The Ethical Life

by Stephen McAndrew

riding bike to workEthics is a wide topic that touches every facet of our individual lives and our society. I want to talk about a very small slice. The fact that ethics has, in certain cases, been boiled down to one concern – environmental ethics or how we interact with the natural world. In particular, reducing one’s carbon footprint.

Let me explain. The BBC recently appointed Justin Rowlett as “Ethical Man”, his task was for him, along with his family, to live ethically for one year. Something we should all aspire to, right? However, his ethical duties were not to help old ladies across the road, to treat others with respect, but to live in such a way so that he and his family would minimize their carbon footprint and consequently their impact on the environment. (1)

There is a clothing line in New York City called the “The Ethical Man” that manufactures and sells clothing made with a minimal impact on the environment. (2)

I’m not claiming that thinking about how we use natural resources is not part of what we call ethics. I’m saying that environmental ethics are a part and not the whole of living the ethical life.

I simply have a concern that by portraying one aspect of our existence as living the ethical life, we may stunt truly ethical behavior…

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