Towards Ethical Societies



Journal of Dharma (ISSN: 0253-7222) Volume 45.

Ethics is fundamental to the well-being of individuals and societies, and is integral to all aspects of human life - economics, politics, education, health, media, sports, science, technology, art, literature, etc. Ethics is fundamental not because of any epistemic or phenomenological property, but by virtue of the place it occupies in our lives; it refers to a way of judging life and a way of life. All aspects of human life are inextricably intertwined with other life aspects, while none of human life aspects are neutral in value. Ethics is indeed the élan vital of human life and well being. Ethics is a species-specific variable, and human beings could be rightly called Homo Ethicus: All human beings are ethical; only human beings are ethical; and to the extent that human beings are ethical, they are fully human beings. The stream of life constitutes judgement and practices with ethics as an integral point. A living human being is not just a bundle of perceptions, thoughts, or judgements but is an individual actively and critically engaging in varying relations with God, community, and world. These relations have a constitutive ethical dimension.

Increasingly we are aware of the fact that industrial revolutions do not bring forthsustainable growth, development, and happiness for all. As we move to the fourth industrial revolution, charged by the exponential growth of innovations and inventions in the fields of mobile technology, nano-physics, internet of things, genetics, robotics, etc., blurring and merging the distinction between real and virtual, physical and mental, biological and technical, intellectual and AI, etc. fundamental questions are raised in the aesthetic, moral, political and spiritual dimension of human life. The ever increasing economic, educational, digital, information and knowledge divides, and the problems involved in the knowledge management in the local, national, and global communities challenge the noble goals of living together in harmony and well being of all.

In the four issues in 2020 the Journal of Dharma proposes to examine critically and creatively Ethics as a fundamental aspect of any significant aspect of human life and the interrelations between Ethics and other important aspects of human life. Many in the academia consider that Science, Technology, Literature, Economics, Politics, etc. are not directly related with ethical concerns; they are value free. Focussing on the general theme, "Towards Ethical Societies", Journal of Dharma proposes to examine the hypothesis that all branches of human life are closely related with Ethics. They are impoverished conceptually and practically, and are perilous to humanity, if they are separated from Ethics. Ethics is integral to the life of homo sapiens, homo aestheticus, homo economicus, homo politicus, homo religiosus, etc.

Homo Sapiens and Homo Ethicus

Human beings possess a reflective awareness of good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust, etc. Though they may disagree on what is good and what is bad in each situation, they agree that good is to be done and evil is to be avoided. As homo sapiens we distinguish between what seems to be the case and what is the case, and as ethical beings, homo ethicus, we distinguish between what is the case and what ought to be the case. Science, for all the benefits it has brought to our world, has not helped us to make sense of our lives. Despite the scientific advancements, problems of life continue to haunt people. Knowledge Society that generates, shares, and makes knowledge available to all members of the society is also an Ethical Society, where people contribute to build a just and compassionate society.  Science and technology are to be complemented by arts, humanities, social sciences, indigenous know-how, and religious wisdom. We need ethically guided and aligned knowledge society where economics and politics are for the well being of all. Personal and social ethics can make a positive difference in all fields of human life and society including science, economics, and politics, where ethical education is necessary for all stakeholders - teachers, students, professionals, institutions, etc. To be fully human, one needs to be ethical and as in all other significant aspects of human life, education is necessary to bring out this goal.

Homo Aestheticus and Homo Ethicus

Oscar Wilde claimed that “[t]he sphere of art and the sphere of ethics are absolutely distinct and separate,” while Wittgenstein categorically affirmed that “ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.” Art, literature, film, theatre, media, etc. have exhibited strong ties with ethics throughout human history and they are regularly used for moral instruction. Although they have different methods, strategies, and goals, they are part of human lives. Histories of art, literature, film, theatre, media, etc. also point to ethical codes as they are inscribed within the wider cultural context. The contemporary society though refuses to be told how to live its life, in fact, is told how to live its life much more than any previous generation by advertisements, media, markets, and social networking sites. Ethical considerations of texts are informed by the society and history in which they were produced and they, in turn, influence forms of life in the society. Hence, a critical and creative engagement between homo aestheticus and homo ethicus is a necessary and meaningful venture.

Homo Economicus and Homo Ethicus

Economics and Ethics are fundamental to human life and wellbeing. They are intertwined in myriad ways that it becomes impossible to discuss one without some direct or indirect reference to the other. Most significant human practices have both economical and ethical dimensions, and there are many lively interactions between normative economics and moral philosophy. Though ethical concerns may not be the primary focus of economic theories, they are inescapable for economic praxes; on the other hand, in a market driven world, ethics must also pay attention to economics. When the world’s economic wealth grows impressively, the scandal of inequalities, corruption, new forms of poverty and exploitations are on the increase. Human rights are often violated; multinationals pose threats to local industries and initiatives; international aid is used irresponsibly for selfish motives. Homo ethicus cannot remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world of Homo economicus. It is becoming increasingly important to bridge the two worlds. We need ethical societies rather than market societies.

Homo Politicus and Homo Ethicus

Politics is an essential aspect of human life – essential in building, governing, and developing societies and communities based on rules; it includes both theory and practice of legislating and executing rule of law for common good. In practice, politics refers to achieving, exercising, and maintaining positions of power. Citizens, political leaders, parliamentarians, government executives, the judiciary, the media, business, nongovernmental organisations, and religious and educational institutions are involved in this complex fact of life, and ethics is fundamental to all stakeholders in politics. Though personal morality may differ from political morality, there cannot be any political decision without morality. People are losing faith in politics, and ethics in politics appears to be a contradiction as more and more people are drawn to politics as an arena of investment to cater to their selfish interests rather than for serving common good. Though there is a profound scepticism regarding ethics in politics, there is a thirst for ethics in politics: ethics can make a difference in politics.

Homo Religiosus and Homo Ethicus

Ethics, Creed and Cult are constitutive of all religions; there is no religion without rules for moral behaviour. Homo ethicus is also intimately related to homo religiosus in the stream of life. Traditionally religions were the custodians of Ethics and moral instruction, which were included in the scriptures and handed down through tradition. Life and words of the founders of religious paths are normative for believers in deciding what is good, right, and just. The cultic celebrations are also occasions for ethical instructions. For many believers, it is religion that directs their ethical decisions and they would assert that religion is necessary to live ethically. The religions also generally consider how the traditional ethical teaching can be interpreted and updated for solving complex moral problems in the modern world. However, with the arrival of modernity, secularism, and liberal democracy, many consider religion to be a liability than a contributor for the harmony of life; they prefer and promote secular ethics. It takes different forms: anti-religious, a-religious, and ethics beyond religions. They argue for a social ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without – an ethics beyond religion. Religious believers, on the other hand argue that religions could be effective agents for promotion and protection of human rights and social harmony. When the world’s knowledge and economic wealth is growing impressively, the scandal of inequalities, corruption, new forms of poverty and exploitations are on the increase. Religion has helped millions of people in the past, helps millions today, and will continue to help millions in the future.

Journal Dharma invites scholars to present and share the fruits of their research, examining and showcasing the scale, scope, and complexity of the ethical dimensions of the forms of life, and contributing to humanity’s journey “Towards Ethical Societies.” Kindly send the manuscripts for publication (6000 words) in MS Word with footnotes in MLA style, following the Guidelines, to the Editor-in-Chief via email: Selected papers after peer review will be grouped into:

Vol. 45.1. Towards Ethical Societies: Social Implications (1 March 2020)

Vol. 45.2. Towards Ethical Societies: Kairos of COVID-19 (8 May 2020)

Vol. 45.3. Towards Ethical Societies: Philosophical Investigations (8 July 2020)

Vol. 45.4. Towards Ethical Societies: Religious Visions (15 August 2020)

                                                      (Last date of submission are given in brackets)

*Journal of Dharma is interested in collaborating with interested scholars to organise workshops, seminars and conferences at Departmental, National and International levels. Please contact Prof Jose Nandhikkara CMI, Editor-in-Chief,