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Analysis and Comment (27)

Confucius stands guard at Beijing’s Renmin University. George (Sam) Crane

Confucius doesn’t live here anymore

In today’s China, the philosopher Confucius is back. To mark his 2,565th birthday this September, the nation’s President, Xi Jinping, paid homage to the sage at an international conference convened for…
Should teachers dictate what’s right or wrong? Blackboard via pupunkkop/Shutterstock

We need to teach children how to think, not what to think

In its ideal form, education should be socially progressive. We teach the next generation of scientists, engineers and medical researchers who will improve our quality of life: they will learn more about…
Legislating for commercial surrogacy would enable Australia to overcome concerns about poorly regulated clinics overseas, such as this one in Thailand. EPA/Rungroj Yongrit

Commercial surrogacy in Australia: rethinking notions of ‘natural’

Often emphasised in discussions about children’s best interests is the idea that certain ways of having and raising children are “natural”. For example, this word appears frequently in reference to how…
Younger generations are more likely to engage in acts of kindness. Alex Proimos

Forget moral decline: Aussies might be getting kinder

The world today is often portrayed as being less kind, friendly or giving than it used to be. So-called Gen Me, today’s teens and young adults, are the poster-children of moral decline, routinely characterised…
The distribution of wealth is fundamentally a moral question. So why has the response to the GFC been so sluggish? EPA/JUSTIN LANE

Bringing the free market down to earth is a moral question

Five years on, the response of governments around the world to the global financial crisis (GFC) continues to draw criticism. Leaders failed to fulfil the promises they made during the GFC’s darkest days…
Air strikes in Syria are the latest phase of the war against Islamic State, each stage involving a fresh set of moral judgements. EPA/US Air Force

Moral dilemmas of war against Islamic State lack easy answers

Every generation in recent memory has had seminal historical conflicts which demand that lessons must be learnt. The baby boomers had the Vietnam war. Their parents: the second world war. And our generation…
Does an education in everyday ethics really require an understanding of moral philosophy? Jef Safi/Flickr

Why moral education should involve moral philosophy

Ethics are increasingly a part of the school curriculum, and practical introductory classes in applied ethics are part of the training that nurses, scientists and soldiers undergo. Ethical education is…
All public decision-making depends on ethical values, even if that’s disguised. AAP Image/NEWZULU/Courtney Biggs

Environmental policy isn’t value-neutral: where do the ethics hide?

However they’re spun, environmental concerns are never far from the headlines – and coordinated global marches on the weekend attest to the public’s interest in this area. Whenever we’ve made contributions…
After Isaac Newton, earthquakes could be deterministically linked to a distant divinity. Earthquake in Haiti, American Red Cross

A moral world in which bad things happen to good people

On All Saints Day in 1755 the earth quaked beneath the city of Lisbon. Crowds rushed to open spaces near the sea only to be engulfed by a tsunami. The philosopher Voltaire lamented the tragedy in his Poem…
There is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between moral and ethical decisions. Helga Weber

You say morals, I say ethics – what’s the difference?

Certain customs or behaviours are recognised as good and others as bad, and these collectively comprise morality – arguably the summation of our value system as human beings. So a conversation about ethical…
Philosophy begins, as Aristotle remarked, with curiosity and wonder. kozumel

Free your mind – but are there ideas we shouldn’t contemplate?

You’re a free thinker – congratulations – but does that mean you can, and should, approach everything with an open mind? Let me try to convince you you shouldn’t. I do not want to argue with him: he shows…
Our relationship with non-human animals must be understood as a question of morality. Patrick Bouquet/Flickr

Morality and our lives with animals

The traditional point of view in western intellectual thought – and one which is reflected in our own day-to–day views – is that of human exceptionalism, or anthropocentrism: the belief that humans are…
George Pell insists it is individual moral failures that are the root of the Catholic Church’s problems. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Church’s moral failure on trial at the Royal Commission

It is the long-held view of Cardinal George Pell and other senior Catholic officials that the sexual abuse crisis is an issue primarily about the moral failure of individual priests and not related to…
Genetics is just the latest specialist knowledge threatening to take the question of criminal responsibility away from law and hand it over to science. Graham/Flickr

Genes made me do it: genetics, responsibility and criminal law

Welcome to Biology and Blame, a series of articles examining historical and current influences on the notion of criminal responsibility. Today, Arlie Loughnan considers the challenge to the legal system…
Prisoners are having sex whether we like it or not and a lack of condoms affects us all. PA/Barry Batchelor

Prisoners have sex so let them have condoms

The idea of prisoners having sex upsets people; it offends our sense that prison is a place of punishment not pleasure. But sex still happens, maybe more than we like to think. And if it is happening…
There is mounting evidence that babies might have more of a moral compass than we once thought. Baby image from www.shutterstock.com

Young morals: can infants tell right from wrong?

Psychologists from Yale and the University of British Columbia think they have found a way to show that infants in their first year of life possess the psychological building blocks of a moral sense. These…
How does Australia measure up morally? Are we in a moral decline? Compass image from www.shutterstock.com

Moral compass: is Australia a kind nation?

We’re in a state of moral decline in the West – or so we’re told. From sky-rocketing divorce rates and the shrinking of life-long commitments to an excessive concern with self and consumerism. Morality…
When we’re deciding how our character should act in-game, do we default to our real-world moral codes? rachel a. k.

Videogames and morality – separating fact and fiction

A recently published study in the journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking suggests most videogame players are governed by the same moral codes they apply to real life. But there are…
Can ethical markets solve the problems of persistent poverty and global income inequality? Michelle Brea

Challenge 7: The market, morals, ethics, and poverty

In part seven of our multi-disciplinary Millennium Project series, Adrian Walsh argues that a humane market asks something of us that we may not want to give. Global challenge 7: How can ethical market…
Can we afford to be laissez faire about amoral economic behaviour? Carrie Sloan

Oh, the morality: why ethics matters in economics

“Morally bankrupt” is how a recently departing Goldman Sachs executive described the culture of the investment bank. As noted in Business Day, this view “is common among the bank’s critics, many of whom…
On the ninth anniversary of the US-led Iraqi invasion, suicide attacks were used against civilians in Iraq. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Good and bad deaths: why we react to suicide bombers the way we do

Suicide attacks and car bombings across Iraq this week have killed at least 43 people and left 255 wounded. We are sadly now very familiar with the phenomenon of the suicide bomber, but the particular…
Universities need to remember why they research: to advance knowledge. Flickr/Gates Foundation

Forget profits. Universities need morals.

Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Macquarie University, recently claimed that universities should break from being treated as businesses and recapture their moral purpose. He used the example of Jonas…

Research Briefs (2)