Conditions for Success of a Global Ethics

In order for this philosophical theory to have any practical impact, the ethics of global responsibility needs to be scaled up. The fundamental practical question about the ethical framework described in this book is whether it can achieve sufficient scale of acceptance within the global community to make a difference in how a significantly large number of people think about the moral condition of humanity in the twenty-first century. How successfully this ethical theory can be scaled up depends upon a number of factors. Let me mention a few of the criteria that can be used to determine how potentially scalable a global ethics that requires a radical expansion of human responsibilities might be.

In order to achieve widespread acceptance and become internalized as part of the dominant ethos an account of a global ethics should:

· Provide a coherent account of the nature, scope, and limitations of the moral responsibilities which moral agents have towards co-nationals, citizens of other states, future generations, and non-human species and the ecosystems on which they depend.

· Allocate the burdens of fulfilling these responsibilities in ways that are practically feasible given the limitations imposed by our nature, our powers and capacities, and our existing traditions.

· Be sustainable and enable future generations to elaborate it and improve it in useful and appropriate ways.

· Be teachable and be understandable by ordinary people, and not so complex and abstract that its implications for practical action cannot be apprehended..

· Be capable of achieving widespread adherence across diverse political, cultural, and economic systems and ideologies.

· Support and provide guidance concerning effective and feasible public policies for addressing global threats and provide practical guidance for policy-makers in dealing with these kinds of issues.

· Provide guidance in resolving conflicts involving different values, rights, and duties and between different fundamental ethical principles.

· Be able to withstand criticism, and demonstrate fruitfulness in solving new problems within the range of issues the overall framework is supposed to address.

There can be no prior assurance that any, let alone all, of these conditions can be satisfied. There is no way to prove that a global ethics is possible before we try to construct and deploy it. In other words, embarking on this project requires that one be willing to “risk the impossible” and to attempt to bring into being something that perhaps cannot be. I am willing to take that risk.