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Project for a Progressive Ethics Message Board Meeting Notes and Discussion › Dil's notes - Meeting 1 Sat Mar 4th 2017 - Part 1

Dil's notes - Meeting 1 Sat Mar 4th 2017 - Part 1

Dil G.
dilGreen
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 36

Preamble


I had no idea what to expect from the first meeting of this possibly insanely over-ambitious project. As I've written before, this is something I didn't plan to start, which somehow came upon me, from a short comment on a Meetup Forum.
I had no way of knowing what the people who would actually turn up to a meeting might be expecting, or whether there would be much overlap between what a group of strangers might think such a project should offer.

Truthfully, it could easily have been something of a train-wreck, but in fact, it's safe to say that I was somewhat overwhelmed by the qualities of the wonderful people who turned up, and hugely reassured by the degree of shared ideas and concerns.
On the basis of this consensus (albeit broad and shallow at this point), the project is off to a great start, and so I offer these notes as a record of the range of ideas discussed.

Typing this after finishing these notes, I'm exhilarated. This is quite a substantial read, in several parts, but it's rich, I promise you.

NB: These are in no sense 'minutes' - I have cheerfully refined and improved wherever possible in the interests of coherence, and in the light of post-hoc developments in my own understanding - not to mention the inevitable failures of memory.


Introduction to the Genesis of the Project


There were six of us (3 others were unable to come at the last minute) - about what I'd anticipated, and a fine size for a properly participatory session.

For the next events, we'll try two distinct types of session - 'working-party' events for pushing the project forward, and more typical meetups, which will be more about engagement and communication (of course this will also push the project forward...) - new dates will be posted soon, and we'll make the 'offer' of each as distinctive as we can.

I'll leave it to the other attendees to introduce themselves as they may wish in this forum, and simply use first names here - but be aware that everything here is me remembering/paraphrasing, so if anything sounds odd, blame me!

We began with me setting out my own reasons for believing that something called a 'Progressive Ethics' is needed, and the things I want from such a thing. I rehashed my experience of feeling, over and again, that constructive and forward-thinking approaches to many major issues faced by humanity will be hard to develop without a public ethical framework that has these characteristics: (in no particular order)

  • robust: maps well onto both the reality of human ethical processes and real-world conditions,
  • shareable: must be structured in such a way that it can encourage and underpin broad coalitions of agreement,
  • applicable: must be designed to be useful in addressing real-world issues without disproportionate effort,
  • communicable: must be easy and rewarding to engage with, without need for expert mediation of any kind,
  • addressable: every 'user' must be able to feel that they are equally a 'contributor'.

    The character of existing ethical models doesn't seem to be able to meet these requirements; mostly, they consist of lists - lists of often excellent quality, many with well-documented development, others with a rich history of public acceptance and application, many containing powerful and surely important propositions.
    But in the end, they are just lists - so many stand-alone lists; lists of lists, and so often rigidly silo-ed - explicitly intended for application only within some narrowly-framed remit.

    Which leads to the 'framework' requirement. To have any hope of meeting the list of desirable characteristics, it seems to me that a system of ethics must consist of some kind of interlinked framework of propositions, tolerant of all sorts of interconnection, and able to accept the full gamut of ethical considerations - because a little introspection suggests that, within us, an enormously broad range of systems are directly relevant to our real-life decisions.

    Any attempt at an ethical framework intended for broad social engagement will surely fail at the first hurdle if it doesn't have parallels with the way people experience their own internal decision-making.

    A useful, progressive framework (it seems to me) must be carefully designed to allow (encourage):

    • adequate correlation with the way that human thinking works (unavoidably based in our condition as the messy, undesigned products of evolution),
    • results which are coherent and holistic in character (not simply the result of combinatorial logic),
    • any and all connections that seem relevant, between a wide variety of ethical propositions - from profound 'fundamental' ones to 'gut-feelings'; from hard-edged, binary statements to fuzzy encouragements; from wooly yearnings to concrete needs; denial of the existence of any category of 'input' that is experientially 'real' will surely diminish the congruence of the output of the framework and the reality of life - and so diminish usefulness in all sorts of ways.

    And finally, it seems to me that any ethical project which wishes to identify itself as progressive must maintain a central commitment to maximising freedom to act - to consider its function to be that of working with the demonstrable existence of an innate 'primitive' ethical system, through conscious consideration, to support the development by each individual of a considered ethics that is social, but without the need for coercion.

    Continued in Part 2
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