Is Ethics a Body of Knowledge? (No! It’s a Process of Human Growth.)
October 7, 2015 4 Comments
By Linda Fisher Thornton
If you think ethical awareness is about knowledge and learning, think again. Knowledge and learning are only useful in ethics if we are open to receiving them, open to shifting our perspective, and open to changing our minds.
Famous thinkers have long tied ethics to human growth. Immanuel Kant believed that is “Man’s duty is to improve himself; to cultivate his mind; and, when he finds himself going astray, to bring the moral law to bear upon himself.” John Dewey said that “Growth itself is the only moral end.”
Why does human growth matter to us as ethical people? Take a moment to think about how we prepare ourselves for ethical living and ethical leadership. If we’re not pushing ourselves to become better people, and intentionally raising our level of ethical awareness, we’re probably stuck in the “ethics is a body of knowledge” mentality.
Growth may be difficult, but there isn’t any other way to fully embrace ethics. We must grow into our ethical competence…intentionally…over time. When we are tempted to take a shortcut and think about ethics as a class or a theory, we should remember this: The “body of knowledge” isn’t going to need to make tough ethical choices. We are.
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