We have here a collection of shortened versions of some of the best papers presented at the 2006 meetings of the Canadian Society for the Study of Practical Ethics, which was held at York University in Toronto in late May and early June 2006. This small collection is designed to give people an idea of both the quality and variety of papers that presented at the Society’s meetings and an appreciation for the importance of the research being undertaken by members of the Society. [Click on titles to see a PDF version of each paper.]
In the first paper, “The Unintended Unethical Conduct of Technology Workers—Why?”, Sheldon Richmond argues for the surprising conclusion that information technology support professionals frequently unintentionally act unethically in the course of their work. They do this, as he observes, “by turning smart people into helpless and subservient idiots who are treated only as slaves to the master machines”.
Sheldon Wein, in his paper, “The Mega-City in the Developing World” argues that insufficient attention has been paid to what rules of etiquette should be developed for and deployed by the millions of rural peasants moving into the mega-cities of the developing world. While he offers few specific suggestions he does make the case that this is a pressing issue which practical ethicists ought no longer to ignore.
Sandra Tomsons, in her paper, “A non-Aboriginal philosopher searching for a better moral theory and a just relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples” argues that, while there are human rights to life and liberty there is no parallel right to property. She also argues against the idea of (so-called) environmental ethics as a separate enterprise from ethics generally. Finally she explores the vexing matter of what a moral theory that could help us understand how relations between aboriginals and non-aboriginal peoples could become just would have to accomplish.
Finally, in “The Precautionary Principle and the Ethics of Corporate Decision Making” Chris MacDonald explores the idea of having corporations adopt some version of the precautionary principle as an ethical constraint on their decision-making. He notes that even if we could find an appropriate version of the precautionary principle for this role figuring out just how to employ such a principle in a way that is compatible with other corporate obligations and goals raises considerable challenges. MacDonald provides us with three avenues that he thinks are the most promising in dealing with the difficulties of incorporating the precautionary principle in a principled way in corporate decision making. Thus, his paper performs two important roles: showing supporters of the precautionary principle just how difficult their task is and suggesting the means by which they might overcome these obstacles.
Those who would like to read fuller versions of these papers or to enter into conversations with the authors on these topics are invited to do so via email. And, of course, everyone in invited to participate in our 2007 meeting to be held in the spring in Saskatoon.