The multitude of scandals associated with the #MeToo movement indicate how far society needs to go to achieve equality. Like many current events, the revelations have made me wish for more intellectual engagement with the public sphere, or more public figures trained in basic academic ideas. Concepts accepted as axiomatic by most in higher education—such as how one’s gender affects one’s experiences, or that we should hold people to the same standard regardless of party affiliation or social status—have been sorely missing in the debate thus far. Instead, we’ve had people who refuse to admit there is a problem, or castigating their enemies and defending their allies for allegedly doing the same thing.
Part of the problem is that standards of good behavior are deteriorating. Even as ethics is becoming more needed in society, it is less recognized as such. While I believe an openness to exploring new standards of behavior is good, the openness encouraged by various philosophical schools is now being utilized to justify a facile relativism and resistance to change. People oppose basic ethical principles like care and happiness because they require taking on an obligation to change oneself or help others. (There is, of course, much more to the story than what I’ve said here, but it is part of the problem). If anything, the (lack of) dialogue thus far indicates just how important Applied Ethics is. Here are some other papers that discuss its importance.
- Peter Seele, “Business Ethics without Philosophers? Evidence for and Implications of the Shift From Applied Philosophers to Business Scholars on the Editorial Boards of Business Ethics Journals,” Metaphilosophy, January 2016.
- Fritz Allhoff, “What Are Applied Ethics?” Science & Engineering Ethics, March 2011.
- Hans-Johann Glock, “Doing Good by Splitting Hairs? Analytic Philosophy and Applied Ethics,” Journal of Applied Philosophy, August 2011.
- Joan Tronto, “Who is Authorized to Do Applied Ethics? Inherently Political Dimensions of Applied Ethics,” Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, August 2011.
- Bonnie Steinbock, “How has Philosophical Applied Ethics Progressed in the Past Fifty Years?,” Metaphilosophy, January 2013.
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