Wisdom: understanding what is right
- Main strengths and weaknesses of contending ethical systems
He started out the session by telling us that Plato thought a lot about the definition of what is Good and couldn't answer it. The idea was that if you could figure out what was Good you could determine what was Right. After you could judge what was Right, Justice could be rendered.
Aristotle said that Virtue is the Golden Mean between two extremes. It was all about balance. "Rational" comes from "ratio". The idea was to triangulate from two extremes of vice. For example, Courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness.Then came the Eleven Way of Being Right.
Buddha said that Virtue is the practice of the Middle Way. Temperance means neither Abstention nor over-indulgence but rather, moderation.
Confucius said that Virtue is the application of the Tao (the Way), striving for balance and harmony.
Hegel talked about transcendence which means to simultaneously negate and preserve. For instance, someone who is courageous becomes independent of his/her nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc. while at the same time allowing the person not to renounce his/her nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc. This is true of all virtues.
The main philosophical task confronting inhabitants of the global village in the 21st century is to transcend their most lethal, destructive and counter-productive differences. The inculcation of virtues conducive to this end requires global education reform. Such reform is much less costly, and much more longer-lasting than every form of coercion. Neither sovereign governments, nor organized religions, nor academic institutions, are able to bear sufficient responsibility for supporting or implementing global educational reform. this responsibility falls to global business interests, to the WEF, and to the philosophical practitioners on the ground.
- deontology - rules tell us what is right and wrong
- teleology - The end justifies (or sanctifies) the means
- virtue ethics - goodness comes from virtues, which are like habits
- humanistic existentialism - what we choose to do determines what we value
- nihilistic existentialism - "God is dead." And we killed him. So all moral bets are off.
- analytic ethics - "Goodness" cannot be defined or analyzed
- correlative ethics - every right entails an obligation, and vice-versa
- sociobiology - ideas of "right" and "wrong" are motivated by our genes
- feminist ethics - women have different moral priorities: e.g. ethics of caring
- legal moralism - if it's legal, it's ethical
- meta-ethical relativism - each situation has its own unique ethical dimension
We discussed the relative merits and weaknesses of each of these ethical systems. Lou also pointed out that there were MANY more, but these eleven were a good place to start. The idea was to try to get to justice. Justice being defined as doing the right thing at the right time. Lou also pointed out that many people like the notion of doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Turing and other pointed out that this utilitarian method was inherently flawed because one can not maximize a problem for two variables. You could strive to cause the greatest good or strive to affect the greatest number, but not both. Interesting perspective...
After we had these eleven ways of being right in our heads, we were told to identify a moral dilemma. We broke off into small groups and using these ethical models we tried to argue both for and against our solution to the problem and tried to justify the solution. It was a really interesting exercise and I found that the ability to discuss moral dilemmas with this framework made them MUCH easier to understand.
If my classes in college had been like this, I wouldn't have dropped out.