Session 9: Ethics, Interpretation, Practice

2nd Global Conference


Friday 12th March – Sunday 14th March 2010
Salzburg, Austria

Reintroducing Ethics and Social Justice Concerns into the Academic Equation?
Ken Kyle
Public Affairs & Administration, California State University, East Bay, USA

As this last year has made clear, the Academy is not above the economic Frey and almost no individual academic institution, unit or individual academician is immune from the pressure. Still, academia has long been under pressure yet faculty members and concerned administrators have failed to respond adequately. Today administrators in many public institutions of higher learning whose state funding has been reduced and many private institutions whose endowments have seriously declined are making difficult decisions. Public institutions are raising tuition rates and student fees, reducing classes, gutting and “consolidating” programs, cutting employee pay and benefits, and laying off employees. Similarly, some private institutions are cutting back on aid to students from socioeconomically under served populations. In this public universities and many private institutions are effectively shucking their claims to embrace equity as core value. As I have argued elsewhere (Kyle 2005, 2001, 2000a, 2000b), policies that limit access to higher education and limit choice raise ethical concerns and should be resisted by those who desire to promote equity and social justice. If accepted for presentation, I shall build upon my earlier work and examine some rhetorical impediments to seeing these matters as ethics issues in this presentation. Further, I shall highlight some of the subtle – read ideological – and not so subtle hurdles that those seeking to frame the ongoing public divestment in public higher education as ethical problems and social injustice face. Finally, I shall offer suggestions on how to more effectively move equity and social justice concerns to the fore of discussion concerning higher education policy.

Ethics in Trouble: A Philosopher’s Role in Moral Social Practice
Anne Siegetsleitner
University of Salzburg, Department of Philosophy, at the Faculty of Cultural and Social Sciences, Austria

Contributions to moral practice and theory may come from philosophy, any social or empirical science, religious or political group, or any individual. We may call all contributers “ethicists”. However, accepting this linguistic usage, we should be aware that important distinctions go unrecognized. Psychologists, philosophers, theologians, politicians or theorists do not play the same role. They come with different titles and different contributions. Ignoring these differences will result in problematic personal and political consequences.

Philosophers may contribute a lot to moral practice, even when they are not looking for a theory that may be “applied” to contemporary moral concerns. Showing the backgrounds, the underlying and unmentioned premises of arguments brought forward in moral debates, is a recognized philosophical qualification. The same holds for concept clarification or hermeneutic skills, knowledge of historical development, and the like. These competences can be used with a critical impetus or with a constructive one: for example, proposing new concepts and viewpoints for new thinking. Things change completely, however, when their work is not only motivated but founded on personal, political or religious moral positions. These are not supported by philosophical authority. Where philosophers are engaged in various forms of counselling, they have to clarify with which title they do so. Being an engaged citizen may be a legitimate answer. However, in this case, the role of the philosopher has changed profoundly. Then, s/he is a philosophical trained citizen.

By stating clearly where the contribution is philosophical and where it rests on her or his own moral viewpoints, a philosopher participating in moral social practice keeps not only intellectual but moral integrity as well. By ignoring or hiding it, not only philosophical ethics but moral practice might be in trouble, too.

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Political Paradoxes and Crises of Interpretation in the Context of Contemporary Cultural Relations
Slavica Srbinovska
Department of Comparative Literature, Faculty of Philology “Blaze Koneski”, “Ss.Cyril and methodius” University, Republic of Macedonia

This paper is mainly about examining the discourses of the narratives which belong to the postmodern society and are connected with reconstruction; re-interpretation and re-narration of the (hi)stories presented from different perspectives, especially from the point of view of the authors of literary works, autobiographies and film presentations from the region of the South-Eastern Europe. The presence of the opposite sides in a conflict, which is connected to the different ideological beliefs are to be looked at as well.

Furthermore, the views that Michel Foucault both possesses and attempts to show in his book “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison” are therefore a base out of which this paper can analyze the connections between the concepts of discourse, power and ethics. It would also research the presence of violence as an aspect of interpretation of narratives that constitute the discourse of culture. Violence is an aspect of interpretation which tends to close all the questions connected with the narrative text, especially in contexts of a strong political and ideological pressure, which influences the creating of conflicts, ending in a tragic manner.

These narratives, which are a centre of the examination of the subject, look at the violence and ethical consciousness and knowledge from the aspect of the sphere of private relations between the individuals throughout the public connections, set up by the social systems of organisation and their traditions, filled with genders, ethnical and national barriers and shields.

All of these problems, on the whole, presented in the narratives of literature and film have a certain amount of influence on the readers, and the constitution of their self-consciousness, and also the experiences of the others surrounding them.

Moreover, it is interesting to present the different views on the matter given by the authors, who usually use the autobiographical form of writing, in order to present their traumatic experiences in a certain historical and political context. In this view, according to Foucault, one of the most interesting is the discourse of the institutions in one era, which always fixates the values, the truths and the experiences of one individual, most often against his discourses. His individual point of view, free from the violence and hostility of the institutional discourses, is presented in his work.

This paper points out these individual artistic discourses, as a counterpoint of the violent institutional discourses and their truth.