Monday, March 19, 2007

What Are The Most Pressing Moral Issues Today?

Regular readers know I've been working on a book called Was It Morally Good for You, Too?: A How-To Guide to Ethics in Sex, Politics, and Other Dirty Words. The idea is to present a readable, funny, but robust framework in which to meaningfully discuss ethical issues that both shows why moral judgments are not subjective like one's favorite flavor of ice cream and explains why ethical systems cannot do all the intellectual heavy lifting for us. The reason Americans suck at talking about moral issues is that we don't know how to do it; we don't really know what it is we are supposed to be arguing about, so we argue past each other, close-mindedly declare our positions to be unassailable without argument, impugn the characters of those who disagree with us, or simply retreat to an anything goes, shoulder shrugging relativism. I hope to be able to show why the need for rigorous, good faith moral deliberation in our own minds and discourse with others is not only unavoidable, but gives us a means to progress in our understanding about questions that have seemed intractable...if we learn how to talk about ethics well.

One of the chapters that I have been revising recently considers ethical questions in the political sphere. When I started working on the book a year ago, the most pressing question was the moral standing of torture. While that sadly remains a question of interest, it no longer occupies the central place in our contemporary moral considerations it once did. A book like this has a problem of needing to remain current, even if some of the issues are perennial.

So my question to everyone today is, what issues need to be in that chapter? What moral concerns are we facing today that need to be discussed around the dinner table? What ethical tangles are we talking about or not talking about that require our thoughtful attention?