Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Questions of justice and reward were left to the market to resolve; questions of human flourishing were privatised. It was left to everyone to decide their own sequence of pleasurable experiences in life with little acknowledgement of how many of those depend entirely on mutual co-operation. The classic paradigm is sitting in a traffic jam in your 4x4 with its astonishing powers of acceleration rendered useless.

One explanation for this abandonment of the debate is that we lost a language in which to think and argue about ethics. Perhaps this is partly attributable to the vexed legacy of institutional religion and the long shadow it still casts. The promotion of ethical behaviour has been bound up with particular institutions, and as they decline, it leaves a vacuum of authority. Who dares talk on this subject with confidence? It prompts fear that any such discussions are really a Trojan horse for promoting a religious belief. There's a suspicion that words such as "morality" tip us quickly into the kind of instinctive conviction made infamous by Tony Blair in which sincerity is regarded as an adequate substitute for careful reasoning.

Madeleine Bunting

1 comment:

Peter in Dundee said...

This was indeed a good article by Ms Bunting, but she is regularly on the wrong side when it comes to the voluntary euthanasia debate and she won't be told, trotting out the same tired old, discredited arguments over and over again.

Consistency is just so hard.