Ethics and Survival

Milton Fisk –  Part One, The Elements of Ethical Life

Chapter One

Social Viability as the Goal of Ethical Life

It is hard to escape being part of ethical life. Most of us humans begin to enter ethical life early on. By the time we learn to talk, we can recognize approval and disapproval in those who raise us. This recognition has an emotional side that is inseparable from it. There is the contentment of receiving approval and the frustration of getting disapproval. Soon thereafter, we take a further important step into ethical life: We learn to evaluate what others do and even what we do ourselves. These activities introduce still further emotional content, ranging from compassion for victims of bad behavior to outrage at those responsible for bad behavior. The ability to generalize comes next. Going beyond the disapproval of a specific act, we consider that any act of its kind would be equally offensive. This readies us for stating rules that we suppose all of us are to follow. We treat widespread adherence to those rules as a test of whether our community is a good or a bad one. Advancing to generality puts us close to full entry into ethical life. For us moderns at least, what remains is developing the further skill of questioning familiar evaluations and trying out novel ones. To be a part of ethical life, it is then necessary to be more than a follower of norms. One must be autonomous and show it through questioning and possibly innovation.

As far as we know, only humans belong to ethical life. However, those who belong to ethical life are not necessarily good persons. What distinguishes those in ethical life is that they have at least a sense of what is good or bad to do. They can use their sense of good and bad to warn others away from certain courses and to encourage them toward others. Still, they may act in ways they can recognize as bad. There are, though, humans who are not part of ethical life. They may be aware of the approval or disapproval of others. Yet they lack the either the interest or the capacity needed for entry into ethical life. Some of them have no interest in governing their behavior in any way. Others with severe forms of mental incapacity cannot reflect on the rightness or wrongness of their behavior. Infants have yet to enter ethical life and those suffering extreme dementia may already have already left it.[1]

1 The ultimate arbiter I want to explain why I choose to talk about ethical life. Is it that my talking about “ethical life” introduces a strange name from which I am at liberty to draw any kind of point about ethics that I want to make? Am I trying to create the appearance of giving a foundation for ethics when in fact I am only making up a name? To dispel these suspicions, it is sufficient to say how, in fact, I do rely on the idea of ethical life.

Talking about ethical life orients us toward the multitude of things that happen and of distinctions we make which have ethical relevance. Instead of starting with a selected range of concepts from which one tries to spin out the main issues of ethics, I want to start with an openness to all that might take place within this important dimension of human life. Instead of narrowing the discussion to the triad of goodness, justice, and duty, one must not neglect greed, compassion, divisiveness, loyalty, humanity, and alienation. Including them, pushes us to ask what kind of project could possibly encompass such a variety of traits and values. Just what is the project in which being a part of ethical life enlists us? By saying that this work is a reflection on ethical life, the intent is to cast a large net in order to catch all the relevant principles and projects. Enriching the empirical base for ethical reflection by considering ethical life will reduce reliance on abstract models that have a tendency to conceal important aspects of ethical life.

Ethical life is important here for an additional reason, one that relates to justifying ethical beliefs. If one wants to criticize ethical beliefs or establish novel ethical beliefs, one does so within ethical life and not by going outside it. Other forms of life cannot dictate to ethical life, though they may influence it for better or worse. The aims of criminal life or entrepreneurial life have no authority to bend the norms of ethical life. In fact, ethical life serves as a framework for other forms of life, containing as it does the norms by which to judge them. Surrendering to expediency means allowing what may advance criminal life, entrepreneurial life, religious life, or intellectual life to override the demands of ethical life. Ethical life is not beyond criticism, but its criticism comes from within and not directly from the exigencies of other forms of life.

Though its distinctive role is to be an ultimate arbiter, ethical life undergoes changes and divisions resulting from its existence alongside other forms of life. This is because changes in other forms of life lead repeatedly to contests within ethical life over what the content of ethics is to be. These contests involve clashes between conflicting ethical norms with the aim of making some of them hegemonic. The power of the contestants has, to be sure, an important influence on the outcome. Nonetheless, the issue that serves as the framework for these contests is always how best to realize the projects of ethical life. In that way, the changes take place inside ethical life.

Contemporary contests over reproductive ethics in the United States take place at two levels. There is a contest about the right of a woman to have an abortion. One side in this contest mixes appeals to religious authorities with predictions about the dire consequences of abortion for society. There is also a contest about the fairness having anti-abortion laws. Here, the various sides have different views as to whether tolerance permits legislating ethical views that are widely contested. Some think that there can be no tolerance for serious ethical infractions, while others think that where there is no widespread agreement about the immorality of these actions tolerance should reign. This example illustrates the way ethical life interacts with other areas of life such as the religious and the legal. Yet once norms in ethical life are settled, they apply to other areas of life making them ultimate arbiters.

Still, there are doubts about assigning ethical life the role of ultimate arbiter. Does economic life not become the ultimate arbiter if it makes market freedom an unconditional imperative? And will religious life not become the ultimate arbiter if it makes respect and love for what it treats as sacred and holy an unconditional imperative? Something is still missing from our discussion that can help illuminate the role ethical life plays as arbitrator. It is that each form of life has a distinctive goal or goals.

Our economic textbooks tell us that the goal of economic activity is efficiency in production. Anything that undercuts efficiency may repel economists in view of their dedication to it as a goal. But if they take the step of saying that we should have efficient production, they move onto the terrain of moral economy, which belongs to ethical life. For many religious persons, the goal of religious life is to deepen respect and love for certain beings, hence to sacralize or make them holy. Christians, for example, give preeminence to loving God and their neighbors. The deeply religious person gives love spontaneously; it is not a state imposed by duty. Insisting on it as a duty called for by God takes us into the area of moral theology.

In sum, the ethical impact of economics or of religion emerges once one connects the goals of these areas of life with the goal or goals of ethical life. This involves determining how the goals they serve in their areas can contribute to the goal or goals of ethical life. In this way, one “moralizes” the goals and certain activities in forms of life other than the ethical.[2]

2 The goal of ethical life Does ethical life have one or more goals and if so what might they be? I wish here to hazard a claim about the teleology of ethical life that I shall be testing in different ways in all that follows. The claim I shall be testing is that ethical life is a project that has as its predominant aim to serve social viability. At a minimum, ethical life serves social viability by reducing violent conflict, but it may also serve social viability by helping society develop positive features, such as democracy. Those in economic life act as members of ethical life as well when they propose that we have an obligation to pursue economic efficiency. In doing so, they express their view that pursuing it serves social viability. Likewise, those in religious life make a transition to ethical life when they propose that we have an obligation to respect and love the holy and order our lives accordingly. They can do this without undercutting ethical life as the ultimate arbiter since they believe that respecting and loving the holy serves to promote social viability.

Different religious forms of ethical life emerge that are compatible on the ultimate point of protecting society. Christian ethics and Islamic ethics differ in multiple ways, but each sees its ethics as a vehicle for social tranquility rather than stress that might fracture society. For example, in southern Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 a senior official in the conservative Islamic movement, Sheik Bahadli, said that, “If Shariah [Koranic Law] exists everywhere in the world, everyone will be happy.”[3] In 2005, the American evangelical, Jim Wallis wrote, “The prophets always begin in judgment, in a social critique of the status quo, but they end in hope – that these realities can and will be changed.”[4] It is this hope that society can escape the crisis tendencies threatening its survival that motivates one to become an active member of ethical life.

Does this emphasis on the social as the goal of ethical life deny a role to personal inwardness? One needs this inwardness when conflicts call for reflection and decision. In fact, entering ethical life calls for the accepting and testing norms, and these activities involve personal inwardness. However, making social viability the goal of ethical life is no impediment to inwardness in this sense. One cannot even realize the goal of ethical life without reflecting on whether the norms that have become part of ethical life do in fact promote social viability. Unless we believe that only certain elites can know the route to social viability, we must treat ethical life as opposed to mechanically following commands. Autonomy, and hence promoting criticism and innovation, is the heart of ethical life. Social viability being the goal does not change this fact.

A common mistake looms up in talking about the role of personal inwardness in ethics. The mistake consists in thinking that because inwardness is important each person has his or her personal ethics.[5] The correct this mistake, we need to note that personal reflection and innovation make up only one part of the ethical project. A personal ethics would reduce the rest to this part. With such a narrow base, one could hardly speak of a personal ethics as an ethics. We might grant for the sake of argument that something could be an ethics without pursuing social viability. Still, as an ethics, it would be part of a project to allow people to expect some uniformity in others’ behavior. Where such a project is succeeding, I can walk the streets without having to wonder if the first person I meet has a personal ethics that allows him to kill me for my new shoes. I would also not have to wonder if the second one I meet will have a personal ethics that allows her to extort money from me for a hoked up on-the-spot sexual assault. Clearly, there is a need for parts beyond personal inwardness for even this minimal project of uniformity to count as ethical. A norm that emerges from inward criticism and innovation has to be widely adopted if it is to promote this project. What inwardness lacks is a means of getting adoption. Winning wide adoption can take place in a variety of ways – threats, propaganda, custom, rhetoric, and discussion. Therefore, the adoption and effectiveness of a norm are ultimately social matters, since all of these means are social. Inwardness assures each person only the basic capacities to enter the social process of adopting and then following norms. Yet, without actually entering the social process there is no ethics, not even a personal one. [6]

Since social viability is crucial in understanding why we are part of ethical life, we need to say what counts as a society. Many groups are not societies in the sense intended here. Though we may speak of doctors as part of a medical society, they compose an association that does not perform the wide range of activities that would make them a relatively self-sufficient unit. A society in the sense adopted here has as members people with the skills to perform the wide variety of tasks that make it a relatively self-sufficient unit. Doctors, as an association, do not educate children at the primary level, they do not set building codes to protect against fire and earthquake, and they lack tribunals that deal with criminal charges. Since no groups are completely self-sufficient, we should not be surprised that societies depend on one another in various ways. An example would be the way Canadian and US society depend on one another. Still, a society will have within it a wide range of means for the people in it to carry on life together. The means for living together will develop differently in different societies. The differences in development of these means will both lead to cultural and economic differences and reflect the ones already there.

Furthermore, one society may include others, in the way Spanish society includes Basque society. The ability of a society with sub-societies to carry out most functions for its people will depend both on the diverse capacities of the societies included within it and on the capacities jointly developed by the included societies. The ultimate in inclusion would be global society, whose viability would depend on heading off the environmental death of the planet Earth and ending the threat of its nuclear destruction. Finally, the focus here is on societies and not on states, which are entities that societies create and that as well create societies. In the 20th Century, Jewish society in Palestine brought about the state of Israel. However, in the 19th Century, the young Swiss state brought into being the multilingual Swiss society.

3 Formal ethics Part of the attraction of approaching ethics from the perspective of ethical life is that it forces us to deal with ethical issues in the real life setting of a society. As a segment of our lives, ethical life includes our motives, our needs, and our social dependency. Many discussions of ethics restrict themselves to the forms of ethical norms, derivations from them, and the relations they have to one another.[7] This gives rise to questions like the following. Can the norm I act on be acceptable if applying it to all leads to a contradiction? Can a distribution be just if it is not an equal division? Moralists who engage in such discussions focus on the structural design of ethical life without considering the significance ethical life has for persons. They are interested in the differences between and the criteria for right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, rights and prohibitions, and obligations and permissions. They treat what difference these differences make to us as extraneous to ethics, though of interest in some context other than ethics. Is it extraneous to ethics that the employee suffers if the manager has the right to decide wages and the employee has no right to a say? Behind the discussions of structural design, lies an unwillingness to face the basic motivational question: Since some people choose not to be part of ethical, why should anyone want to be part of it?

Specialist Joseph M. Darby, who was a military policeman assigned to Abu Ghraib, near Baghdad, while it was operating as a US prison, supplied pictures of the abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners taking place there in 2003 to his superior officers along with the comment that such treatment was “very wrong”.[8] Some military personnel involved thought he was a “snitch”, but that charge was a defensive posture taken to turn criticism away from their complicity. It lacked any ethical weight. By contrast, Specialist Darby’s charges were serious ethical ones. He did not attempt to conceal or minimize the abuses by appealing to military solidarity. Instead, for him ethical life was the arbiter in relation to military life. What, though, was the point of his going ethical?

Specialist Darby could have abstained from making an ethical judgment about the treatment. Having informed the military with his pictures, he could have deferred making any type of judgment to the chain of command. Or he could have waited for a judgment of some sort from an international court that would look at his pictures from the perspective of the Geneva conventions on the treatment of war prisoners. Instead, from within ethical life, he made his own judgment that the treatment was very wrong. That he did so is at least an indication of the seriousness with which he regarded the treatment at Abu Ghraib. In the legal world of ratified Geneva Conventions on prisoners, there is a goal just as there is in ethical life. It is an important goal, one of protecting the vulnerable and limiting damage when large forces collide. This goal is narrow in relation to that of ethical life. By emphasizing the legal without the ethical, the solidarity of ethical life gives way to people standing behind their legal rights.[9] At the ethical level, the concern is broader since it touches on the viability of stable human interaction. One can interpret Darby’s claim that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were very wrong as telling the world that permitting these abuses threatened a spread of all forms of brutishness that would break down the solidarity among humans needed for viable social existence.

4 Goals and reasons To some it will seem absurd to assign a goal to ethical life. How, they will ask, can one evaluate such a goal? Ethical life would have to provide such an evaluation, since it serves as ultimate arbiter for any other form of life. Yet the evaluation of the goal of ethical life would be circular when made by norms justified by that very goal. To avoid this circularity the evaluation would have to take place by means of ethical norms that are independent of this goal. The ethical ideas used in evaluating the goal of ethical life would need to get their legitimacy on a basis other than advancing this goal. Thus, avoiding the circularity exacts a high price, since ethical life would no longer be important because of its goal. One would have to seek its importance in the ethical norms it contains. Since these norms cannot tell us of their own importance, we would have to abandon the search for a rationale for being ethical.

This criticism of the view that ethical norms depend for their validity on the goal of ethical life might seem to lend support to the current fascination in the study of ethics with appeals to reasons. For those who accept this approach, one does not ask whether a certain norm would tend to frustrate progress toward a specific goal, such as social viability.[10] Instead, one asks whether the norm is reasonable independently of what goal it might serve. This amounts to stripping away the relevance of goals in justifying ethical norms. The motive for this strong measure is precisely to avoid the kind of circularity just discussed. For, it would be futile to start by having ethics depend on reasonableness and then proceed to treat reasonableness as dependent on the facilitation of goals. This would lead straight back to the source of the circularity we wished to avoid. It does this since one could evaluate those goals only by relying in the end on the reasonableness that those goals would generate. Avoiding the circularity calls for the criterion for the validity of a norm to be that no one can reasonably reject it independently of appeal to the goals it might serve or block. If someone can reasonably reject it independently of goals, it is not a valid norm.

If being reasonable is detached from goals we seek, can there still be any importance to being reasonable? It does not seem that reasonableness is a goal we strive for except as it serves some other goal. We all know someone who is a caricature of the reasonable person, someone who avoids commitment yet never says anything we would call unreasonable. Such a person is afraid of being thought unreasonable by any side in a controversy, and hence avoids saying anything beyond reasonable platitudes. We cannot find the importance of being reasonable in such a caricature of the reasonable person. We can find it, though, where there is a purpose for which reasonableness is a prerequisite. If we adopt unreasonable assumptions in trying to find a criminal, we end up far off his or her trail. If we make unreasonable demands on colleagues, we fail to get their cooperation. When we turn to ethical life, the same pattern holds, since reasonableness helps us separate the norms that are going to be useful in keeping society going from those that are not. This goes against the view that ethics is all about purposeless reasonableness. Only a purposeful reasonableness can give ethics enough importance for us to be ethical. An appeal to a reasonableness that is independent of goals is ineffective in countering a goal-based ethics.

5 Kinds of evaluation We can now return to the charge of circularity. Social viability as a test of ethical norms allegedly leads to circularity since one ends up evaluating social viability by using itself as a norm. Now we are in a better position to deal with that charge. The charge of circularity comes from what seems to be the commonsense view that goals need evaluation. However, it is worth raising a question about the kind of evaluation goals need. I shall try to show that several kinds of evaluation are relevant here. It turns out that some goals may need an evaluation for reasonableness without needing one for ethical validity.

Consider some commonly recognized goals. Chemistry serves the goal of better living. With this as the assumed goal of chemistry, should we evaluate it in terms of the principles of chemistry? Of course not! Nonetheless, we could ask if better living is a reasonable goal in relation to the resources available for just staying alive in our society. The criminal justice system serves the goal of reducing people’s vulnerability. Should we evaluate that goal in terms of standard practices for police and judges? Again, of course not! Yet, we could ask if less vulnerability is a reasonable goal. With arms widely available, poverty seemingly intractable, and ethnic strife intense some might not want to commit themselves to the goal if the criminal justice system is to be the only means used.

The analogy between these cases and ethical life seems compelling. For, we should not evaluate the goal which ethics serves in terms of ethical norms. However, someone could ask what makes that goal reasonable. If as the goal served by ethical norms one cannot evaluate it by those norms, can one find some non-ethical standard of reasonableness that applies to it? The best reply is to have a look at what life is like where there is social collapse, whether from famine, occupation, civil war, expulsion, or bombing. The disruption of everyday life we see after social collapse makes it reasonable to have a goal of social viability. Having these two kinds of evaluation – in terms of ethical norms and in terms of reasonableness – keeps a teleological ethics from having to say that the goal of ethics is purely arbitrary. We can say that the goal of ethics is reasonable without being able to say it is ethically valid. What is ethically valid is determined within ethics, and the goal of ethics is not within ethics. Not everything in daily life belongs to ethical life. That would turn daily life into a moralistic nightmare. The reasonableness of some goals can be determined outside ethics in terms of some further goal thereby allowing one to evaluate the goal of ethics in terms of reasonableness. In general, one can evaluate the goals of the various parts of life in terms of reasonableness, but one cannot evaluate those goals within the parts of life to which they pertain. This does not mean that reasonableness is independent of goals. When one evaluates a goal of a particular part of life as reasonable, that goal is reasonable in the light of some further goals.

6 Ethics as contingent The approach to ethics through purposeless reasonableness is an effort to escape contingency in ethics. This reasonableness involves being in accord with reasons whose legitimacy does not depend on their being means to any goals. In contrast, assigning a goal to ethical life makes its norms contingent on humans having that goal. On pain of circularity, one cannot eliminate the contingency by attempting to show that rejecting the goal would violate ethical norms. This urge to escape contingency has historical roots in a theologically based ethics that makes the authority of ethics depend on a divine reason that is ultimately the source of the moral law found in created human reason.[11] A pared down version of this theological ethics appeared in enlightenment versions that included only the moral law in human reason.[12] Nonetheless, in both the earlier and later versions, there was the urge to escape contingency in ethics. The self-defeating character of the urge affected both. For, without a goal that tells us whether ethical life is going in the right direction, ethical norms, whatever their source, lose their importance for us, as we saw above.

Defenders of the escape from contingency will respond that the divine source or the rational source of the norms is what endows them with importance. That may indeed be so, but only if the divine source or the rational source give us those norms for achieving some goal. In fact, the biblical deity gave instructions as to how to behave to avoid social disruption. Even the enlightenment figure, Immanuel Kant, made advancing to the goal of a cooperative society – a Kingdom of Ends – a test of whether our maxims were ethically valid.

One aspect of the contingency of ethical life is its dependency on human sentiments. Social survival is important enough to be the goal of a dimension of human life because of the strength of the feelings that drive us to seek companionship, recognition, and cooperation. The continuous satisfaction of the social feelings requires the survival of a society geared to their satisfaction. People can create such a society by entering into, among other things, common projects of the kind that develop education, water supplies, and the police. These projects not only create a society in which the social feelings are satisfied but the projects are themselves motivated by those feelings. The contingency of the goal of ethical life is partly due to the changeableness of these feelings. We neglect the goal of ethical life when the social feelings become weaker than what we might call the selfish feelings – non-recognition of others, power grabbing, harming others to get ahead, and refusal to cooperate rather than to compete.[13] We weaken the common projects on which we build society when the need for personal gain becomes stronger than the social feelings.[14] The result may be social crisis, but so what, since après moi le déluge!

An important consequence of the triumph of selfish pursuits over ethical life is the displacement of ethical life as ultimate arbiter by economic life. The triumph is seldom longstanding; a demand for social viability reemerges as fragmentation by competitiveness, for example, leads to crises. Still, there are periods when economic arguments for low wages based on the need to compete successfully in a global system are commonly accepted. They replace ethical arguments for living wages based on the need for decent treatment as a condition of keeping a society together. Setting aside ethical arguments, Jack Welch, former General Electric chief executive, said that the ideal location for a corporation would be on a barge in international waters.[15] Managers would be able to exercise total control over labor without governmental regulation. This “slave ship” fantasy of absolute exploitation avoids having to deal with the integration of labor and management into a cohesive social unit. In 2005, SeaCode Company converted Welch’s fantasy into a plan to put a software development factory on a cruise ship off California’s coast, out of the reach of US immigration and labor law.

There will be many objections to viewing ethics as aiming at social viability. One that needs comment here is that this view makes ethics a conservative enterprise. For, it seems that hoping for a better society would tend to undermine existing society. This objection misses an important way in which ethics is contingent. In ethical life, people need to respond to changes that lead some features of society to cease to be useful for its viability. Unifying features will end up mixing together with those that tear society apart. The dominant ethical views may support elements of both kinds. Thus, those views would in fact reinforce destructive elements in the society. Obviously, this creates the need for criticism of the dominant ethics, since a valid ethics should not encourage the collapse of a society. The criticism would call for the elimination of the destructive elements as an ethical responsibility. In sum, the view that valid ethical norms promote social viability is compatible with those very norms providing a critique of the existing society. The changes necessary for viability will differ with circumstances. It may be necessary to change the economy to get a more cooperative society. If it suffers from internal conflict with large numbers of immigrants, its survival may depend on projects to merge native and immigrant peoples into what would be a changed society. If it lacks a government that pursues its interests, a society may need to replace the governing structure with a more democratic one. An ethics of viability avoids conservatism through calling for social change.



  1. “Ethical life” (Sittlichkeit) is the title of Part 3 of G.W.F. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1821). He discusses the term in Paragraph 141 of that work. Its use in my work agrees with his in referring to something concrete, a part of human life in which people structure their activities to conform to certain social goals. [1]
  2. There is no consistent distinction between morals and ethics among philosophical writers. Some take “ethics,” a term with a Greek origin, to concern the normative practices of a group while taking “morality,” a term with a Latin origin, to concern only what could have universal recognition. See Jurgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms, translated by W. Rehg (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1996), 96-97. Others treat ethics as a broad field that includes morality, which focuses more narrowly on obligation and duty. See Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 6, 174. Still others see ethics as about the kinds of lives that are good or bad for a person to lead, whereas morality is about principles for how a person should treat others. See Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 230-237. All such views rest ultimately on distinctions that can be drawn with less chance of misleading implications within the concept of ethical life. In the text I shall use ‘ethics’ and ‘ethical’ but shall imply no distinction when occasionally I use ‘morals’ or ‘morality.’ [2]
  3. Quoted in, Edward Wong, “Shiite Morality Is Taking Hold in Iraq Oil Port [Basra],” New York Times, July 7, 2005. [3]
  4. Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 346. [4]
  5. The confusion of a personal ethics with inwardness is present in Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (New York: Penguin, 1993), 362-363. [5]
  6. Martha Nussbaum represents this individualist interpretation of dignity and human worth when she says “… this worth is a power of moral choice” within humans. See her Sex and Social Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 57ff [6]
  7. The distinction here between ethics as a network of connections among norms and ethics as playing a role in a concrete social order parallels that in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Paragraph 137) between “morality” as something abstract that lacks a connection with institutions – for him the family, civil society, and the state – in which it could become practical and “ethical life” in which norms are embody the demands of social structures. [7]
  8. Seymour M. Hersh, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 24-25. [8]
  9. In discussing the case of the revelation of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent by someone in the George W. Bush administration, columnist Molly Ivins said in a July 17, 2005, column that Bush’s political advisor Karl Rove could not use the law to hide ethical wrong-doing. She argued that, “If the prosecutor cannot prove a crime, Rove should still be fired … because what Rove did is ethically disgusting.” [9]
  10. See the criticism of teleology from the perspective of the appeal to reasons by T.M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 79-87. [10]
  11. E.g., Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, part I-II, question 100, article 3. [11]
  12. Immanuel Kant exemplifies, in the enlightenment period, this urge to overcome contingency with the requirement that ethical imperatives be categorical rather than conditional upon a goal. See his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, translated by H.J. Paton (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 84-88. [12]
  13. Government health insurance for low-income people, Medicaid, has become a favorite source of exploitation by both institutions and individuals. The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey billed Medicaid for its doctors services to patients while those doctors were billing Medicaid for the same services. An official at the university hospital who warned the university two years before it took action said, “But it was wrong, obviously wrong, and I had an obligation to speak up.” See David Kocieniewski and John Sullivan, “New Jersey State Medical School Double Billed Medicaid Despite Warning.” New York Times, July 6, 2005. [13]
  14. Zsuzsa Ferge discusses the “decivilizing” effect of the attacks on the welfare state in her “What Are the State Functions that Neoliberalism Wants to Eliminate?” in Not for Sale: In Defense of Public Goods, editors A. Anton, M. Fisk, and N. Holmstrom (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 2000), 181-204. [14]
  15. Jack Welch with John A. Byrne, Jack: Straight from the Gut (New York: Warner Business Books, 2003). [15]