Monday, 5 May 2014

What is Good ? Ethics: Religious and Secular

For my essay I had looked into the role of a designer and whether one of the roles is to make the world a better place. I had gained this idea from looking at the two below manifestos, the original written by Ken Garland in 1964, and the second revisited and redrafted in 2000 by Rick Poynor. 

(My research theme and essay theme is Social Impact, and so in my essay I was discussing the impact design can have socially)

In both manifestos the two authors list off a range of design deliverables they consider to be useful and 'good'. Therefore my initial thoughts where to create something which would fall under there categorisation.

'There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecendented environmental, social and cultural crises that demand our attention.' (Rick Poynor, 2000)

'Many cultural interventions ... educational tools... "

Also when I was researching I found this in 'Good: An introduction to ethics in graphic design' (in my essay bibliography) I found it really interesting and I scanned all of the models of ethics within religious and secular models. 

The most interesting and the sentence that really inspired my research was; 'depending whether you're fundamentally religious or fundamentally not religious you will take a different view of the world and human beings.' 

- I found that this is really interesting, as there is not one right answer on the subject of good and bad, wrong and right, and this is a long and ongoing philosophical debate. I also think that it is up to ourselves, but our opinions originate from somewhere. I wanted to explore the difference of ethics in religion and ethics in non-religion, but also compare each of the models to one another.

One of the examples that I found of this kind of work in practice that I thought in Garland and Poynors manifestos would constitute socially 'good' or useful design.

The work was a publication that was aimed at young children around 7-8 years old. It was to challenge their perceptions of Islam. It was produced in Texas, America where racism and religious stereotyping is high. The aim of the publication was to reach out to children and to challenge what they may of been previously told, for the parents this may be quite culturally shocking but it is right to do so and reaching out to children could aim for a better future without racism etc.

And so I aim to make my target audience of my CoP practical, young adults. I have chosen to do this as I am not just solely looking at religion, I am also looking into ethics, I feel that this is important to learn early on but a seven year old would not grasp this concept and the language and content is too much for them to understand and so the age range I want to target is young adults around 14-16/17, they will primarily be at GCSE level of education and will have a foundation of knowledge on ethics and religion, the aim is to tie the two together as well as showing irreligious models of ethics, so that both sides are represented. The deliverable will show the audience these models and the purpose is for the audience to understand that people have different opinions on what is 'good' but also how there are similarities and we need to be understanding and work with one another.

What is Religion ?

Religion is a set of variously organized beliefs about the relationship between natural and supernatural aspects of reality, and the role of humans in this relationship. 

Many religions have narrativessymbols, and sacred histories that are intended to explain the meaning of life and/or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people derive moralityethics,religious laws or a preferred lifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.

Many religions may have organized behaviorsclergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include ritualssermons, commemoration or veneration of a deitygods or goddessessacrificesfestivalsfeaststrance,initiationsfunerary servicesmatrimonial servicesmeditationprayermusicartdancepublic service or other aspects of human culture. Religions may also contain mythology.

Estimates made by reliable sources differ. The CIA's World Factbook gives the population as 7,021,836,029 (July 2012 est.) and the distribution of religions as Christian 33.39% (of which Roman Catholic 16.85%, Protestant 6.15%, Orthodox 3.96%, Anglican 1.26%), Muslim 22.74%, Hindu 13.8%, Buddhist 6.77%, Sikh 0.35%, Jewish 0.22%, Baha'i 0.11%, other religions 10.95%, non-religious 9.66%, atheists 2.01% (2010 est.).








Largest-sized Religions

Ethics in Religion

Most religions have an ethical component, often derived from purported supernatural revelation or guidance. According to Simon Blackburn, "For many people, ethics is not only tied up with religion, but is completely settled by it. Such people do not need to think too much about ethics, because there is an authoritative code of instructions, a handbook of how to live."
Ethics, which is a major branch of philosophy, encompasses right conduct and good life. It is significantly broader than the common conception of analyzing right and wrong. A central aspect of ethics is "the good life", the life worth living or life that is simply satisfying, which is held by many philosophers to be more important than traditional moral conduct.
Some assert that religion is necessary to live ethically. Blackburn states that, there are those who "would say that we can only flourish under the umbrella of a strong social order, cemented by common adherence to a particular religious tradition".

going from the 4 largest religions firstly

Christian ethics in general has tended to stress the need for love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness because of sin. With divine assistance, the Christian is called to become increasingly virtuous in both thought and deed, see also the Evangelical counsels. Conversely, the Christian is also called to abstain from vice.
Christian ethical principles are based on the teachings within the Bible. They begin with the notion of inherent sinfulness, which requires essential atonement. Sin is estrangement from God which is the result of not doing God's will. God's will can be summed up by the precept: "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself", commonly called the Great Commandment. Christian ethics are founded upon the concept of grace which transforms a person's life and enable's one to choose and act righteously. As sin is both individual and social, so is grace applied to both the individual and society. Christian ethics has a teleological aspect--all ethical behavior is oriented towards a vision of the Kingdom of God--a righteous society where all live in peace and harmony with God and nature, as envisioned in the Book of Isaiah. Specific ethical behaviors originate in the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments, and are enriched by teachings in the Psalms and morals contained in historical accounts, see also Biblical law in Christianity.
Christian ethics is not substantially different from Jewish ethics, except in the exhortation to love one's enemy. Perhaps the greatest contribution of Christian ethics is this command to love one's enemies. It has been argued (see Chet Meyer's Binding the Strong Man, and John Yoder's The Politics of Jesus) that Jesus was waging a non-violent campaign against the Roman oppressors and many of his sayings relate to this campaign--turn the other cheek, go the second mile, etc. Understanding these commands as part of a larger campaign makes it impossible to interpret Christian ethics as an individual ethic. It is both an individual and a social ethic concerned with life here on earth.
Other tenets include maintaining personal integrity and the absence of hypocrisy, as well as honesty and loyalty, mercy and forgiveness, rejection of materialism and the desire for wealth and power, and teaching others in your life through personal joy, happiness and Godly devotion.
There are several different schema of vice and virtue. Aquinas adopted the four cardinal virtues of Aristotle, justice, courage, temperance and prudence, and added to them the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity (from St.Paul) Other schema include the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven virtues. For more see Christian philosophy and Biblical law in Christianity.


The foundational source in the gradual codification of Islamic ethics was the Muslim understanding and interpretations of the mankind has been granted the faculty to discern God's will and to abide by it. This faculty most crucially involves reflecting over the meaning of existence, which, as John Kelsay in the Encyclopedia of Ethicsphrases, "ultimately points to the reality of God." Therefore, regardless of their environment, humans are believed to have a moral responsibility to submit to God's will and to follow Islam (as demonstrated in the Qur'an and the Sunnah, or the sayings of Muhammad) 
This natural inclination is, according to the Qur'an, subverted by mankind's focus on material success: such focus first presents itself as a need for basic survival or security, but then tends to manifest into a desire to become distinguished among one's peers. Ultimately, the focus on materialism, according to the Islamic texts, hampers with the innate reflection as described above, resulting in a state of jahiliyya or "ignorance."
Muslims believe that Muhammad, like other prophets in Islam, was sent by God to remind human beings of their moral responsibility, and challenge those ideas in society which opposed submission to God. According to Kelsay, this challenge was directed against five main characteristics of pre-Islamic Arabia:
  1. The division of Arabs into varying tribes (based upon blood and kinship). This categorization was confronted by the ideal of a unified community based uponIslamic piety, an "ummah;"
  2. The acceptance of the worship of a multitude of deities besides Allah - a view challenged by strict Islamic monotheism, which dictates that Allah has no partner in worship nor any equal;
  3. The trait of muruwwa (manliness), which Islam discouraged, instead emphasizing on the traits of humility and piety;
  4. The focus on achieving fame or establishing a legacy, which was replaced by the concept that mankind would be called to account before God on the day of resurrection;
  5. The reverence of and compliance with ancestral traditions, a practice challenged by Islam — which instead assigned primacy to submitting to God and following revelation.
These changes lay in the reorientation of society as regards to identity and life of the Muslim belief, world view, and the hierarchy of values. From the viewpoint of subsequent generations, this caused a great transformation in the society and moral order of life in the Arabian Peninsula. For Muhammad, although pre-Islamic Arabia exemplified "heedlessness," it was not entirely without merit. Muhammad approved and exhorted certain aspects of the Arab pre-Islamic tradition, such as the care for one’s near kin, for widows, orphans, and others in need and for the establishment of justice. However, these values would be re-ordered in importance and placed in the context of strict monotheism.
Furthermore, a Muslim should not only follow these five main characteristics, but also be more broad about his morals. Therefore, the more the Muslim is applying these rules, the better that person is morally. For example,Islamic ethics can be applied by important verses in there holy book (The Quran). The most fundamental characteristics of a Muslim are piety and humility. A Muslim must be humble with God and with other people:
“And turn not your face away from people (with pride), nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, God likes not each arrogant boaster. And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the ass.” (Quran 31:18-19)
Muslims must be in controls of their passions and desires.
A Muslim should not be vain or attached to the ephemeral pleasures of this world. While most people allow the material world to fill their hearts, Muslims should keep God in their hearts and the material world in their hand. Instead of being attached to the car and the job and the diploma and the bank account, all these things become tools to make us better people. Morality in Islam addresses every aspect of a Muslim’s life, from greetings to international relations. It is universal in its scope and in its applicability. Morality reigns in selfish desires, vanity and bad habits. Muslims must not only be virtuous, but they must also enjoin virtue. They must not only refrain from evil and vice, but they must also forbid them. In other words, they must not only be morally healthy, but they must also contribute to the moral health of society as a whole.
“You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in God; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; of them (some) are believers and most of them are transgressors.” (Quran: 3:110)
The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, summarized the conduct of a Muslim when he said:
“My Sustainer has given me nine commands: to remain conscious of God, whether in private or in public; to speak justly, whether angry or pleased; to show moderation both when poor and when rich, to reunite friendship with those who have broken off with me; to give to him who refuses me; that my silence should be occupied with thought; that my looking should be an admonition; and that I should command what is right.”


Hindu ethics are related to reincarnation, which is a way of expressing the need for reciprocity, as one may end up in someone else's shoes in their next incarnation. Intention is seen as very important, and thus selfless action for the benefit of others without thought for oneself is an important rule in Hinduism, known as the doctrine of karma yoga. This aspect of service is combined with an understanding that someone else's unfortunate situation, while of their own doing, is one's own situation since the soul within is the soul shared by all. The greeting namaskar is founded on the principle that one salutes the spark of the divine in the other. Kindness and hospitality are key Hindu values.
More emphasis is placed on empathy than in other traditions, and women are sometimes upheld not only as great moral examples but also as great gurus. Beyond that, the Mother is a Divine Figure, the Devi, and the aspect of the creative female energy plays a major role in the Hindu ethos. Vande Mataram, the Indian national song (not anthem) is based on the Divine mother as embodied by 'Mother India' paralleled to 'Ma Durga'. An emphasis on domestic life and the joys of the household and village may make Hindu ethics a bit more conservative than others on matters of sex and family.
Of all religions, Hinduism is among the most compatible with the view of approaching truth through various forms of art: its temples are often garishly decorated, and the idea of a guru who is both entrancing entertainer and spiritual guide, or who simply practices some unique devotion (such as holding up his arm right for his whole life, or rolling on the ground for years on a pilgrimage), is simply accepted as a legitimate choice in life.
Ethical traditions in Hinduism have been influenced by caste norms. In the mid-20th century Mohandas Gandhi, a Vaishnava, undertook to reform these and emphasize traditions shared in all the Indian faiths:
  • vegetarianism and an ideology of harms reduction leading ultimately to nonviolence
  • active creation of truth through courage and his 'satyagraha'
  • rejection of cowardice and concern with pain or indeed bodily harm
These views have influenced much modern thinking on ethics today, especially in the peace movement, ecology movement, and those devoted to social activism.


Ethics in Buddhism are traditionally based on the enlightened perspective of the Buddha, or other enlightened beings who followed him. Moral instructions are included in Buddhist scriptures or handed down through tradition. Most scholars of Buddhist ethics thus rely on the examination of Buddhist scriptures, and the use of anthropological evidence from traditional Buddhist societies, to justify claims about the nature of Buddhist ethics.
According to traditional Buddhism, the foundation of Buddhist ethics for laypeople is the Pancasila: no killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, or intoxicants. In becoming a Buddhist, or affirming one's commitment to Buddhism, a layperson is encouraged to vow to abstain from these negative actions. Buddhist monks and nuns take hundreds more such vows (see vinaya).
The sole reliance on traditional formulae or practices, however, can be questioned by Western Buddhists whose main concern is the practical solution of complex moral problems in the modern world. To find a justifiable approach to such problems it may be necessary not just to appeal to the precepts or the vinaya, but to use more basic Buddhist teachings (such as the Middle Way) to aid interpretation of the precepts and find more basic justifications for their usefulness relevant to all human experience. This approach avoids basing Buddhist ethics solely on faith in the Buddha's enlightenment or Buddhist tradition, and may allow more universal non-Buddhist access to the insights offered by Buddhist ethics.
The Buddha provided some basic guidelines for acceptable behavior that are part of the Noble Eightfold Path. The initial percept is non-injury or non-violence to all living creatures from the lowest insect to humans. This precept defines an non-violent attitude toward every living thing. The Buddhist practice of this does not extend to the extremes exhibited by Jainism, but from both the Buddhist and Jain perspectives, non-violence suggests an intimate involvement with, and relationship to, all living things.[6]
Theravada monk Bhikkhu Bodhi has observed:
"Buddhist ethics, as formulated in the five precepts, is sometimes charged with being entirely negative. ... [I]t has to be pointed out that the five precepts, or even the longer codes of precepts promulgated by the Buddha, do not exhaust the full range of Buddhist ethics. The precepts are only the most rudimentary code of moral training, but the Buddha also proposes other ethical codes inculcating definite positive virtues. The Mangala Sutta, for example, commends reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude, patience, generosity, etc. Other discourses prescribe numerous family, social, and political duties establishing the well being of society. And behind all these duties lie the four attitudes called the "immeasurables" — loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity."

Non-Religious Ethics
Secular ethics is a branch of moral philosophy in which ethics is based solely on human faculties such as logic, reason or moral intuition, and not derived from purported supernatural revelation or guidance (which is the source of religious ethics).
Secular ethics systems can also vary within the societal and cultural norms of a specific time period.
Despite the width and diversity of their philosophical views, secular ethicists generally share one or more principles:
  • Human beings, through their ability to empathize, are capable of determining ethical grounds.
  • Human beings, through logic and reason, are capable of deriving normative principles of behavior.
  • This may lead to a behavior preferable to that propagated or condoned based on religious texts. Alternatively, this may lead to the advocacy of a system of moral principles that a broad group of people, both religious and non-religious, can agree upon.
  • Human beings have the moral responsibility to ensure that societies and individuals act based on these ethical principles.
  • Societies should, if at all possible, advance from a less ethical and just form to a more ethical and just form.
Many of these tenets are applied in the science of morality, the use of the scientific method to answer moral questions. Various thinkers have framed morality as questions of empirical truth to be explored in a scientific context. The science is related to ethical naturalism, a type of ethical realism.

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism). 

The Humanist Manifestos are three manifestos, the first published in 1933, that outline the philosophical views and stances of humanists. Integral to the manifestos is a lack of supernatural guidance.

Girl Scout law

The Girl Scout law is as follows:
I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

United States Naval Academy honour concept

"Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right.
They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie.
They embrace fairness in all actions. They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented. They do not cheat.
They respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property. They do not steal."

Minnesota Principles

The Minnesota Principles were proposed "by the Minnesota Center for Corporate Responsibility in 1992 as a guide to international business activities":
  1. Business activities must be characterized by fairness. We understand fairness to include equitable treatment and equality of opportunity for all participants in the marketplace.
  2. Business activities must be characterized by honesty. We understand honesty to include candor, truthfulness and promise-keeping.
  3. Business activities must be characterized by respect for human dignity. We understand this to mean that business activities should show a special concern for the less powerful and the disadvantaged.
  4. Business activities must be characterized by respect for the environment. We understand this to mean that business activities should promote sustainable development and prevent environmental degradation and waste of resources.

Rotary Four-Way Test

The Four-Way Test test is the "linchpin of Rotary International's ethical practice." It acts as a test of thoughts as well as actions. It asks, "Of the things we think, say, or do":
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Kantian Ethics
On ethics, Kant wrote works that both described the nature of universal principles and also sought to demonstrate the procedure of their application. Kant maintained that only a "good will" is morally praiseworthy, so that doing what appears to be ethical for the wrong reasons is not a morally good act. Kant's emphasis on one's intent or reasons for acting is usually contrasted with the utilitarian tenet that the goodness of an action is to be judged solely by its results. Utilitarianism is a hypothetical imperative, if one wants _____, they must do ______. Contrast this with the Kantian ethic of the categorical imperative, where the moral act is done for its own sake, and is framed: One must do ______ or alternatively, one must not do ______.
For instance, under Kantian ethics, if a person were to give money to charity because failure to do so would result in some sort of punishment from a god or Supreme Being, then the charitable donation would not be a morally good act. A dutiful action must be performed solely out of a sense of duty; any other motivation profanes the act and strips it of its moral quality.

Utilitarianism (from the Latin utilis, useful) is a theory of ethics that prescribes the quantitative maximization of good consequences for a population. It is a form of consequentialism. This good to be maximized is usually happiness, pleasure, or preference satisfaction. Though some utilitarian theories might seek to maximize other consequences, these consequences generally have something to do with the welfare of people (or of people and nonhuman animals). For this reason, utilitarianism is often associated with the term welfarist consequentialism.
In utilitarianism it is the "end result" which is fundamental (as opposed to Kantian ethics discussed above). Thus using the same scenario as above, it would be irrelevant whether the person giving money to charity was doing so out of personal or religious conviction, the mere fact that the charitable donation is being made is sufficient for it to be classified as morally good.


I then printed out all of my research and I highlighted key information, I wanted to simplify the content so that it was easy to follow, and categorise. 

I also decided that for each model , religious or secular there needed to be some initial background information, and so I began to research this too. And so on all of my printed research I wrote lots of notes and made comparisons.

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