The Foundation Forum: The Pavement of Good Intentions

On 8th September The Foundation held a forum in London on “The pavement of good intentions – how do we rebuild trust to get beyond the scandals and lies?”. The evening’s talks and discussion were structured around a central moral problem: why is it that too often good people end up doing bad things in public life? And how does this effect the trust that the public can have in these people? The speakers introduced examples of situations in which well-intentioned groups or individuals were entangled in dilemmas, public scandals, and lies. These examples were then used in order to identify some of the key factors that lead to morally questionable action and a loss of trust, as well as to suggest ideas on what it would take to avoid these problems arising again in the future. The broad consensus was that the key factor in “good people somehow breaking bad” in public life and the resulting lack of trust were of a structural and sometimes cultural nature, and that it would take a careful reform in both areas to minimise future incidences.

Continue reading The Foundation Forum: The Pavement of Good Intentions

Transitional Justice and Freedom: the case of Manbij

I recently read an article about how the town of Manbij in Syria had been freed from the oppressive rule of ISIS. The article contained a number of pictures of residents with beaming faces, they bore looks of relief, happiness and hope. Men were having their beards cut, after the 2 year ban on beard cutting imposed by the Islamic regime had been repealed. Women in Hijabs were smoking cigarettes openly and defiantly in the streets, others walked happily carrying their babies in their arms. Wide-eyed children cheerfully looked on at their elders. The pictures told of a mood of happiness, as though a huge weight had been lifted. And it was happiness at their new found sense of freedom – at enjoying a level of liberty that had previously been denied them under the oppressive regime.

The value of removing forces of oppression (be this in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Burundi or any other state riven apart by conflict, political fragility and illegitimate rule) lies for the most part in the value of increasing and protecting individual freedom. Continue reading Transitional Justice and Freedom: the case of Manbij

Workshop: Free Speech and the Requirements of Democracy

This event will be held at the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied (IDEA) Centre, University of Leeds on 24th-25th August.

How we understand, protect, and discharge our rights and responsibilities as citizens is intimately connected to the standards and behaviour of our media in general, and our news media in particular. However, the media do not just stand between the citizenry and their leaders, or indeed between citizens and each other. The media is often the site where individuals attempt to realise some of the most fundamental democratic liberties, such as the right to free speech. Philosophers have been slow to recognise the unique institutional significance of the media in liberal democratic societies and to address the question of what duties should be assigned to individual citizens who engage, for a variety of reasons, in this kind of mass public communication.

In our workshop we will explore the conflict between the rights that people attempt to exercise in, and through, the media and the responsibilities that fall out of the awesome power of the modern media and the special role that it performs in a society committed to the principle of political equality.
Continue reading Workshop: Free Speech and the Requirements of Democracy

Senior Leaders’ Forum on Leadership Ethics

A Senior Leaders’ Forum on Leadership Ethics took place last week, on 22nd and 23rd June in London.

On the background ‘noise’ of votes being cast in the EU referendum, we were discussing what constitutes good leadership. Senior leaders from various areas were bringing up their experience, views and challenges they have faced in what resulted to be a very fruitful discussion. The questions on the discussion agenda were summarized in three sessions:

SESSION 1: Introduction: Plato as a major resource for understanding leadership. Platonic models of leadership.

SESSION 2: Leadership education – liberal arts vs. professional training.

SESSION 3: Leadership and mutual trust.

Continue reading Senior Leaders’ Forum on Leadership Ethics

Advisers and the Fiduciary Duty Debate

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis policymakers in the United States authorized the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to conduct research into whether or not it would be advisable to attempt to improve the quality of investment advice by requiring investment advisers to adhere to a fiduciary standard of care.  The SECs study argued in favor of raising standards for all advisers and to require them to act as fiduciaries but without actually promulgating new regulations.  Instead, they asked the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to make the determination.  FINRA is a self-regulatory agency authorized by Congress with oversight by the SEC.  It is funded by investment firms for whom they also have supervisory responsibility.

FINRA having failed to take action, led the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to take up the matter claiming their right to do so as the regulatory body concerned with employees; including employee retirement savings plans.  Hence, the DOL with the support of the Obama administration, after intense debates with elected officials and after numerous public hearings, created new regulations which require advisers, but only those who advise on retirement assets, to act as fiduciaries.

In my paper, Advisers and the Fiduciary Debate[1] I discuss how on one side of the debate it is argued advisers need only concern themselves with recommendations which meet certain ‘suitability’ standards.  On the other side, there are those who argue the suitability standard is not strong enough to adequately protect investor interests.  And instead of ensuring investment recommendations are merely suitable, financial advisers owe their investors a fiduciary duty to “act in the best interest of the customer without regard to the financial or other interests . . . of the investment adviser providing the advice.” [2]. Continue reading Advisers and the Fiduciary Duty Debate

Why CCTV in care homes could cause more harm than good

The UK may well be the most watched nation on the planet, but when it comes to our country’s care homes many believe more still needs to be done in terms of safety and surveillance. A campaign started last February, for instance, called for CCTV cameras to be installed in every care home in the UK amid an increase in care home-related abuse cases and the reporting of horrific care home practices by the BBC’s Panorama programme.

While no one would want to dispute that society should be caring for the elderly, or that those involved in such abuse should be apprehended and prosecuted, the blanket surveillance of workers and residents to a degree that few reading this article would accept in their own homes, should be considered very carefully. Continue reading Why CCTV in care homes could cause more harm than good

CWO John D. Baldari – ‘Phronesis and the Profession of Arms’

The Institute of Applied Ethics would like to invite you to the latest seminar in the ‘Environment, Conflict and Responsibility’ series:

John D. Baldari – ‘Phronesis and the Profession of Arms’

Thursday 26th May at 1pm
Lecture Theatre 28, Wilberforce Building, University of Hull

Continue reading CWO John D. Baldari – ‘Phronesis and the Profession of Arms’

The Professional Ethics Network – How to Distribute the Burdens in Flood Risk Management

Last Thursday, we were lucky enough to have Dr Neelke Doorn, assistant professor of Ethics and Water Governance at the Department of Philosophy of Delft University of Technology, as our speaker at the Professional Ethics Network. The topic of the evening was ‘How to Distribute the Burdens in Flood Risk Management’. This is especially relevant considering the flooding in the UK in December 2015 during which Leeds and York were badly affected. Dr Doorn compared flood management strategies in the Netherlands and the UK and argued that we both have things to learn from each other. Continue reading The Professional Ethics Network – How to Distribute the Burdens in Flood Risk Management

Kant, Freedom and Applied Ethics

I am currently working on the relationship between freedom and nature in Immanuel Kant. At first glance, this seems of little relevance to applied ethics, or indeed anything else! In what follows, I want to say a little bit more about my research and offer a couple of thoughts on the relationship between abstract philosophy and applied ethics in general.

Kant views the natural world as entirely determined by natural necessity, and locates freedom outside of it. This allows him to insulate freedom (and morality) from the world of science. Unfortunately however, in locating freedom outside of nature, Kant finds it hard to account for any interaction between freedom and nature.

In a recent paper, I argued that Kant’s set-up precludes knowledge of other agents. I also recently presented a work in progress at our seminar series, where I argued that Kant cannot account for degrees of responsibility. The basic thought is that, in viewing everything as either entirely determined by natural necessity or entirely free, Kant cannot make sense of varying degrees of freedom or responsibility. Continue reading Kant, Freedom and Applied Ethics

Blog Re-Launch & Professional Ethics Network Event

Welcome to the new “Ethics in public & professional life” blog, run by the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre at the University of Leeds.

Watch this space for commentaries on current news and affairs, events, reports, and recent activities in our centre, written by staff, students, as well as professionals from the public and private sector.

Our next event will be:

The Professional Ethics Network –

How to Distribute the Burdens in Flood Risk Management

Thursday 28th April 2016

Continue reading Blog Re-Launch & Professional Ethics Network Event