Posted in February 2011

Ethicist no more virtuous after dozen years on job


The Ethicist is retiring. Randy Cohen’s last column appeared in the NY Times Magazine this past Sunday. What most interested me were his closing comments. “Writing the column has not made me even slightly more virtuous . . . Consider sports writers: not 2 in 20 can hit the curveball, and why should they? They’re meant … Continue reading

Moral boycotts, big and small


Consumer boycotts are legitimate ways for buyers to make a point. They won’t patronize a company because they don’t want to support its unethical practices. To this day, I won’t buy Nestles products because of years ago it aggressively promoted baby formula in Third World countries, which led to unnecessary infant deaths. Continuing to boycott … Continue reading

It’s not fair — taxes and morality


“That’s not fair!” Every parent has heard it. And well they should. Fairness is one of the two ethical concepts that children are born with, the other being not to harm another without just cause. “That’s not fair!” should be the cry as state houses around the nation prepare their budgets for the coming year. … Continue reading

Paranoids in Libya and America


What do you do while exercising? I watch TV. Yesterday news’ program was interrupted to present Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s speech broadcast live on Libyan television. Most often what you get are snippets and highlights, but I watched for a half hour (he spoke for more than an hour) as he decried the protests in the … Continue reading

They demonstrated in Egypt, now Wisconsin


First thousands took to the streets in Tunisia and Egypt. Then the wave of protests spread to Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, Jordan and now—Wisconsin? That’s what it seems like as nearly 70,000 gathered on Saturday in a week-long series of rallies in Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s bill that would limit public workers (sanitation … Continue reading

Smartphone, laptops and ethics


No laptops or cell phones use in my classrooms. From experience I have learned that these devices are distractions, not enhancements, to learning. Students think they can multi-task, combining learning with surfing and texting, but research shows otherwise. Now the military is worried about similar problems in the field. Troops are on their smart phones … Continue reading

Watson, Jeopardy and morality


The Yiddish novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer once wrote that a knife could be used either to cut bread or kill. There is nothing inherently good or bad about a knife. It is simply a tool used by human beings, for better of worse. In this way computers are like knives. For example, they have made … Continue reading

China and US share moral problem


This week China became the world’s second largest economy, eclipsing Japan, and it is expected to surpass the US in about a decade. You need only to spend a day in one of its cities to be overwhelmed by the vibrancy of this colossus. Shanghai makes New York feel like a lumbering old giant while … Continue reading

Follow up on the moral police in Malaysia


From the BBC: Islamic morality police in Malaysia have arrested more than 80 Muslims in an operation to stop them celebrating Valentine’s Day. Officers raided budget hotels in the central state of Selangor and capital, Kuala Lumpur, detaining unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms. The religious authorities in Malaysia say Valentine’s Day is synonymous … Continue reading