Human Rights & Pluralism

Rising Fences: Migrants, Borders, and a New Frontier for Ethics

What will 2015 be remembered for? The image that comes to mind is “rising fences.” If we took a satellite photo of the planet, that would be the story; fences going up everywhere.

The wars and political chaos of the past year created a massive wave of truly desperate people. The wave is global in scale. Europe has borne the brunt. But the United States, Canada, Australia and many other nations are not immune.

What is the response? What should be the response?

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Democracy as Myth and Fact

Myths give meaning to our lives. They are stories created to explain the human condition—creation, death, heroism, dignity, pain, pride, and suffering. There is an elevating character to myths. Gods and humans share the stage. One cannot come to Greece without feeling inspired by the ancient classical myths that shape so much of our culture and society.

And yet there is also an instrumental aspect of myths. As the French sociologist Roland Barthes put it, myths are often created by the powerful to serve their own interests, almost always at the expense of the weak.

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Carnegie Council President Joel Rosenthal on Global Ethics

Transcript of an interview by Zach Messite, KGOU local public radio, Norman, Oklahoma.

ZACH MESSITE: What does it mean to have global ethics? How do you describe this concept?

JOEL ROSENTHAL: The way to begin the conversation is the fact that we live in a globalized world. We all live within systems that are global. We can feel this in our daily lives. We’re part of a global economy. We’re part of a global climate. We’re part of a global information system. Whether we want to be or not, or whether we admit it or not, we live in a global world.

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Evaluating Justice and Reconciliation Efforts

There seems to be a great desire for what some people have called “moral accounting” at the end of the 20th century. For example, the Canadian government has reached a settlement with aboriginal peoples in Canada; Japan has apologized for atrocities in World War II, particularly to Korea; and the fledgling democracies and post-conflict societies—South Africa, Guatemala, Argentina, and so on—are all wrestling with the concept of reconciliation.

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Saddam’s Pistol, and Yours

In the current debate over gun regulation a simple point is being missed. Every citizen has the right to a gun. But shouldn’t every man, woman, and child also have the right not to have a gun and expect to live in a safe and secure environment?

The road to new legislation on guns is uncertain because political leadership on this issue takes place in alternate ethical universes.

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Common Good and the Crisis of Globalization

The concept of “common good” is especially appealing because it is consistent with realism. By realism I mean that actors act according to their interests as a matter of both survival and well-being. Human flourishing implies natural tendencies toward self-help as well as care towards those whose lives are bound up with ours.

This idea—the idea that our self-interests are always bound in some way to the interests of others—takes on a new dimension in the age of globalization.

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