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Friday, August 1, 2014

Ethics of causes

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The Group Task for the Social Ethics topic

The group task for the course is focussed on the engagement with a social cause. Before embarking on the task we need to be very clear what social ethics means and what a cause with underlying ethics look like.

The SACE course describes the examination of Social Ethics as:

  • to analyse the ways in which society as a whole deals with ethical issues.
  • to consider how ethical codes of conduct are determined by many social influences, including family, culture, religion, and work.
  • to understand the types of power that support different value systems.
  • to analyse positions taken and appraise social issues that involve complex ethical judgments.
  • to consider issues such as animal rights; job discrimination; assisted suicide; censorship; welfare and social justice; punishment; sexual ethics; the ethics of social research; the mass media; privacy; and the role of new technologies such as domestic and reproductive technology, production technology, and military technology.
  • to consider the origins and effects of repressive or unfair laws, policies, and/or agreements in relation to minorities and less powerful nations.
  • to research ways in which government, business, and community policies and practices relate to a particular ethical stance.
  • to explore and contribute to the implementation of goals related to ethical behaviour or to ecological and social sustainability.
  • to identify and analyse ethical issues relevant to their own positions and practices,and assess appropriate strategies to change these if appropriate.
Hence the work for your group is to select and engage in some way with a group which addresses some of the aspects of social ethics listed above. In regards to what social ethics actulally is, here is a definition which may help your develop your thinking on ethics.

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that involves examining concepts of right and wrong behaviour. Generally it relates to dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.
More specifically ethics is two things

First, ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. And, ethical standards include standards relating to rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by consistent and well-founded reasons.
Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards. As mentioned above, feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical. So it is necessary to constantly examine one's standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well-founded. Ethics also means, then, the continuous effort of studying our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct, and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are reasonable and solidly-based.

As an example of an ethical cause I thought it was worth us considering is the Kony 2012 initiative. The cause is related to the campaign to gather support to stop the human rights violations inflicted on the people, in particular the children of Uganda by rebel leader Joseph Kony. The video called Kony 2012 which is linked to on this blog is graphic and confronting in parts and may upset some people. The Kony 2012 video.
The question for us to consider is: How is the Kony2012 an ethical cause?

The following quotes from the video certainly have an ethical flavour for us to discuss - what are the ethics involved in the Kony2012 initiative?
  • “Planet connection through technology.”
  • “Technology enables us to connect anywhere, anytime ... This connection is changing the way the world works.” In short the video is highlighting the fact that technology is making space diminish through the power of technology leading to increased global interconnection.
  • “There are more people on Facebook today than there were on the planet 200 years ago.”
  • “Humanities greatest desire is to belong and connect.”
  • “Where you live should not determine whether you live?
  • “It is not just important for one people but for everyone to capture and stop Kony.
  • “Kony’s name needs to be everywhere.”
  • “Will use 20 culture makers to make Kony famous?
  • “Today the people of the world can see each other and can protect each other.”
  • “The power of media to mobilise the world to act.”
  • “To change the conversation of a culture.”
  • “We are living in a new world, a Facebook world where 750 million people share ideas, not thinking in borders, it’s a global community.”
  • “Arresting Joseph Kony will prove that the world we live in has new rules, that the technology that has brought our planet together is allowing us to respond the problems of our friends – a place where children, no matter where they live have a childhood, free from fear.”
For more information on the Kony2012 initiative go to:
As a footnote it is worth examining the controversy surrounding this initiative in terms of the recent reports on the use of funds, scamming accusations and the mental health of the film-maker Jason Russell, the driver of Kony2012. A fascinating case study full of ethical questions in relation to causes.

The new Kony 2012 video called 'Move"

Research all you can about this example of a cause - was it a scam? What do you think?

Fundamental questions = Is it a cause to support on the basis of ethics and what are the ethics involved?

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