Notes: Ethics & Education 2: The role of moral consciousness in identity and the “self”

Unfortunately I was unwell for the first seminar on this topic, but I was able to catch up on some of the ideas discussed in the Zhou and Biesta reading about Confucianism vs the Reflexive Project of the Self in lifelong learning was fascinating. In class we explored the ideas of good vs bad and the development of the moral consciousness, the relationship between professional/legal/personal ethics, action vs inaction, and global ethics.

Discussion about the reading: Lifelong Learning between “East” and “West”: Confucianism and the Reflexive Project of the Self.

Idea of self made man (individualist and about control) vs ideas about individuals not living in a vacuum, we need a moral consciousness, holistic, connectedness. Non-Western Confucian philosophy about interconnectedness and being part of a whole, human nature as being essentially good, moral consciousness

Interesting similarity between these contrasts and the difference between the Judeo-Christian creation story of Adam being given dominion over the world, animals etc., God having a human father perfect image, compared to indigenous societies and view of humans needing to live in harmony with the world, gods being representations of natural and human phenomena, also have human flaws.  Also connected the Judeo-Christian idea of original sin and the need for humans to repent (human nature is inherently bad?)


Idea of good vs bad

Conclusion – we have the potential for both good and bad.

Difference between what is legally and ethically right? Laws can support or undermine/breakdown ethics in society. Ethical responsibility to resist unjust laws.

Democracy has its issues but it has its good sides – it helps us to keep each other to account. Important to have different voices because they bring the potential for discussion.

Relation b/w personal ethics, legal ethics, professional ethics? E.g. some medical doctors strongly against abortion, yet might have to be the professional who can arrange it… priests who didn’t accept women in the role in the church.

  • In education there can also be problems. E.g. if the teacher has a strong religious faith, yet has to teach about a range of religions in RE, that somehow has to be addressed. Different ways in different places to deal with this – e.g. teach religion separately in different classes, teach ethics instead etc. Teacher must be aware of this difference in their way of thinking and those of some of their students as well as the legal requirements. Or of course the ethical dilemma of giving grades, which gives a great effect on the person’s self-conception and possibly their career later on. E.g. teacher who loves being in classroom but is against giving grades, but if in job description to do so they must do it because of their professional ethics – ways to alleviate are to justify the grades and explain clearly so there’s room to improve etc. (In Finland grading isn’t required until 7th grade though usually begins in 3rd or 4th grades).

Can it be unethical not to do anything?

Every act is political, including inaction. Complicity in silence

Must be mindful of the fact that not everyone is in the position to be able to → and so greater responsibilty of those who are in a position to do something.

When do we have the right/should we interfere? Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international community’s reluctance to get involved i nconflict because of the sovereignty of the state. So many people will killed.

Problem of balancing principles and consequences (must also think in long and short term) – we often have conflicting ideas, decisions we make often go through a long process to get there (the UN and the Security Council problems and how it was created with those who have power of veto won WWII). Strike and Soltis good authors on this. Problem of choosing if we should kill a few to save the lives of many.

Problem of not caring – Noddings analyses different forms of caring and not caring (caring for and caring about).  

Stages of freedom for ethical decisions. Some have more to say, some can interfere without being threatened. Bosnia Herzegovina and reluctance of individuals to fight, people being taken from uni, going underground – decisions around pacifism etc. might depend on family and other surrounding circumstances. Richard talking here about the concept of agency and


Global ethics (UNESCO Our creative diversity 1995)

Identify characteristics of the process that could lead to the process of forming certain principles and structures to avoid human atrocity and promote tolerance and cooperation etc.

Motivation and willingness to reflect and cooperate, self reflection (not just individual but also as collective community) important for this, need for dialogue and working together. The idea of the League of Nations and later the UN is that they would be this platform. Many say the UN is useless and shouldn’t resist, but what is the alternative? Needs major reform but power play will hinder this (e.g veto in UNSC). Idea of having a platform like this is good, but how to make it operate so that everybody is heard and can work together is the question. The process of its creation of the UN in and of itself is interesting, as it was possible.

As is the concept of human rights and the development of universal human rights, and continues to be a process. We have to create the space for it every day.

Meeting and treating others as subjects rather than objects, who are equal in the dialogue. Listen to the others first before deciding what is good for them and imposing that on them. Birthright of Man 1968. Not all countries / people agree – whether we should be committed to absolute equity (between cultures, people, ethnicities, countries, between generations and within generations (e.g. are these decisions being made now for this generation thinking enough about following generations?)

Commitment to dialogue and mutual learning, various perspectives. Moral framework, need for evaluation, judgement and decisions.

Commitment to peace, avoiding violence and solving conflicts. Innocence goes out the window when we shoot the first bullet.

Commitment to searching for sustainable development – the four pillars (not just environmental, but also economic, cultural and social), safeguarding minimum needs for everyone, protect global environment. What is “sustainable”? Human rights – basic needs, minimum for sustainable development, for everyone to survive and have opportunity of good life.



We have potential for good and bad. We have moral consciousness – related to self-identity, can depend on the context, but can be developed. Lawrence Kohlberg. Lifelong proces of reflection, judgement and development. Various perspectives needed and then we can debate about global and “universal”  



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