Transcript: Margaret Somerville | Dec 17, 2006

[Theme music plays]

The opening sequence rolls. The logo of “Big Ideas” featuring a lit lamp bulb appears against an animated yellow slate.
Then, Andrew Moodie appears in the studio. The walls are decorated with screens featuring lit lamp bulbs, and two signs read “Big ideas.”
Andrew is in his early forties, clean-shaven, with short curly black hair. He’s wearing a maroon shirt.

He says HELLO.
I'M ANDREW MOODIE.
THIS IS
BIG IDEAS.
RECENTLY, THERE WAS AN ELECTION
DOWN SOUTH AND ONE OF THE MOST
HOTLY CONTESTED RACES WAS
BETWEEN DEMOCRAT CLAIR MACASCAL
AND REPUBLICAN INCUMBENT JIM
TALENT.
NOW...
ONE OF MACASCAL'S POLITICAL ADS
DEPICTED THE ACTOR MICHAEL J.
FOX WHO IS SUFFERING FROM
PARKINSON'S DISEASE.
HE WAS URGING SUPPORT FOR STEM
CELL RESEARCH.
THE ADS QUICKLY BECAME A VERY
HOT POLITICAL TOPIC AND RADIO
PERSONALITY RUSH LIMBAUGH MOCKED
MICHAEL J. FOX ACCUSING HIM OF
EXAGGERATING HIS ILLNESS TO GAIN
SYMPATHY.
THEY POLITICAL THEATRE DOESN'T
MATTER.
WHAT MATTERS IS THE SUBJECT
MATTER.
THE USE OF SCIENCE TO MAKE US
SUFFER LESS AND THIS MAKES
MARGARET SOMERVILLE VERY
CONCERNED.
SHE'S WARNING US TO TREAD VERY,
VERY CAREFULLY.
MARGARET SOMERVILLE IS THE
FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRE
FOR MEDICINE AND ETHICS IN LAW
AT McGILL UNIVERSITY.
HERE SHE IS PRESENTING THE LAST
OF THIS YEAR'S MASSEY LECTURES.

A clip plays in which Margaret Somerville stands behind an elaborate wooden podium on a stage. She’s in her fifties, with straight brown hair in a bob and bangs. She’s wearing glasses, a black cardigan and a red shirt.

She says COMMON
HUMANITY AND UNIVERSAL
RESPONSIBILITY LINK US.
BUT MUCH OF THE TIME WE ACT AS
THOUGH THIS IS NOT THE CASE.
WE ARE IN DENIAL AS INDIVIDUALS
AND SOCIETIES.
IN THE PAST, OUR DENIAL HARMED
THOSE WHO'S PLIGHT WE IGNORED.
TODAY, IT HARMS EVERYONE WHICH
IS WHY WE, THE DENIERS CAN NO
LONGER AFFORD IT IF INDEED WE
EVER COULD.
I BELIEVE THAT ONE WAY TO
PROMOTE THE CHANGE THAT WE NEED
IS TO FIND A SHARED ETHICS.
SUCH A SEARCH WILL HELP US TO
START FROM AND EMPHASIZE WHAT WE
HAVE IN COMMON.
WHEN WE SIMPLY TOOK THAT
COMMONALITY FOR GRANTED, WE
COULD AFFORD THE LUXURY OF
STARTING FROM AND FOCUSING ON
OUR DISAGREEMENTS BUT THIS IS NO
LONGER OUR SITUATION.
SEARCHING FOR A SHARED ETHICS
WILL ALSO HELP US TO IDENTIFY
THOSE SUCH AS TERRORISTS AND
TYRANTS WITH WHOM WE HAVE
SERIOUS FUNDAMENTAL VALUE
CONFLICTS THAT THREATEN
INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETIES.
IT WILL BE FAR FROM A COMPLETE
SOLUTION TO THE WORLD'S
PROBLEMS, NOTHING CAN BE, BUT I
BELIEVE IT CAN HELP.
THESE LECTURES ARE ABOUT
SEARCHING FOR A SHARED ETHICS
FOR AN INTER-DEPENDENT WORLD.
THAT IS AS BRITISH PRIME
MINISTER TONY BLAIR SUGGESTS, A
WORLD IN WHICH A CRISIS
SOMEWHERE IS NECESSARILY A
CRISIS ELSEWHERE AND SOMETIMES A
CRISIS EVERYWHERE.
A FEW YEARS AGO, I PROPOSED TWO
FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES FOR A
SHARED ETHICS.
DEEP RESPECT FOR ALL LIFE, IN
PARTICULAR HUMAN LIFE AND
PROFOUND RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN
SPIRIT.
IN THESE LECTURES, I'VE BEEN
PUTTING FORWARD TWO CONCEPTS
THAT I BELIEVE CAN HELP US TO
IMPLEMENT THOSE PRINCIPLES.
RECOGNIZING AND DEVELOPING A
SENSE OF THE SACRED THAT WE CAN
ALL SHARE.
I CALL IT THE SECULAR SACRED AND
ADOPTING A BASIC PRESUMPTION IN
FAVOUR OF THE NATURAL AS THE
STARTING POINT FOR OUR DECISION
MAKING ABOUT ETHICS.
I BELIEVE THAT TOGETHER, THESE
TWO PRINCIPLES AND THESE TWO
CONCEPTS CAN HELP US TO REALIZE
TWO CLOSELY LINKED GOALS.
FINDING A SHARED ETHICS AND
GENERATING HOPE.
THE OXYGEN OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT
THAT IS ESSENTIAL TO OUR
HUMANITY.
IN THIS LAST OF MY MASSEY
LECTURES, I WANT TO EXPLORE THE
QUESTION OF WHERE WE MIGHT GO
FROM HERE IN SEARCHING FOR
ETHICS WHETHER AS INDIVIDUALS,
FAMILIES, COMMUNITIES, SOCIETIES
OR A GLOBAL WORLD.
IF WE TOOK EXPLORING A
CONSTELLATION OF STARS AS A
METAPHOR FOR OUR SEARCH FOR A
SHARED ETHICS, WHAT CONCEPTS,
ATTRIBUTES OR CAPACITIES MIGHT
WE NOW WANT TO FIND IN THAT
ETHICAL CONSTELLATION?
SOME THAT COME TO MY MIND ARE A
RESPECT FOR NATURE, A SENSE OF
THE SACRED, THE INTELLECTUAL JOY
OF REASON, HOPE, AWE, WONDER AND
MYSTERY, CURIOSITY AND
CREATIVITY, INTUITION, TRUST,
LOVE AND HONESTY, COURAGE,
INTEGRITY, COMPASSION AND
KINDNESS, GENEROSITY AND
RESTRAINT AND I WOULD ADD A
SENSE OF HUMOUR.
THESE ARE NOT ALL OF THE SAME
NATURE OR OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE
BUT ALL HAVE ROLES TO PLAY IN
HELPING US TO FIND MEANING IN
LIFE.
WHICH MEANS, THEY ALL HAVE ROLES
TO PLAY IN HELPING US TO FIND
ETHICS.
I'M GOING TO BEGIN HOWEVER BY
LOOKING AT A CONCEPT THAT'S
RELEVANT TO ALL OF THE VIRTUES
THAT OF COMPLEXITY.
ESPECIALLY IT'S RELATION TO
UNCERTAINTY AND MEANING MAKING.
THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY
DEFINES COMPLEXITY AS INVOLVED
NATURE OR STRUCTURE, INTRICACY,
A WHOLE COMPREHENDING IN IT'S
COMPASS A NUMBER OF PARTS,
ESPECIALLY IN LATER USE OF
INTER-CONNECTED PARTS OR
INVOLVED PARTICULARS.
A COMPLEX OR COMPLICATED WHOLE.
TRULY A COMPLEX DEFINITION.
I SUGGEST THAT COMPLEXITY AND
MEANING MAKING HAVE A SYMBIOTIC
RELATION.
COMPLEXITY IS NECESSARY FOR
MEANING MAKING AND MEANING
MAKING IS NECESSARY TO DEAL WITH
COMPLEXITY.
I'VE COME TO THAT CONCLUSION
THROUGH LONG TIME PUZZLING ABOUT
WHAT ETHICIST, Dr. DAVID ROY
MEANT WHEN HE SAID “SUFFERING IS
WHERE MEANING CROSSES PATHS WITH
BIOLOGY.”
THIS SEEMED TO ME TO BE AN
IMPORTANT STATEMENT BUT THE MORE
I THOUGHT ABOUT IT, THE LESS I
UNDERSTOOD IT.
THAT IS, UNTIL I LOOKED AT IT IN
THE LIGHT OF COMPLEXITY.
SUFFERING CAN NOT BE
ACCOMMODATED IN OUR LIVES OR
EVEN PARTIALLY UNDERSTOOD
UNLESS WE SEE IT AS AN IMMENSELY
COMPLEX PHENOMENON.

A caption appears on screen. It reads “Margaret Somerville. Founding Director, Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, McGill University. 2006 Massey Hall Lecturer, ‘The ethical imagination.’ Convocation Hall, Toronto, October 27, 2006.”

Margaret continues WHEN WE
AS BIOLOGICAL CREATURES WITNESS
SUFFERING OR SUFFER OURSELVES
AND SEE THIS EXPERIENCE AS
COMPLEX, WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY
TO FIND MEANING IN LIFE.
IT'S NOT AN OPPORTUNITY THAT THE
VAST MAJORITY WOULD SEEK.
INDEED, USUALLY WE DO ALL THAT WE CAN TO
AVOID IT BUT THAT DOES NOT TAKE
AWAY FROM THE GREAT VALUE MANY
PEOPLE FIND IN SUFFERING.
MORE OVER, THE MEANINGS ARE NOT
ALWAYS COMFORTING AND PEACEFUL
AND EVEN WHEN MEANINGS ARE
COMFORTING, THEY CAN BE RELATED
TO DISTRESSING ONES.
ROY RELATES HOW A PATIENT
DESCRIBED THE COMPLEX REALITY OF
FINDING MEANING AND SUFFERING AS
EXPERIENCING THE SOUND OF THE
SOUL SINGING AS IT USED TO DO
BEFORE IT LOST IT'S CARRIAGE AND
IT'S LOVE.
IN SHORT, FINDING TRUE, COMPLEX
MEANING REQUIRES BOTH COURAGE
AND LOVE.
THIS RAISES THE QUESTION, WHAT
DOES AN ETHICS OF COMPLEXITY
MEAN?
IS IT MEANT TO GOVERN COMPLEX
SITUATIONS OR TO BE A COMPLEX
ETHICS OR BOTH?
PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT
TO MAKE ABOUT COMPLEXITY IS THAT
WE NEED TO IDENTIFY IT, WHETHER
IT'S FACTUAL OR ETHICAL OR BOTH
AND DEAL WITH IT ACCORDINGLY.
COMPLEXITY REQUIRES BEHIND
COMFORTABLE WITH AMBIGUITIES,
IRONIES AND CONTRADICTIONS.
IN SHORT, BEING COMFORTABLE WITH
UNCERTAINTY.
DEALING ETHICALLY WITH
COMPLEXITY AND BEING COMFORTABLE
WITH UNCERTAINTY ARE LINKED.
WE MAKE ETHICAL MISTAKES WHEN WE
TRY TO REDUCE NECESSARY
COMPLEXITY TO SIMPLICITY OR
NECESSARY UNCERTAINTY TO
CERTAINTY.
THE RESULT IS APPROACHES TO
ETHICS THAT ARE SIMPLE, CERTAIN
AND WRONG.
THESE ERRORS ARE MADE ON BOTH
SIDES OF THE ETHICAL DIVIDE.
WE MAY HAVE TO LIVE WITH
UNCERTAINTY WHEN WE CAN'T
RECONCILE COMPETING CLAIMS THAT
SEEM EQUALLY MERITORIOUS.
FOR EXAMPLE, WITH RESPECT TO
ACCESS TO LIMITED HEALTH CARE
RESOURCES.
SOME PEOPLE VIEW THEMSELVES AS
MANAGING AN INVERTED COMMERCE
UNCERTAINTY BUT THAT OFTEN
TRANSLATES TO OBSERVATION.
THE ALTERNATIVE IS TO OPENLY
ACCOMMODATE UNCERTAINTY.
SUCH AN APPROACH IS MORE LIKELY
TO RESULT IN AN ETHICAL OUTCOME.
WE SHOULD KEEP IN MIND THAT
WE'RE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO MAKE
ETHICAL MISTAKES WHEN WE TRY TO
RECONCILE THE IRRECONCILABLE.
INSTEAD OF LIVING WITH THAT
WHICH IS IRRECONCILABLE AND
ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THAT'S WHAT
WE'RE DOING.
THAT BRINGS TO MIND ISAIAH
BERLIN'S NOTION OF VALUED
PLURALISM.
IN DEVELOPING A THEORY OF THE
MORAL ORDER, BERLIN POSTULATES
THAT VALUES CAN BE BOTH TRUE AND
IRRECONCILABLE AT THE SAME TIME
AND THAT OFTEN SOCIETIES ARE
FORCED TO CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO
COMPETING GOODS RATHER THAN GOOD
AND EVIL.
FOR INSTANCE, FOR MANY AMERICANS
UPHOLDING THE RIGHT TO BARE ARMS
WHEN THERE'S AN EPIDEMIC OF
DEATHS FROM SMALL ARMS IN
AMERICA RAISES SUCH AN ISSUE.
IN CASES OF THIS KIND, THERE IS
A TENSION AND OFTEN AN OUTRIGHT
CONFLICT IN RESPECTING AN
INDIVIDUAL'S RIGHT TO SELF
DETERMINATION AND LIBERTY AND
PROTECTION OF THE COMMUNITY.
CONSEQUENTLY, WE'RE FORCED TO
CHOOSE WHICH OF THESE VALUES WE
WILL HONOUR AND WHICH WE WILL
BREACH.
THE SAME KIND OF CONFLICT OCCURS
WHEN WE BREACH PEOPLE'S RIGHTS
TO LIBERTY BY QUARANTINING THEM
TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF SARS OR
AVIAN FLU OR WE BREACH THEIR
RIGHTS TO PRIVACY IN ORDER TO
COMBAT TERRORISM.
WE NEED IMAGINATION TO DEAL WITH
COMPLEXITY, NOT JUST REASON.
IN PARTICULAR, WE NEED
IMAGINATION AS EXHIBITED IN
MYTH.
OUR PRIMARY FOCUS ON REASON MAY
HAVE DEPRIVED US OF THE ABILITY
TO DEAL WITH SOME INSTANCES OF
COMPLEXITY.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE COMPLEXITIES
WITH WHICH DEATH FACES US.
EUTHANASIA IS OFTEN PRESENTED AS
A REASONED RESPONSE TO DEATH
ALTHOUGH A BROAD RANGE OF
POWERFUL EMOTIONS IS USUALLY IN
PLAY.
AN EXTREME EXAMPLE OF THIS IS TO
PRO-EUTHANASIA PHYSICIANS WHO
RECENTLY ADVOCATED THE USE OF
VETERINARIANS IN VETERINARY
MEDICINE AS THE BEST TO
IMPLEMENT EUTHANASIA.
THEY ARGUE THAT THEIRS IS A
TOTALLY RATIONAL REASONED
PROPOSAL AND IT MAY WELL BE BUT
THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT'S
ETHICALLY ACCEPTABLE.
IT CAN BE COMPARED NEGATIVELY I
BELIEVE WITH IMAGINATIVE
RESPONSES TO DEATH, INCLUDING
THOSE FOUND IN VARIOUS
RELIGIONS.
INDEED, I WAS AT A CONFERENCE AT
WHICH ONE PHYSICIAN GOT UP WITH
A BIG BOTTLE OF VETERINARY
PENTOTHAL AND SAID THIS IS WHAT
WE SHOULD BE USING.
AN IMPORTANT FUNCTION OF
RELIGION HAS BEEN TO KEEP US
FROM ADOPTING SIMPLISTIC
RESPONSES TO COMPLEX REALITIES
SUCH AS DEATH AND ONE WAY IT DID
SO WAS BY KEEPING OPEN WAYS OF
KNOWING IN ADDITION TO REASON.
QUESTIONS WE NEED TO ADDRESS
INCLUDE WHETHER OUR FEAR OF
UNCERTAINTY HAS CAUSED US TO
SEEK NON-COMPLEX OUTCOMES?
IF SO, HAVE WE AS A RESULT LOST
A NECESSARY BALANCE?
FOR INSTANCE, BETWEEN RESPECT
FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND
FULFILLING THE NEEDS OF SOCIETY.
IT'S MUCH EASIER, ESPECIALLY IN
A POLITICAL CONTEXT TO ADOPT
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS ARE ALWAYS
TRUMP'S APPROACH THAN TO WORK
OUT A COMPLEX BALANCE BETWEEN
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND SOCIETAL
NEEDS.
SEEKING BALANCE IS A CONTINUING
PROCESS, NOT A ONCE IN FOREVER
OUTCOME AND SEEKING BALANCE AND
UNCERTAINTY ARE RELATED.
OFTEN WE CAN SEEK BALANCE ONLY
INDIRECTLY AND THAT CAUSES US TO
LIVE WITH UNCERTAINTY.
THAT IS, WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF
LOSING OUR BALANCE.
PHILOSOPHER CHARLES TAYLOR IS
ALWAYS WORTH QUOTING AND THAT
HOLDS TRUE IN DISCUSSING
COMPLEXITY.
HE SAYS WE'VE SEEN A VICTORY OF
THE MIND AND THE WILL OVER
COMPLEXITY AND SPIRIT AND WE'VE
SEEN A VICTORY OF TECHNOLOGY
OVER MYSTERY.
IN OTHER WORDS, WE'VE LOST
COMPLEXITY, SPIRIT AND MYSTERY
AND REPLACED THEM WITH MIND,
WILL AND TECHNOLOGY.
THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT MIND,
WILL AND TECHNOLOGY ARE BAD OR
WORTHLESS.
INDEED, THEY'RE NECESSARY BUT
NOT SUFFICIENT TO LIVING A FULLY
HUMAN LIFE.
RATHER THE PROBLEM IS THAT MIND,
WILL AND TECHNOLOGY HAVE
REPLACED RATHER THAN
SUPPLEMENTED COMPLEXITY, SPIRIT
AND MYSTERY.
OUR REFUSAL TO ACCEPT COMPLEXITY
MIGHT BE AN EFFORT TO CONTROL
UNCERTAINTY AND THERE BY REDUCE
OUR FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN AND THE
ANXIETY THAT PRODUCES.
PARADOXICALLY, THAT MIGHT HAVE
BACKFIRED AND RESULTED IN THE
CREATION OF A CULTURE OF ANXIETY.
IT'S SAID THAT IN ORDER TO BE IN
DENIAL, A PERSON MUST HAVE AN
AWARENESS OF THE MATTER DENIED
IN ORDER TO KEEP IT REPRESSED.
REPRESSION USES UP LARGE AMOUNTS
OF PSYCHIC ENERGY AND CAN RESULT
IN DEPRESSION.
IN OTHER WORDS, MIGHT WE HAVE
PLACED OUR COLLECTIVE PSYCHE IN
DENIAL ABOUT COMPLEXITY AND IN
DOING SO, CREATED A SOCIAL
CLIMATE OF ANXIETY, FEAR AND
DEPRESSION.
MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE THERE HAS
BEEN A DECLINE OF TRUST IN OUR
SOCIETIES BUT IN SOME RESPECTS,
WE HAVE MORE TRUST NOW THAN IN
THE PAST.
TODAY, WE EAT FOOD THAT COMES
FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD
AND THAT IS PASSED THROUGH THE
HANDS OF COUNTLESS STRANGERS.
CONSIDER WHAT YOUR GREAT
GRANDMOTHER KNEW ABOUT THE
ORIGINS AND HANDLING OF THE FOOD
SHE ATE FOR BREAKFAST COMPARED
WITH WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT WHAT WE
EAT FOR BREAKFAST.
ON THE OTHER HAND, AUTHORITY
FIGURES SUCH AS POLITICIANS,
JUDGES AND POLICE MAY NOT BE ANY
MORE OR LESS TRUSTWORTHY THAN IN
THE PAST BUT WE NOW KNOW MORE
ABOUT WHAT THEY DO AND WE DO NOT
SIMPLY AUTOMATICALLY TRUST
PEOPLE IN AUTHORITY.
WE'VE CHANGED FROM HAVING BLIND
TRUST IN AUTHORITY FIGURES, THAT
IS TRUST ME BECAUSE I HAVE
STATUS, POWER AND AUTHORITY AND
I'LL ACT IN YOUR BEST INTERESTS
AND LOOK AFTER YOU TO REQUIRING
SUCH AUTHORITIES TO EARN OUR
TRUST.
TRUST ME BECAUSE I'LL ENSURE
THAT YOU CAN TRUST ME AND WILL
CONTINUE TO EARN YOUR TRUST.
THIS CHANGE EXPLAINS WHY NOW
AUTHORITY FIGURES FIND IT MORE
DIFFICULT TO GAIN AND KEEP OUR
TRUST.
IF THEY FAIL TO EARN IT,
ESPECIALLY BY BREACHING IT, WE
WITHDRAW IT.
MIGHT WE AS A SOCIETY HAVE LOST
TRUST BECAUSE WE'RE NOW UNABLE
TO TRUST ANYTHING WE CAN'T
EXPERIENCE DIRECTLY WITH OUR
SENSES.
WE TRUST ONLY WHAT WE CAN SEE OR
HEAR OR TOUCH.
AND MIGHT WE HAVE LOST TRUST
BECAUSE WE NOW ALSO HAVE VIRTUAL
REALITY WHICH MEANS THAT THINGS
THAT ARE NOT REAL CAN SEEM REAL
TO OUR SENSES.
I'VE BEEN WONDERING IF IN THE
PAST, RELIGIOUS BELIEF MIGHT
HAVE HELPED US TO DEVELOP THE
CAPACITY TO TRUST WHAT IS NOT
ACCESSIBLE TO OUR SENSES.
THOSE WITH FAITH IN RELIGION
LEARNED TO HAVE THIS KIND OF
TRUST FROM THE TIME THEY WERE
YOUNG CHILDREN.
ASSUMING WE'VE LOST TRUST IN
INTANGIBLE REALITIES, HOW MIGHT
THIS EFFECT OUR ABILITY TO PASS
ON VALUES TO FUTURE GENERATIONS?
PERHAPS YOUNG PEOPLE WILL NOT
TRUST VALUES IF THEY DO NOT
TRUST INTANGIBLES.
MORE OVER, IT MAY NOW BE EQUALLY
DIFFICULT FOR US TO TRUST WHAT
WE CAN PERCEIVE WITH OUR SENSES.
SO MANY THINGS THAT WE SEE CAN
NOT BE TRUSTED.
FOR EXAMPLE, VIDEO FOOTAGE SHOWN
ON TELEVISION OR IN DOCUMENTARY
FILMS IS SOMETIMES FAKED OR
RECONSTRUCTED.
MEDIA REPORTS AND DOCUMENTARIES
MUST BE HELD TO A HIGH STANDARD
OF TRUTH IF WE AS A SOCIETY ARE
NOT TO LOSE TRUST.
SOCIETAL TRUST IS DIFFICULT TO
ESTABLISH, FRAGILE AND EASY TO
DESTROY.
IT'S LOST BY THOUSANDS OF SMALL
CUTS TO IT'S INTEGRITY, NOT ONE
MAJOR EVENT.
THE ETHICAL CHALLENGE IS TO
ESTABLISH A CULTURE OF TRUST AND
TO DO THAT, WE MUST RESTORE OUR
FAITH IN A BASIC PRESUMPTION OF
TRUTH.
HERE I'M GOING TO POSE A SIMPLE
QUESTION THAT HAS NO SIMPLE
ANSWERS AND THAT LINKS TRUST,
COURAGE AND HOPE.
CAN WE TRUST THE FUTURE?
OR PERHAPS CAN THE FUTURE TRUST
US IS ALSO VERY RELEVANT.
I MENTIONED THE CONCEPT OF
OBLIGATIONS TO FUTURE
GENERATIONS IN AN EARLIER
LECTURE ALTHOUGH SOME PEOPLE
REJECT THE IDEA THAT WE HAVE ANY
SUCH OBLIGATIONS.
BUT SURELY AN ETHICS OF
RESPONSIBILITY REQUIRES THAT WE
ASK OURSELVES THIS, AT THE VERY
LEAST.
WHAT OBLIGATIONS DO WE OWE OUR
FUTURE GENERATIONS IF WE ARE TO
HOLD HUMAN LIFE ON TRUST FOR
THEM?
IF WE HAD TO ACT ETHICALLY
TOWARDS FUTURE GENERATIONS, WHAT
LIMITS SHOULD WE IMPOSE ON
OURSELVES NOW?
GERMAN PHILOSOPHER YERGIN
[Unclear] RESPONDS TO THAT
QUESTION WHEN DISCUSSING NEW
REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES.
HE SAYS THAT OUR ACTIONS IN
USING NEW TECHNI-SCIENCE MUST
NOT DEPRIVE FUTURE GENERATIONS
OF LIFE FULFILLING HUMAN
EXPERIENCES BY DEPRIVING OF
INNATE CAPACITIES FOR SELF
ACTUALIZATION, DEPRIVING THEM OF
A SENSIBLE AUTONOMY AND OF THE
PERSONAL FREEDOM NECESSARY TO
REALIZE THEIR OWN SELVES IN
LIVES IN THE WAYS THAT ARE
AVAILABLE TO US.
I'D SUM THAT UP BY SAYING THAT
WE HAVE OBLIGATIONS TO FUTURE
GENERATIONS TO PROTECT THE
ESSENCE OF OUR HUMANNESS AND IN
DOING SO, PROTECT THEIR
HUMANNESS.
WITHOUT NAMING THEM AS SUCH,
[Unclear] PROPOSES WE USE SOME
MORAL LIMITING DEVICES TO GUIDE
OUR DECISIONS ABOUT THE NEW
TECHNI-SCIENCE.
HE INVITES US TO ADOPT THE
PERSPECTIVE OF A FUTURE PRESENT
THAT WE MIGHT SOMEDAY PERHAPS
LOOK BACK ON CURRENTLY
CONTROVERSIAL PRACTICES AND TO
BE WARNED BY WHAT WE CAN
ANTICIPATE WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN.
IN SHORT, HE WARNS OF THE
SLIPPERY SLOPE DANGERS OF
REPRO-GENIC TECHNOLOGIES.
IN PARTICULAR THE DANGER THAT
SEEING SOME INTERVENTIONS AS
ETHICALLY ACCEPTABLE WILL
NECESSARILY LEAD US TO EMBRACE
ETHICALLY UNACCEPTABLE FORMS OF
INTERVENTION.
IN OTHER WORDS, WE MUST BE
CAREFUL WHICH DOORS WE OPEN TO
REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES TO
ENSURE THAT WE'RE NOT HEADING
DOWN A PATH TO UNETHICAL
OUTCOMES FROM WHICH THERE WILL
BE NO TURNING BACK.
IN THIS SENSE, HONOURING TRUST
CAN REQUIRE THAT WE PLACE LIMITS
ON TOLERANCE BECAUSE EXCEEDING
THOSE LIMITS WOULD INVOLVE A
BREACH OF TRUST.
THE CONCEPT OF OUR HAVING
OBLIGATIONS TO HOLD CERTAIN
ENTITIES ON TRUST FOR FUTURE
GENERATIONS IS RELATED TO HOPE.
AS I DISCUSS LATER IN THIS
LECTURE, HOPE IS GENERATED BY A
SENSE OF CONNECTION TO THE
FUTURE.
THE IDEA IN REALITY OF HOLDING
ON TRUST FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
EMBODIES BOTH HOPE FOR US AND
FOR THOSE FUTURE GENERATIONS.
IT ALLOWS US TO SEE OURSELVES AS
CONNECTED TO THE FUTURE, A
FUTURE WE WILL NOT SEE, THROUGH
THE INTACT LEGACY WE LEAVE
BEHIND.
THIS ELICITS HOPE IN US AND
SEEING OURSELVES AS HAVING
OBLIGATIONS TO PROTECT WHAT
FUTURE HUMANS NEED TO GENERATE
HOPE FOR THEMSELVES AND FOR
THEIR DESCENDANTS WILL PRESERVE
THE CONDITIONS IN WHICH THEY TOO
CAN FIND HOPE.
FINALLY, I WANT TO LINK DOUBT TO TRUST.
DOUBT IS THE SHADOW SIDE OF
FAITH.
WE ONLY HAVE DOUBT IF WE HAVE
FAITH AND CERTAINTY IS THE
OPPOSITE OF BOTH.
TRUST IS A FORM OF FAITH.
MANY PEOPLE HAVE PLACED THEIR
FAITH IN TRUST IN SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY FOR INSTANCE.
THE DANGER IS THAT THEY BELIEVE
THAT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CAN
FIX ALL PROBLEMS.
WE MUST MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DOUBT
IN THAT REGARD IF WE ARE NOT TO
GO ASTRAY ETHICALLY.
HUNTINGTON'S DISEASE IS A
HORRIBLY INHERITED GENETIC
DISEASE WHICH RESULTS IN LOSS OF
MENTAL COMPETENCY AND DEATH IN
MIDLIFE.
ALL PEOPLE WITH THE GENE DEVELOP
THE DISEASE.
THERE IS NO WINDOW OF ESCAPE.
IN MARCH 1995, I HEARD A WOMAN
WHO'D BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH THE
HUNTINGTON'S DISEASE GENE
INTERVIEWED ON CBC
RADIO.
SHE QUIETLY SAID “MY GOAL IS NOT
SO MUCH TO BEAT IT AS TO NOT LET
IT BEAT ME.”
THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF ENORMOUS
COURAGE.
NOTE THAT IN HER APPROACH, THIS
WOMAN ACCEPTS THE REALITY OF
WHAT HER DIAGNOSIS MEANS, SHE'S
NOT IN DENIAL AND VERY
IMPORTANTLY SHE STILL SEES
HERSELF AS PRIMARY, NOT THE
DISEASE.
WE MUST OFTEN RECOGNIZE
COURAGEOUS ACTS BUT THE VIRTUE
OF COURAGE CAN BE LINKED TO THAT
OF RESTRAINT.
THE LAW HAS A VERY OLD SAYING
THAT APPLIES TO PROTECTING
LIBERTY.
IT SPEAKS OF FREEDOM IN FETTERS.
WE MUST EXERCISE RESTRAINT AND
SOMETIMES EVEN USE THE LAW TO
RESTRICT LIBERTY WHEN SUCH
RESTRICTION IS ESSENTIAL TO
PROTECT THE CONDITIONS THAT MAKE
FREEDOM POSSIBLE.
IT CAN TAKE FAR MORE COURAGE TO
SAY NO TO THE CURRENT RECEIVED
WISDOM AND ESPECIALLY TO SPEAK
TRUTH TO POWER THAN TO SAY YES.
COURAGE CAN BE MANIFESTED BOTH
IN ACTING AND NOT ACTING,
ALTHOUGH THE FORMER IS OFTEN
MORE READILY IDENTIFIED AS
COURAGE.
STILL, IN SOME CULTURES, THE MAN
WHO TURNS HIS BACK TO A THREAT
AND WALKS AWAY FROM A FIGHT IS
SEEN AS COURAGEOUS AND STRONG.
THE SAME CAN BE TRUE IN SPORT.
IN MOUNTAINEERING CULTURE, THE
SIGN OF A GREAT ALPINIST IS NOT
SOMEONE WHO ALWAYS REACHES THE
SUMMIT BUT THE PERSON WHO IS
ABLE TO TURN BACK WHEN FACED
WITH A GREAT THREAT OF DANGER.
WISDOM AND RESTRAINT CAN BE
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF COURAGE.
THEY ARE THE FLIP SIDE OF THE
COURAGE TO FIGHT FOR WHAT WE
BELIEVE IN WHEN WHAT WE BELIEVE
IN IS THREATENED AND IT IS RIGHT
TO FIGHT AGAINST THAT THREAT.
INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETIES NEED
BOTH FORMS OF COURAGE.
THAT IS THE COURAGE TO ACT WHEN
ACTION IS THE ETHICAL RESPONSE
TO A THREAT OR CHALLENGE AND THE
COURAGE TO REFRAIN FROM ACTING
WHEN SUCH RESTRAINT IS CALLED
FOR ETHICALLY.
INDEED, ONE WAY TO TEST THE
ETHICS OF A SOCIETY IS BY WHAT
IT CHOOSES NOT TO DO ALTHOUGH
ACTION MIGHT BE OF SOME BENEFIT.
IN OTHER WORDS, THE ETHICS OF A
SOCIETY CAN BE MEASURED BY THE
STRENGTH OF THE VIRTUE OF
RESTRAINT IT MANIFESTS.
BOTH SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER AS
ETHICS REQUIRES AND TRYING TO
MAKE THOSE WHO EXERCISE POWER
UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT TRUTH
DEMANDS OF THEM ETHICALLY, CALL
FOR MORAL COURAGE.
COURAGE IS ABSENT WHEN WE CHOOSE
POWER OVER TRUTH ESPECIALLY WHEN
WE ARE UNTRUE TO OUR MOST
AUTHENTIC SELVES AND BELIEFS.
COURAGE IS DEMANDED WHEN DEALING
WITH RISK, WHETHER THE RISK IS
PHYSICAL OR MORAL.
WHEN TEMPTATION FOR PEOPLE IN
AUTHORITY IS TO MINIMIZE OR
DISGUISE RISKS THAT IF DISCLOSED
COULD CAUSE THEM DIFFICULTIES OR
HARM THEIR AUTHORITY IN SOME WAY.
WE SEE EXAMPLES OF THIS WHEN
POLITICIANS, BUREAUCRATS, HEALTH
CARE PROFESSIONALS, ENGINEERS OR
ARCHITECTS AND I COULD ADD
LAWYERS, MAKE MISTAKES THAT
SERIOUSLY HARM OTHERS AND TRY TO
CONCEAL OR MINIMIZE THEIR ERROR
OR DENY RESPONSIBILITIES FOR
IT'S CONSEQUENCES.
IN THESE SITUATIONS, HAVING THE
COURAGE TO BE FORTHRIGHT, FRANK
AND HONEST IS ESSENTIAL.
IRONICALLY, BEING COURAGEOUS IS
LIKELY TO MINIMIZE THE
RETRIBUTION OR PENALTY THAT THE
WRONG-DOER FACES.
WE KNOW THAT WHEN PHYSICIANS
ADMIT TO MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE AND
SAY TO THE PATIENT THAT THEY'RE
SORRY, THEY'RE MUCH LESS LIKELY
TO BE SUED.
METAPHYSICAL AND MORAL RISKS
SOMETIMES REQUIRE EVEN MORE
COURAGE TO FACE THAN PHYSICAL
RISKS.
STANDING UP FOR THE VALUES WE
BELIEVE IN, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY
ARE DERIDED OR REJECTED BY
OTHERS OR WHEN DOING SO CAN COST
US LOVING RELATIONSHIPS OR
FRIENDS OR FAMILY OR EMPLOYMENT
OR WHEN WE BECOME THE TARGET OF
SHAMING, EXCLUSION OR BULLYING
CAN BE DEEPLY EMOTIONALLY
TRAUMATIZING.
FINALLY, WE NEED THE COURAGE TO
STAND BY OUR ETHICAL BELIEFS
EVEN WHEN WE'RE AT ODDS WITH THE
MAJORITY OF OTHERS IN SOCIETY IN
DOING SO.
SOME RESEARCH BY PHILOSOPHERS OF
SCIENCE IN AUSTRALIA SHOULD GIVE
US HOPE IN THIS REGARD.
THESE PHILOSOPHERS USE COMPUTERS
TO ESTABLISH LARGE, SEQUENTIAL
DECISION MAKING SETS OF 5,000 OR
10,000 CONSECUTIVE DECISIONS.
IN THIS EXPERIMENT, THEY DIVIDED
UP THE COMPUTER SCREEN INTO
SMALL SQUARES.
HALF OF THEM RED AND HALF
YELLOW.
THEY CALLED EACH RED SQUARE A
RAT AND EACH YELLOW SQUARE A
LEMMING.
THE COMPUTER WAS PROGRAMMED SO
THAT EACH RAT DECIDED ONLY IN
IT'S OWN SELF INTEREST WHILE THE
LEMMINGS ONLY MADE DECISIONS
THAT WERE IN EVERYONE'S BEST
INTEREST.
AT FIRST, THE YELLOW SQUARE
LEMMINGS WERE QUICKLY REDUCED IN
NUMBER AS THE RED SQUARE RATS
TOO OVER.
BUT THE RESEARCHERS FOUND THAT
AS LONG AS A SMALL CLUSTERED
GROUP OF LEMMINGS REMAINED AND
DID NOT FALL BELOW A CRITICAL
MASS, EVENTUALLY THE LEMMINGS
WOULD COME BACK, SPRINGING UP
HERE AND THERE AND REGAINING
STRENGTH.
THERE'S A VERY IMPORTANT AND
HOPEFUL MESSAGE IN THIS.
A FEW VOICES CRYING IN THE
ETHICAL WILDERNESS DO MATTER AND
CAN PREVAIL EVEN IN THE FACE OF
OVERWHELMING ODDS.
COMPASSION AND COURAGE ARE
COMPANIONS.
TO BE COMPASSIONATE, WE MUST
STAND IN THE SHOES OF THE OTHER.
THAT TAKES COURAGE WHEN WHAT WE
SEE IN THE OTHER AND WHAT
REQUIRES OUR COMPASSION MAKES US
TERRIFIED THAT WE COULD SUFFER
THE SAME FATE.
COMPASSION IS CONCERN FOR
OTHERS.
IT'S THE GOLDEN RULE THAT IS AT
THE BASE OF MANY RELIGIONS.
IT REQUIRES US TO TREAT OTHERS
AS WE WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED
AND NOT TO TREAT OTHERS AS WE
WOULD NOT WISH TO BE TREATED.
HISTORIAN OF WORLD RELIGIONS,
KAREN ARMSTRONG, BELIEVES THAT
WE NEED TO RECOVER THE LOST
HEART OF COMPASSION THAT LIES AT
THE CENTER OF ALL OUR GREAT
WORLD RELIGIONS.
THESE RELIGIONS HAVE ALWAYS
ACCEPTED, SHE SAYS, THAT THE
BEST WAY FOR THEIR ADHERENCE TO
RID THEMSELVES OF EGO IS BY
COMPASSION.
THE IDEA THAT WHEN YOU GIVE
YOURSELF AWAY IN COMPASSION,
YOU BECOME STRONGER.
AND SHE EXPLAINS THESE RELIGIONS
ADVOCACY OF THE GOLDEN RULE WAS
INTENDED TO ELICIT COMPASSION
THAT EXTENDED TO EVERYONE, NOT
JUST TO ONE'S OWN GROUP.
THE RULE ALSO ENCOURAGED PEOPLE TO USE
THEIR OWN PAST PAIN TO
UNDERSTAND AND THERE BY, AVOID
INFLICTING PAIN ON OTHERS.
ARMSTRONG BELIEVES THAT
COMPASSION ALSO ALLOWS A PERSON
TO EXPERIENCE THE SACRED.
IN AN EARLIER LECTURE, I
PROPOSED A CONCEPT I CALLED THE
SECULAR SACRED.
THAT WE COULD ALL BUY INTO
WHETHER OR NOT WE WERE
RELIGIOUS.
SO, IT'S INTERESTING TO PONDER
THAT IF COMPASSION ALLOWS US TO
EXPERIENCE THE RELIGIOUS SACRED,
MIGHT IT ALSO HELP US TO
EXPERIENCE THE SECULAR SACRED.
IN ANY CASE, WE SHOULD GIVE MUCH
THOUGHT TO ARMSTRONG'S
CONCLUSION THAT A MAJOR PROBLEM
WITH RELIGIONS TODAY IS THAT,
QUOTE, “MANY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE
PREFER TO BE RIGHT RATHER THAN
COMPASSIONATE.
RELIGION CAN AND MUST HOWEVER,
BE BOTH RIGHT IN AN ETHICAL
SENSE AND COMPASSIONATE.”
COMPASSION IS CLOSELY LINKED TO
ETHICS WHICH MAY MEAN THAT
COMPASSION FATIGUE CAN LEAD TO
ETHICS FATIGUE.
COMPASSION FATIGUE OCCURS WHEN
PEOPLE BECOME APATHETIC OR
INDIFFERENT TOWARD THE SUFFERING
OF OTHERS AS THE DEMANDS OF THEM
TO BE COMPASSIONATE, ESPECIALLY
FINANCIAL DEMANDS BY CHARITIES,
BECOME TOO GREAT.
WE NEED TO GUARD AGAINST BOTH
COMPASSION FATIGUE AND ETHICS
FATIGUE.
THE POSSIBILITY OF ETHICS
FATIGUE OR YOU COULD CALL IT
ETHICS BURNOUT, LEADS US TO THE
CONCEPT OF MORICIDE, THAT IS
MORAL SUICIDE.
BY WHICH I MEAN THAT AS
INDIVIDUALS, COMMUNITIES AND
SOCIETIES, WE INTENTIONALLY KILL
OFF OUR MORAL SENSIBILITY
BECAUSE WE FEEL THAT WE CAN NO
LONGER COPE ETHICALLY.
RECOGNIZING SUCH A CONCEPT COULD
ALERT US TO MORAL DANGERS THAT
WE WOULD NOT OTHERWISE PERCEIVE
BECAUSE WE HAVE ELIMINATED OUR
SENSITIVITY TO THEM.
COMPASSION AND EMPATHY ARE OFTEN
USED AS SYNONYMS BUT WHILE
THEY'RE CLOSELY LINKED, THEY ARE
NOT THE SAME.
EMPATHY IS THE ABILITY TO
VICARIOUSLY EXPERIENCE ANOTHER'S
FEELINGS.
IT ELICITS COMPASSION WHICH IS
EMPATHY IN ACTION.
BECAUSE OUR SOCIETY VALUES
REASON SO HIGHLY, WE NEED TO BE
AWARE THAT REASON UNMODIFIED BY
OTHER WAYS OF KNOWING MAY BLOCK
EMPATHY AND COMPASSION.
THE STORY OF THE CLIMBERS WHO
WALKED PAST A DYING FELLOW
CLIMBER ON MOUNT EVEREST
DISPLAYED SUCH A BLOCKAGE.
THAT WAS A RECENT STORY IN OUR
PRESS.
THEY SEEMED TO HAVE REASONED
THAT THEY COULD NOT SAVE THEIR
COMRADE'S LIFE SO THERE WAS NO
POINT IN ABANDONING THEIR GOAL
IN REACHING THE SUMMIT.
THEIR DECISION DOES NOT APPEAR
TO HAVE BEEN INFORMED BY
EMPATHY, COMPASSION OR MORAL
INTUITION, FOR THAT WOULD HAVE
RESULTED IN A DIFFERENT OUTCOME.
THE CLIMBERS WOULD NOT HAVE
ABANDONED A FELLOW HUMAN TO DIE
ALONE.
A CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLE OF
INCORPORATING COMPASSION INTO
SOCIETAL VALUES IN PRACTICE IS
FOUND IN THE CALL TO BUILD AN
ETHIC OF CARE INTO THE FABRIC OF
SOCIETY WHICH IS A CENTRAL THEME
OF MANY FEMINIST MOVEMENTS AND A
FEMINIST ETHICS.
IN THE PAST, AN ETHIC OF CARE
WAS CONVEYED TO US THROUGH
RELIGION AND THE CONCEPT OF
CHARITY WHICH WAS INTEGRAL TO
THE FABRIC OF, FOR EXAMPLE,
JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY.
ONCE AGAIN, HOWEVER, THE ISSUE
WE FACE NOW IS HOW DO WE PUT
INTO PRACTICE SUCH VALUES IN A
SECULAR SOCIETY?
PERHAPS ANOTHER QUESTION, WHAT
DO WE WANT FOR OURSELVES IN
SOCIETY AND HOW DO COMPASSION
AND CHARITY FIT INTO THOSE
GOALS, WILL HELP US OT RESPOND
TO THE FORMER QUESTION.
IN ADDRESSING THE FIRST PART OF
OUR QUESTION, WHAT DO WE WANT,
SOME PEOPLE HAVE ANSWERED THAT
WE WANT LOVE, FRIENDSHIP AND
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT.
THE THEOLOGIAN THOMAS MERTON
LISTS SPIRIT, SPIRITUALITY,
COMMUNITY, SOCIETY, RELIGION AND
BONDING BECAUSE THESE ARE ALL
WAYS OF SEARCHING FOR MEANING
AND ULTIMATELY, MERTON BELIEVES
WHAT WE WANT IS MEANING.
HE PROPOSES THAT WE SHOULD NOT
SEEK HAPPINESS OR AT LEAST NOT
DIRECTLY.
IN OTHER WORDS, REAL HAPPINESS
IS TO BE FOUND ONLY AS A
BY-PRODUCT, IN PARTICULARLY, I
WOULD SUGGEST AS A BY-PRODUCT OF
THE SEARCH FOR MEANING AND THE
ACTIVITIES THAT CONSTITUTE THAT
SEARCH.
MERTON ALSO INCLUDES IN HIS
LIST, KINDNESS, GRACE,
FORGIVENESS AND REDEMPTION.
NOTE THAT ALL THESE ENTITIES ARE
ASPECTS OF COMPASSION.
WE MIGHT ALSO ASK WHETHER
THEY'RE UNIQUE MARKS OF BEING
HUMAN.
I BELIEVE THEY ALL ARE BUT THE
SAME MIGHT NOT BE TRUE OF AN
ENTITY WE DISCUSSED EARLIER,
NAMELY EMPATHY.
RECENT RESEARCH REPORTED BY MY
COLLEAGUE, NEURO-PSYCHOLOGIST
JEFFERY MOGUL'S LABORATORY AT
McGILL, SHOWS THAT MICE EXHIBIT
EMPATHY FOR OTHER MICE IN PAIN.
THIS MAKES THE QUESTION OF
WHETHER EMPATHY IS UNIQUE TO
HUMANS OPEN TO DOUBTS THAT WE
WOULD NEVER HAVE HAD IN THE
PAST.
THE MICE HOWEVER, UNLIKE PEOPLE
WHO'S BRAIN SHOW AN EMPATHETIC
RESPONSE TO BOTH INTIMATES AND
STRANGERS, ONLY RESPOND TO THE
PAIN OF OTHER MICE WITH WHOM
THEY HAVE HAD PREVIOUS SOCIAL
CONTACT.
PERHAPS THEN THE UNIQUE HUMAN
CHARACTERISTIC IS BEING ABLE TO
EMPATHIZE WITH STRANGERS, NOT
JUST OUR OWN MOB AS WE'D SAY IN
AUSTRALIA.
WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO THE
GOLDEN RULE THAT REQUIRES US TO
EXTEND OUR COMPASSION TO
EVERYONE, NOT JUST THOSE IN OUR
OWN GROUP.
WE CAN WELL ASK WHERE JUSTICE
ENDS AND GENEROSITY BEGINS.
TAKE ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE FOR
EXAMPLE.
90 percent OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION
HAS ACCESS TO ONLY 10 percent OF THE
WORLD'S HEALTH CARE RESOURCES.
WE TOLERATE PEOPLE DYING FROM
DISEASE THAT ARE EASY TO PREVENT
OR TREAT INCLUDING 40,000
CHILDREN A DAY DYING FOR LACK OF
MINIMAL HEALTH CARE AND OF
PREVENTABLE CAUSES INCLUDING
STARVATION.
THAT IS A FAILURE BOTH OF
JUSTICE AND GENEROSITY.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT THESE SITUATIONS?
IT SEEMS THAT DIRECT APPEALS TO
JUSTICE AND GENEROSITY LARGELY
FALL ON DEATH EARS.
PERHAPS WHAT WE NEED IS A MORE
INDIRECT DIVERSE AND NUANCED
INQUIRY INTO WAYS AND MEANS THAT
MIGHT ELICIT A HUMANE RESPONSE.
WE NEED TO GENERATE INSIGHTS
THAT WILL AWAKEN US WHICH IS
WHAT INSIGHTS DO.
WE MUST LEARN TO SPEAK IN A WAY
THAT ALLOWS US TO COME ALIVE
ETHICALLY AND AS A RESULT,
RESPOND TO INJUSTICE WITH
GENEROSITY AND WE MUST IDENTIFY
AND DISMANTLE THE CURRENT
BARRIERS TO THAT OCCURRING.
WE CAN COMPARE AND CONTRAST
ACTING OUT OF GENEROSITY AND
ACTING IN ORDER TO BE JUST.
WE USUALLY SEE OURSELVES AS NOT
HAVING OBLIGATIONS TO BE
GENEROUS AND AS HAVING
OBLIGATIONS TO BE JUST.
SO, HOW WE CHARACTERIZE A
SITUATION WHETHER AS ONE
INVOLVING JUSTICE OR ONE
INVOLVING GENEROSITY CAN ALTER
WHAT WE SEE AS THE REQUIRED
ETHICAL RESPONSE.
FOR INSTANCE WITH REGARD TO
ADMITTING IMMIGRANTS OR REFUGEES
TO OUR COUNTRY.
GENEROSITY IS PRIMARILY AN
EMOTIONAL RESPONSE.
JUSTICE IS MORE OFTEN A REASONED
RESPONSE.
PERHAPS BECAUSE WE USE LAW WHICH
IS BASED ON REASON AS THE MAIN
MEANS OF REMEDYING INJUSTICE IN
MANY OF OUR SOCIETIES.
WE NEED TO EXPLORE SUCH
DIFFERENCES IF WE'RE TO GAIN
INSIGHTS THAT COULD HELP US TO
RESPOND ETHICALLY TO THE KINDS
OF CULTURAL CLASHES THAT HAVE
RECENTLY BECOME PART OF THE NEW
NORMAL URBAN LANDSCAPE IN MANY
CONTEMPORARY WESTERN SOCIETIES.
OPEN MINDEDNESS IS EXTENDING
HOSPITALITY TO THE IDEAS OF
OTHERS AND IT MEDIATES RESPECT
FOR THOSE OTHERS.
CLOSED MINDEDNESS IS THE
OPPOSITE IN BOTH REGARDS.
OPEN MINDEDNESS IS A WILLINGNESS
TO ENTERTAIN OTHER'S IDEAS AND
CONSIDER THEM, NOT NECESSARILY
TO ACCEPT OR ADOPT THEM.
AS IN ASIDE WE NEED TO BE
CAREFUL HOWEVER, NOT TO CONFUSE
SOCIALLY LIBERAL VALUES WITH
OPEN MINDEDNESS AND SOCIALLY
CONSERVATIVE ONES WITH CLOSED
MINDEDNESS AS SO OFTEN SEEMS TO
HAPPEN.
PEOPLE CAN BE SOCIALLY LIBERAL
AND CLOSED MINDED OR SOCIALLY
CONSERVATIVE AND OPEN MINDED OR
OF COURSE VICE VERSA.
IN SHORT, HOSPITALITY IS
MANIFESTED IN BOTH OPEN DOORS
AND OPEN MINDS.
HOSPITALITY IS A FORM OF
BEHAVIOUR AND A PROCESS, NOT
JUST IN ATTITUDE OR AESTHETIC
STATE.
PERHAPS IF WE KEPT IN MIND THE
WORDS OF THE POET EMILY
DICKENSON, WE MIGHT TREAT OTHERS
MORE GENEROUSLY.
DICKENSON WRITES “IF I CAN STOP
ONE HEART FROM BREAKING, I SHALL
NOT LIVE IN VAIN.
IF I CAN EASE ONE LIFE THE
ACHING OR COOL ONE PAIN OR HELP
ONE FAINTING ROBIN UNTO HIS NEST
AGAIN, I SHALL NOT LIVE IN
VAIN.”
I DEFINE HOPE AS THE OXYGEN OF
THE HUMAN SPIRIT.
WITHOUT IT, OUR SPIRIT DIES.
WITH IT, IT CAN SURVIVE EVEN
APPALLING SUFFERING AND SURMOUNT
INCREDIBLE OBSTACLES.
HOPE IS LINKED TO MANY OF THE
OTHER ENTITIES I'VE DISCUSSED
BOTH IN THIS LECTURE AND
THROUGHOUT THIS SERIES OF
LECTURES AND IT MAY WELL BE
FOUNDATIONAL TO ALL THE OTHER
VIRTUES.
FOR INSTANCE, COURAGE CAN BE
LINKED TO HOPE.
INDEED, SOMETIMES COURAGE IS
NECESSARY IF WE ARE TO FIND
HOPE.
AS I'VE SAID BEFORE, HOPE
REQUIRES EXPERIENCING A SENSE OF
CONNECTION TO THE FUTURE.
BECAUSE HOPE IS LINKED TO THE
FUTURE, IT'S LINKED TO
POTENTIALITY.
FOR THIS REASON, THE ETHICS OF
POTENTIALITY AND THE IDEA THAT
IT CAN BE ETHICALLY WRONG TO
DELIBERATELY NEGATE POTENTIAL
ARE RELEVANT TO THE DISCUSSION
OF HOPE.
WE CAN DESCRIBE HOPE AS A SENSE
OF POSSIBILITY, THE SENSE THAT
OUR BEST DREAMS, NO MATTER HOW
SHORT TERM THEY MIGHT BE, ARE
OPEN TO FULFILLMENT.
INDEED, WE KNOW THAT IF WE CAN
GIVE DYING PEOPLE HOPE, THEY CAN
DIE MUCH MORE PEACEFULLY AND
THAT PERIOD THAT THEY CAN LOOK
FORWARD MIGHT BE SIMPLY HEARING
THE BIRDS THE NEXT MORNING OR
SEEING THE SUN COME UP OR A
VISIT FROM A LOVED FRIEND.
HELPING OTHERS TO FIND HOPE
REQUIRES IMAGINATION AND
CREATIVITY ON THE PART OF
INDIVIDUALS, INSTITUTIONS AND
SOCIETIES.
OUR ENEMIES IN THIS ENTERPRISE
ARE APATHY, BOREDOM, INACTIVITY
AND NIHILISM.
I BELIEVE THAT ACTING IN WAYS
THAT CAUSE SUCH A LOSS OF HUMAN
PASSION SHOULD BE VIEWED AS
ETHICALLY MORAL SINS.
I ALSO BELIEVE IT'S A MISTAKE TO
PERCEIVE HOPE AS PASSIVE.
RATHER, WE CAN COMPARE MAKING
HOPE WITH MAKING WAR OR MAKING
PEACE.
IT'S ALSO PROBABLE THAT HOPE IS
CONTAGIOUS.
WE KNOW THAT THE BRAIN PATTERN
OF PEOPLE WHO ARE PHYSICALLY
CLOSE TO PEOPLE IN PAIN MIMIC
THOSE THEY WOULD HAVE IF THEY
THEMSELVES WERE IN PAIN WHICH
MIGHT PARTIALLY EXPLAIN WHY IT'S
SO DIFFICULT TO WITNESS ANOTHER
PERSON IN PAIN.
MIGHT IT ALSO BE TRUE THAT WE
MIMIC THE BRAIN PATTERNS OF
PEOPLE IN HOPE.
THROUGHOUT THESE LECTURES, I'VE
LOOKED AT THE NECESSITY OF
FINDING A SHARED ETHICS OF
DECIDING WHAT THE SHARED BASE OF
THAT ETHICS MIGHT CONSIST OF AND
OF DETERMINING HOW WE MIGHT FIND
IT.
ONE WAY OF DOING THIS, I'VE NOT
YET EXPRESSLY MENTIONED IS TO
RESEARCH FOR A CENTRAL HUMAN
GOODS LIKE HOPE ON WHICH WE CAN
AGREE EVEN IF WE CAN'T AGREE ON
THE FULL RANGE OF WHAT
CONSTITUTES THOSE HUMAN GOODS.
FINDING THOSE HUMAN GOODS MIGHT
BRIDGE GAPS BETWEEN US INCLUDING
THOSE BETWEEN UTILITARIAN
ETHICS' AND PRINCIPLE BASED
ONES.
FOR INSTANCE, AMERICAN
PHILOSOPHER RICHARD ROTTI, A
UTILITARIAN, SUGGESTS SOCIAL
HOPE IS SUCH A HUMAN GOOD.
I TOTALLY AGREE.
HOPE IS LINKED TO MANY FACTORS
IN OUR LIVES THAT ARE IMPORTANT
TO US AS BOTH INDIVIDUALS AND
SOCIETIES.
LET'S LOOK AT SOME OF THESE
LINKS.
FOR EXAMPLE, HOPE IN THE SEARCH
FOR MEANING IN LIFE ARE LINKED
IN THAT EACH HELPS US TO FIND
THE OTHER.
YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE THAT WE FIND
SO OFTEN IN ETHICS OF THE SNAKE
SWALLOWING IT'S TAIL.
THEY'RE ALSO LINKED IN THAT THE
ABSENCE OF EITHER HAS THE SAME
IMPACT ON US.
WITHOUT MEANING OR WITHOUT HOPE,
WE BELIEVE THAT WE CAN'T GO ON
LIVING.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY LINKED HOPE AND
JUSTICE SAYING EACH TIME A
PERSON STANDS UP FOR AN IDEAL OR
ACTS TO IMPROVE THE LOT OF OTHER
OR STRIKES OUT AGAINST
INJUSTICE, THEY SEND FORTH A
TINY RIPPLE OF HOPE AND CROSSING
EACH OTHER FROM A MILLION
DIFFERENT CENTERS OF ENERGY AND
DARING, THESE RIPPLES BUILD A
CURRENT THAT CAN SWEEP DOWN THE
MIGHTIEST WALLS OF OPPRESSION
AND RESISTANCE.
AS WELL, HOPE AND RELIGION ARE LINKED.
HOPE AS A BASIS FOR A SHARED
ETHICS RAISES THE QUESTION, IS
SEARCHING FOR HOPE A RELIGIOUS
PURSUIT OR A SECULAR ONE OR CAN
IT BE BOTH?
RELIGION GIVES US ONE WAY TO
FIND HOPE BUT MANY PEOPLE ARE
NOW ALSO LOOKING FOR NEW WAYS TO
FIND HOPE IN OUR SECULAR
SOCIETIES.
I SUGGEST THAT HOPE SEEMS TO BE
INTRINSICALLY CONNECTED WITH
RELIGION IN THE BROAD SENSE OF
THAT WORD WHICH SIMPLY MEANS
BONDING TOGETHER.
BECAUSE WE APPEAR TO BE TURNING
TO SOME OF THESE RELATIVELY
NEWER WAYS OF SEEKING HOPE AND
MAKING THEM INTO SECULAR
RELIGIONS.
FOR EXAMPLE, SCIENTISM, HUMANISM
AND PERHAPS EVEN ATHEISM.
BUT JUST AS TRADITIONAL RELIGION
IS DANGEROUS WHEN IT BECOMES
MORALISM, SCIENTISM, HUMANISM
AND ATHEISM ARE DANGEROUS WHEN
THEY BECOME SECULAR MORALISM.
I DEFINE MORALISM AS MORALITY
PRACTICED IMPERSONALLY WITHOUT
SYMPATHY OR EMPATHY AND TO THE
EXCLUSION OF OTHER RELEVANT
CONSIDERATIONS.
HISTORIAN GILL TROY FROM MY
UNIVERSITY OF McGILL SAYS THAT
IN TODAY'S WORLD, INDIVIDUALISM
HAS TRUMPED MORALISM.
BUT THE DANGER IS THAT SOMETIMES
THE NEW RELIGION OF
INDIVIDUALISM MAY ALSO TRUMP
MORALITY.
WHILE NOT ABANDONING RELIGION
FOR THOSE WHO FIND HOPE THROUGH
IT, I BELIEVE WE NEED TO EXPLORE
WHERE AND HOW WE CAN FIND HOPE
OTHER THAN THROUGH ORTHODOX
RELIGION.
I SAID EARLIER THAT I BELIEVE
THAT HOPE IS THE OXYGEN OF THE
HUMAN SPIRIT.
A STATEMENT ATTRIBUTED TO SAINT
AUGUSTINE MIGHT EXPLAIN WHY HOPE
FUNCTIONS FOR OUR SPIRIT IN THAT
WAY.
HE SAID “HOPE HAS TWO LOVELY
DAUGHTERS, ANGER AND COURAGE.
ANGER SO THAT WHAT MUST NOT BE,
MAY NOT BE.
COURAGE SO THAT WHAT SHOULD BE,
CAN BE.”
THOSE EMOTIONS OF ANGER AND
COURAGE CAUSE US TO ENGAGE WITH
THE WORLD AND DOING SO NOURISHES
OUR HUMAN SPIRIT.
LIFE AND WHAT WE DO WITH IT,
MATTERS TO US AND OTHERS.
THAT IS, WE FIND MEANING.
BUT WE MUST MAKE SURE THAT OUR
ANGER AND COURAGE ARE RIGHTFULLY
AND NOT WRONGFULLY ELICITED IF
THE ENGAGEMENT WITH THE WORLD
THEY GIVE RISE TO IS TO BE
CONSTRUCTIVE AND NOT
DESTRUCTIVE.
TERRORISM IS A HORRIBLE
CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLE OF THE
LATTER.
AS BREATHING IS FOR THE BODY,
HOPE IS FOR THE HUMAN SPIRIT.
JUST AS WE MUST CONTINUOUSLY
BREATHE IN AND BREATHE OUT TO GO
ON LIVING, BREATHING IN BEING
THE ACTIVE PHASE AND BREATHING
OUT THE PASSIVE PHASE, WE
CONSTANTLY NEED BOTH TO SEEK
HOPE AND TO ALLOW IT TO COME TO
US.
PERSONAL TRAINERS AND YOGA
INSTRUCTORS TEACH US TO BREATHE
OUT AS WE MAKE MAXIMUM PHYSICAL
EFFORT IN THE GYM OR PRACTICE
YOGA THUS KEEPING OUR LUNGS
OPTIMALLY INFLATED AND ALLOWING
AIR TO FLOW IN.
IN JUST THIS WAY, WE MUST MAKE A
MAXIMUM EFFORT TO EXPEL DESPAIR
THUS KEEPING OUR HUMAN SPIRIT
OPTIMALLY INFLATED AND OPENING
UP SPACE WITHIN OURSELVES SO
THAT HOPE CAN FLOW IN.
AT TIMES OF GREATEST DESPAIR, WE
MAY SIMPLY NEED TO REMAIN OPEN
TO HOPE AND ALLOW IT TO COME TO
US.
AT OTHER TIMES, WE MUST
DELIBERATELY SEEK OR IMAGINE THE
BENEFICENT FUTURE IN ORDER TO
CONNECT TO IT THERE BY
GENERATING HOPE.
FINALLY, THE MATHEMATICIAN AND
COSMOLOGIST BRIAN SWIM CAPTURES
THE SOUL OF HOPE IN AN INDIRECT,
BEAUTIFUL, POETIC AND UNUSUAL
WAY WHEN HE SAYS “JUST THINK,
FOUR BILLION YEARS AGO, THE
EARTH WAS MOLTEN ROCK.
NOW, IT SINGS OPERA.”
SOME PEOPLE RESPOND TO THE
QUESTION, WHAT DO WE WANT OR
WHAT DO WE NEED WITH THE
ANSWER...
A SENSE OF BELONGING TO A PLACE
AND TO SOMETHING LARGER THAN
OURSELVES.
THESE PEOPLE ARE EXPRESSING THE
NEED WITHIN ALL OF US TO
EXPERIENCE TRANSCENDENCE.
TRANSCENDENCE REQUIRES US TO
FEEL THAT WE HAVE A PHYSICAL
HOME AND AN EMOTIONAL HOME AS
INDIVIDUALS AND AS MEMBERS OF A
COMMUNITY THAT EMBRACES US.
ONE IN WHICH WE CAN EXPERIENCE
TRANSCENDENCE.
ATTACHMENT TO A PLACE CAN BE
CONTRASTED WITH THE LONGING OF
ADVENTURE.
WE NEED BOTH, WE NEED BALANCE.
AUSTRALIAN ENVIRONMENTAL
PHILOSOPHER GLEN ALBRIGHT SPEAKS
OF TWO CONCEPTS.
NOSTALGIA AND SOLISTALGIA THAT
EMBODY OUR FEELINGS OF LOSS WHEN
A PLACE THAT'S IMPORTANT TO OUR
EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING DISAPPEARS.
NOSTALGIA IS A SENSE OF LOSS OF
ONE'S HOME AND A LONGING FOR
THAT PLACE.
SOLISTALGIA, A TERM COINED BY
ALBRIGHT, IS A SENSE OF THE
DESTRUCTION FOR EXAMPLE BY
ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE OF OUR
PLACE AND HOME AND THE SOLACE IT
PROVIDED EVEN WHILE WE REMAIN IN
IT.
IT'S A LONGING FOR THE INTACT
HOME TO BE RESTORED.
AS THESE CONCEPTS DEMONSTRATE,
IT'S DIFFICULT TO OVERSTATE THE
IMPORTANCE OF HOME TO HUMAN LIFE
AND COMMUNITY.
BUT WHAT CONSTITUTES HOME FOR
INDIVIDUALS OR COMMUNITIES IN
OUR HIGHLY MOBILE CONTEMPORARY
SOCIETIES?
I READ ONCE THAT WE, WHEN WE
HAVE TRULY LIVED IN MANY PLACES,
WE CAN NOT PUT OURSELVES FULLY
TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE AGAIN.
A SMALL PIECE OF OUR EMOTIONAL
HEART REMAINS IN THOSE OTHER
PLACES.
AT FIRST I TOOK THAT TO MEAN
THAT WE COULD NEVER AGAIN FEEL
THAT WE HAD A HOME.
BUT WHEN I WAS ASKED TO GIVE A
CONVOCATION SPEECH AT MacQUARIE
UNIVERSITY IN SIDNEY, AUSTRALIA
AND ASKED TO SPEAK OF MY
EXPERIENCE WITH BEING AN
EX-PATRIOT AUSTRALIAN, I CAME TO
A DIFFERENT CONCLUSION.
I CALLED THE SPEECH LEAVING
HOMES.
PLURAL.
I HAD REALIZED WITH SOME
SURPRISE THAT WHICH EVER
DIRECTION I FLEW ACROSS THE
PACIFIC OCEAN, WHETHER FROM
MONTREAL TO SIDNEY OR SIDNEY TO
MONTREAL, WHEN FRIENDS ON EITHER
CONTINENT ASKED ME WHERE I WAS
GOING I SAID I'M GOING HOME.
AND I WAS IN BOTH CASES, IN BOTH
DIRECTIONS.
I REALIZED THAT IT IS POSSIBLE
TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE TRUE HOME.
I WONDER HOW THE CONCEPT OF HOME AND LOSS
OF HOME MIGHT RELATE TO FINDING
A SHARED ETHICS.
ARE WE CURRENTLY HOMELESS
ETHICALLY BECAUSE WE HAVE
DIFFICULTY FINDING SHARED VALUES
IN A PLURALISTIC SECULAR SOCIETY
LET ALONE IN THE WORLD AT LARGE?
IT'S TRUE THAT HUMANS HAVE NEVER HAD
ONE SHARED ETHIC TO GUIDE THEM.
RATHER WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN DIVIDED
BETWEEN A PLURALITY OF RELIGIONS
AND CULTURES, GROUNDED WITH SOME
OVERLAPPING CUSTOMS OR TRUTHS.
BUT HUMAN KIND'S DIFFERENCES
WERE LESS OBVIOUS BEFORE MODERN
MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
TECHNOLOGIES BROUGHT THE WORLD
INTO OUR HOMES ON A DAILY BASIS.
CONSEQUENTLY, OUR PRESENT
REALITY IN THIS REGARD MIGHT BE
DIFFERENT IN KIND, NOT JUST IN
DEGREE FROM THE PAST.
I WONDER ALSO IF WE MIGHT NEED
TO FEEL WE HAVE A PHYSICAL,
EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL HOME
BEFORE WE CAN EXPERIENCE
BELONGING TO OR BELIEVING IN
SOMETHING LARGER THAN OURSELVES.
THAT IS, WE NEED TO BE GROUNDED
PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY,
EMOTIONALLY AND SPIRITUALLY
BEFORE WE CAN ENTER A LARGER
ENTITY AND SATISFY OUR NEED FOR
TRANSCENDENCE.
TO ADDRESS MORE SPECIFICALLY THE
QUESTION OF HOW WE MIGHT BRING
PAST VIRTUES TO A FUTURE WORLD,
WE NEED TO ASK TWO OTHER
QUESTIONS.
MIGHT EXPERIENCING TRANSCENDENCE
BE A NECESSARY CONDITION BEFORE
WE CAN ACT VIRTUOUSLY AND
PARADOXICALLY DO WE NEED TO
EXPERIENCE TRANSCENDENCE
BELONGING TO SOMETHING LARGER
THAN OURSELVES TO FULLY
EXPERIENCE OUR OWN UNIQUE
SELVES?
I STARTED THESE LECTURES AS A
JOURNEY WITH THE INTENT OF
MAPPING OUT PATHS WE COULD
FOLLOW TO FIND A SHARED ETHICS.
ETHICS THAT WOULD RESPECT ALL
LIFE, IN PARTICULAR HUMAN LIFE
AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT.
IN THIS LAST LECTURE, I'VE
SUGGESTED SOME OLD VIRTUES THAT
MIGHT ASSIST US AS WE WALK THOSE
PATHS.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO IDENTIFY THE
FEATURE THAT IS COMMON TO ALL OF
THE CONCEPTS EXPLORED IN THIS
LECTURE.
THE CONCEPT OF BALANCE AND THE
IDEA THAT ACHIEVING BALANCE IS
AN ONGOING PROCESS, NOT AN
EVENT.
WE BEGAN BY LOOKING AT
COMPLEXITY WHICH CAN MAKE
BALANCE SEEM DIFFICULT TO
ACHIEVE OR MAINTAIN.
SOMETIMES COMPLEXITY IS NOT
PRESENT OR NEEDED AND THE SIMPLE
AS OPPOSED TO THE SIMPLISTIC IS
THE ETHICALLY WAY FORWARD.
OTHER TIMES WE MUST TRY TO DEAL
IN EQUINITY WITH THE
UNCERTAINTY COMPLEXITY ENTAILS.
THEN WE NEED TO BALANCE VIRTUES
WITH CERTAIN RESTRAINTS.
TRUST WITH HEALTHY DOUBT,
COURAGE WITH GOOD JUDGEMENT AND
PORTION, COMPASSION WITH TOUGH
LOVE, GENEROSITY WITH PRUDENCE
AND HOPE WITH REALISM.
AND SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO
PRIORITIZE VALUES AS EXPRESSED
IN VIRTUES.
FOR EXAMPLE, SOMETIMES COURAGE
MAY NEED TO TAKE PRIORITY OVER
TRUST.
MAKING DECISIONS AS TO WHEN
THAT'S ETHICAL AND WHEN IT'S NOT
IS AT THE HEART OF DOING ETHICS.
ONE DEFINITION OF A SENSE OF
HUMOUR IS THAT IT'S A MECHANISM
TO ACHIEVE DYNAMIC BALANCE.
WE DON'T TAKE OURSELVES TOO
SERIOUSLY BUT NEITHER ARE WE
FRIVOLOUS.
WE CAN SEE THE OTHER SIDE EVEN
WHEN WE BELIEVE FIRMLY IN OUR
OWN POSITION.
WE ARE ON THE ONE HAND, ON THE
OTHER HAND PEOPLE.
I ONCE GAVE A SPEECH I CALLED
GAZING AT STARS AND PATTING
CATS.
IT'S THEME WAS THAT IN ORDER TO
LIVE WITH EQUANIMITY AND HOPE,
TO EXPERIENCE ALL WONDER AND JOY
AND TO DEAL WITH OUR TRAGEDIES,
DESPAIRS AND SORROWS WE HUMANS
NEED TO HAVE ONE HAND PATTING AN
ANIMAL OR IN THE EARTH AND THE
OTHER HAND REACHING OUT TO THE
STARS, TO THE UNIVERSE.
IN DOING BOTH, WE ARE IN CONTACT
WITH NATURE, WITH IT'S INTIMACY
AND CLOSENESS ON THE ONE HAND
AND IT'S GRANDEUR AND VASTNESS
ON THE OTHER.
IT'S NO ACCIDENT THAT WE OFTEN
SPEAK OF THE NEED TO BE GROUNDED
AND THAT IS NO LESSER
REQUIREMENT IN OUR SEARCH FOR
ETHICS THAN IN UNDERTAKING ANY
OTHER FUNDAMENTALLY IMPORTANT
HUMAN ACTIVITY.
MORE OVER, THE FURTHER OUT WE
MEAN TO TRAVEL, WHETHER
INTELLECTUALLY, IMAGINATIVELY,
EMOTIONALLY OR SPIRITUALLY, THE
DEEPER OUR GROUNDING SHOULD BE
IF WE ARE TO TRAVEL SAFELY.
WE ARE THE NEW GENERATION OF
EXPLORERS OF OUR HUMAN MIND,
IMAGINATION AND SPIRIT AND OUR
NEW TECHNI-SCIENCE MEANS WE'RE
EXPLORING UNIVERSES NO HUMANS
BEFORE US, EVEN IN THEIR WILDEST
IMAGININGS EVEN DREAMT EXISTED
LET ALONG ENTERED.
THE CHALLENGE FOR ALL OF US IS
TO CREATE STRUCTURES WITH WHICH
WE CAN PERSONALLY IDENTIFY AND
IN WHICH WE CAN FEEL WE BELONG
AND YET WHICH ALLOW US TO
RECOGNIZE OURSELVES AND ALL
OTHERS AS PART OF ONE HUMAN
FAMILY.
THAT IS AN ESSENTIAL GOAL IN
ITSELF BUT OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE
IS THAT STRIVING TO REALIZE IT
WILL HELP US TO FIND THE
GUIDANCE WE NEED TO ETHICALLY
USE THE TOTALLY UNPRECEDENTED
POWERS THE NEW TECHNI-SCIENCE IS
GIVING US.
WE LITERALLY HOLD LIFE ITSELF IN
THE PALM OF OUR COLLECTIVE HUMAN
HAND IN WAYS THAT NO OTHER
HUMANS HAVE EVER DONE AND WE CAN
CHANGE IT.
THESE LECTURES HAVE LOOKED AT
SOME OF THE MATTERS WE MIGHT
THINK ABOUT AND SOME OF THE
MEANS WE MIGHT USE IN TRYING TO
CREATE THAT STRUCTURE WE NEED.
I BELIEVE THAT OUR BEST CHANCE
OF FINDING A SHARED ETHICS IS
FIRST TO OPEN UP WHAT WE MIGHT
CALL A DIALECTIC POSSIBILITY.
THAT IS, THE POSSIBILITY OF
DEBATE INVOLVING BOTH OUR
IMAGINATIONS AND OUR INTELLECTS.
SECOND, TO INVOKE ALL OUR WAYS
OF KNOWING BUT ESPECIALLY THE
IMAGINATION AS A GUIDE TO
ETHICAL THINKING AND FINDING A
SHARED ETHICS.
AND THIRD, TO APPEAL TO OUR
POETIC MORAL AND SPIRITUAL
SENSES DIRECTLY.
IN OTHER WORDS, WITHOUT TOO MUCH
DIALECTIC.
I'M TRYING TO BUILD BRIDGES
AMONG THESE OFTEN ISOLATED WAYS
OF KNOWING AND WAYS OF GOING
ABOUT KNOWING.
GUIDED BY OUR ETHICALLY
IMAGINATION, WE MUST CONTINUE TO
JOURNEY ON THE ETHICAL WALLABY
IN SEARCH FOR OUR HUMAN SPIRIT
AND THE RICHNESS OF MEANING IT
BRINGS US.
THANK YOU.

[Applause]

The clip ends.

Andrew reappears in the studio as a caption shows his name.

He says IN HER
LECTURE, SOMERVILLE INVOKES THE
WORK OF SIR ISAIAH BERLIN.
POLITICAL PHILOSOPHER AND ONE OF THE
LEADING LIBERAL THINKERS OF THE
20th CENTURY.
HE COINED THE PHRASE VALUE
PLURALISM WHICH IS THE IDEA THAT
MORAL VALUES MAY BE EQUALLY
VALID AND YET, INCOMPATIBLE AND
THERE FOR MAY COME INTO CONFLICT
WITH ONE ANOTHER IN A WAY THAT
HAS NO EASY SOLUTION.
VALUE PLURALISM CAN EXIST
BETWEEN TWO NATIONS, TWO PEOPLE
AND IT CAN ALSO EXIST WITHIN ONE
PERSON.
SOMERVILLE HOPES FOR A WORLD
WHERE A SECULAR SPACE CAN BE
CREATED TO FIND CONNECTIONS
BETWEEN CONFLICTING BELIEFS.
HOWEVER, HE OPPOSITION TO GAY
MARRIAGE IS SEEN BY MANY AS
INCONSISTENT WITH HER EMBRACE OF
VALUE PLURALISM.
WHAT IS A GREAT VALUE IS A WEEKLY E-MAIL
TELLING YOU WHAT'S COMING UP ON
BIG IDEAS.
SEND US AN E-MAIL TO
bigideas@tvo.org.
I'M ANDREW MOODIE AND I'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

[Theme music plays]

The end credits roll.

bigideas@tvo.org

416-484-2746

Big Ideas. Producer, Wodek Szemberg.

Producers, Lara Hindle, Mike Miner, Gregg Thurlbeck.

Logos: Unifor, Canadian Media Guild.

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 2006, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Margaret Somerville