For the ancient Greeks, Eudaimonia represented one of the highest
ideals. The term embodies a state of happiness, contentedness and
prosperousness combined… yet happiness remains an enigma for so many
of us. What is it? How can we experience it?
Kohlberg talked of stages of moral reasoning and suggested that we
pass through phases that he creatively called Preconventional,
Conventional and Postconventional. The Preconventional stage is that
of rules and punishment, that to behave according to norms established
by an authority figure is in one’s best interests. The Conventional
stage expands this to include law, duty and respect for authority
through loyalties to family, friends and society. Postconventional
ethics is focused upon the genuine interest in the welfare of others,
initially by asking, “What makes a society function?”, then
progressing to universal principles that take priority over the
formalised laws of society.
Yet there is little real ethical education. Having taken academic
courses in ethics within the fields of Psychology, Law and most
recently the University of Queensland’s MBA, I have a deal of
experience that suggests that academics are either too confused or too
frightened to take a stand and develop men and women of character. It
is far easier to just say “work it out for yourself” and punishing
people when they err than to deliberately develop the sort of thinking
and acting that we want to see in our future leaders and graduates.
Developing ethics is not difficult, but it takes courage. It takes the
courage to make assertions that are not necessarily supportable by
validated double-blind studies. It takes the courage to assert the
principles that we hold to be true, and to defend them against a
mainstream society that often disagrees.
Here are some of my basic principles:
1. All people are equal. Education, experiences and personal power
contribute to the responsibility that you have to contribute something
worthwhile to the community, though as an individual we each have
2. We should seek truth. More than merely recycling quotes, we should
seek a life that focuses upon genuine principles and reality, rather
than following delusions. If you believe in a God, follow that God; if
you do not, seek to understand yourself and the world, and act
accordingly. I do not know how to derive meaning or purpose without
some form of God.
Do your bit… inspire others to do theirs.