Saturday, May 19, 2012

Invited Seminar: Thinking Through Orissa

Prof. Richard A. SHWEDER
William Claude Reavis Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago
"Thinking Through Orissa: Some Things an Anthropological Guest Learned About Cultural Psychology from His Indian Hosts"
17 May 2012

Is it permissible to kill one person in order to save twelve hundred? What if the one is an innocent child? What if the one is your only son? What if the one is you? By posing the above and many other questions about making moral choices, Professor Shweder inspired the audience to think through how people make moral choices. He challenged the utilitarian notion of moral choices as doing the greatest good to the greatest number because this is an unhumanistic way to think about morality as if choice of morality is simply counting. Instead, he maintained that any behavior must be situated and be understood in context before we make a moral judgment.

Professor Shweder also proposed the co-existence of three ethics of morality in any system worldwide: ethics of community, ethics of autonomy, and ethics of divinity. Under the ethics of community, the self is conceptualized as a role or position in relation to the community; it entails duty, obligation, loyalty, and hierarchy. The ethics of autonomy recognizes that people have wants and should have the right to satisfy their wants as long as it does not bring harm to other people. The ethics of divinity sees the self as connected to a transcendental higher form of being. These three ethics are the grounds for moral judgments. Professor Shweder suggested that it is essential that we think through other cultures to attain non-ethnocentric moral realism.

CHEE, Wai Chi
PhD Candidate

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