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Article

Arts and Ethics: Questions  

David Fenner

The world of art, across the globe and especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, has presented a range of challenges to those who attend to that world. These challenges span various spectra, but one set is ethical in character. How one responds to these ethical challenges will depend on one’s general ethical commitments and perspectives, but it will also depend, first, on one’s view of the relationship between the arts and ethics and, second, on understanding the context in which the challenge is made and the ethical challenge itself. Censoring a work of art, which can itself take many forms, is the result of meeting a particular challenge with the judgment that the work violates in important ways some ethical precept or set of precepts.

Article

luxury (luxuria)  

Catharine Edwards

While the definition of luxury might be contested, high-value goods played a crucial role in articulating social distinction and political power in Greece and Rome. Particularly in ancient Rome, where imperial expansion brought increased wealth and access to a wider range of goods, luxury was often the object of moralizing criticism, both as a personal vice and as a general threat to the well-being of the state.

Originally a term to characterize the exuberant growth of plants (see OLD 1), the Roman word luxuria (cf. luxus, luxuries), applied to human behaviour, is regularly associated with the desire for and consumption of high value ephemeral items, such as food, drink, and perfume, costly fabrics and accessories, precious artworks and furnishings, beautiful slaves, and private residences constructed on a large scale and/or out of precious materials.1 The pursuit of luxury is often presented as inimical to manliness and (particularly in the historical discourse of the late Roman republic and early principate) features as a causal factor in accounts of political crisis and moral decline.

Article

Islamic Bioethics: Nanotechnology  

Nidhal Guessoum

What ethical issues that nanotechnology raise – in its present state of development and in future, projected breakthroughs? Are those ethical issues to be addressed from a utilitarian perspective (pros and cons to humans) or from higher principles, perhaps religious ones? Does Islam address those issues from a theological perspective or from juristic (“Fiqhi”, i.e. harmful/prohibited vs. beneficial/permissible) angle? What viewpoints and stands have ethicists and religious scholars (Muslim and other) advanced on nanotechnology?

Article

Buddhist Ethics and Moral Education  

Chia-Ling Wang

As a highly developed religion, Buddhism has very rich ideas related to ethics and morality. Buddhism itself is a way of education. It guides the method and action of cultivating one’s moral character. These practices can be applied in thinking about education, especially specific to education’s ethical and moral implications. In the early 21st century, Buddhist theory has multiple applications in the field such as applied psychology, counseling, and meditation. Though it is an ancient wisdom, its viewpoint can be used to solve contemporary social problems and human crises caused by the process of modernization. Mahāyāna Buddhism believes that this world is constituted by emptiness, which is the perspective on essence-absent ontology. Everything is in its becoming, which is dependent on everything else, following the law of cause and effect. When an important aspect of one’s daily behavior is to cultivate goodwill, the desirable consequences will be returned to them later. That is, one good turn deserves another. On the contrary, bad will receives ill effects back. This is the basis of the Buddhist moral concept. In this way, human beings are active agents who can decide their own conduct and the result of their life. Buddhism encourages an individual to perform practices of precepts, meditation, and wisdom all the time to rid oneself of craving, hatred, and delusion. The latter are origins of human suffering. Humans cannot reach the ultimate spiritual realm of Nirvāṇa until these three poisons are given up. As an approach to self-education, Buddhist ethical thoughts allow learners to search for their self-nature. Buddhist moral claims of compassion and equality can contribute to the thinking of modern educational issues, such as peace education, ecological education, and equality in education.

Article

Sympathy and Empathy  

Rae Greiner

Sympathy and empathy are complex and entwined concepts with philosophical and scientific roots relating to issues in ethics, aesthetics, psychology, biology, and neuroscience. For some, the two concepts are indistinguishable, the two terms interchangeable, but each has a unique history as well as qualities that make both concepts distinct. Although each is associated with feeling, especially the capacity to feel with others or to imaginatively put oneself “in their shoes,” the concepts’ sometimes shared, sometimes divergent histories reveal more complicated origins, as well as vexed and ongoing relations to feeling and emotion and to the ethical value of emotional sharing. Though empathy regularly is considered the more advanced and egalitarian of the two, it shares with sympathy a controversial role in historical debates regarding questions of an inborn or divine moral sense, prosocial behavior and the development of human communities, the relation of sensation to unconscious mental processes, brain matter, and neurons, and animal/human difference. In literary criticism, sympathy and empathy have been key components of aesthetic movements such as sentimentalism, realism, and modernism, and of literary techniques like free indirect discourse (FID), which are thought (by some) to enhance readerly intimacy and closeness to novelistic characters and perspectives. Both concepts have also received their fair share of suspicion, as the capacity to feel, or imagine feeling, the emotions of others remains a controversial basis for ethics.

Article

Care As Belonging, Difference, and Inequality  

Tatjana Thelen

The topic of care has inspired a vast and complex body of research covering a wide range of practices. As an open-ended process, it is generally directed at fulfilling recognized needs and involves at least one giving and one receiving side. Although care has mostly positive connotations in everyday usage, giving or receiving it can also be a negative experience or express domination. Care evolves through complex arrangements of different actors, institutions, and technical devices and at the same time transforms them. As human needs are not a given, the process of care involves negotiations about who deserves to receive it and on what grounds, as well as who should provide it. Because care is so deeply implicated in articulating and mediating different moralities, it becomes central to constructions and classifications of difference. In this way, care extends far beyond intimate relations and is engrained in processes that establish belonging as well as various forms of inequality. Researching care in intimate settings as well as in public sectors enables bridging various communities of care and grasping how the distribution of care not only mirrors inequalities but contributes to their (re)production or even intensification.

Article

Religion and Moral Economy  

Webb Keane

Religious stances toward moral economy have long provided important resources for critical reflection on economic life. When religious institutions seek to build alternatives to existing economic systems and financial practices, however, they also encounter a range of problems. In contrast to many secular critiques of economics, religious ones tend to be explicit about both their moral directives and the ontological assumptions on which they are grounded and give rise to distinctive economic habits and financial institutions. For this reason, their ethnographic study sheds light on a range of more general anthropological questions about the sources of value, the limits of rational calculation, the morality of debt, the meaning of inequality, economic justice, and the legitimate purposes of an economy.

Article

frugality (frugalitas) and parsimony (parsimonia)  

Grant Nelsestuen

Arising from the agrarian and domestic contexts of classical antiquity, the notion of “frugality” (frugalitas) was a positive, desirable, and in many respects distinctively Roman concept that generally refers to a set of practices, ethical principles, and cultural and moral values pertaining to the production and consumption of resources. Closely related to this more general category is the concept of “parsimony” (parsimonia), which, as one type of frugalitas, is properly concerned with the prudent and judicious management of property and wealth. Both concepts tend to be associated with temperance and moderation (moderatio; cf. Gk. sophrosyne) and are often framed in opposition to “luxury” (luxuria) and “greed” (avaritia). Partly as a response to perceived increases in social ills and partly under the influence of Greek philosophy, the moral connotations of frugalitas and parsimonia become increasingly pronounced over time and are variously embraced by later Christian writers. Prominent historical exempla for these important Roman concepts include L.

Article

Ethics  

Alan C. Tjeltveit

How has ethics been connected with the science and profession of psychology? Has ethics been essential to psychology? Or have psychologists increasingly developed objective psychological understandings free of ethical biases? Is ethics in psychology limited to research ethics and professional ethics? Understanding the various connections among ethics and psychology requires conceptual clarity about the many meanings of ethics and related terms (such as moral, ideal, and flourishing). Ethics has included, but goes beyond, research and professional ethics, since ideas about what is good or bad, right or wrong, obligatory or virtuous have shaped psychological inquiry. In moral psychology, psychologists have sought to understand the psychology of ethical dimensions of persons, such as prejudice or altruism. Some psychologists have worked to minimize ethical issues in psychology in general, but others embraced psychologies tied to ethical visions, like advancing social justice. Many ethical issues (beyond professional ethics) have also been entangled in professional practice, including understanding the problems (“not good” states of affairs) for which clients seek help and the (“good”) goals toward which psychologists helped people move. Cutting across the various ways ethics and psychology have been interconnected is an enduring tension: Although psychologists have claimed expertise in the science of psychology and in the provision of psychological services, they have had no disciplinary expertise that equips them to determine what is good, right, obligatory, and virtuous despite the fact that ethical issues have often been deeply intertwined with psychology.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives on Subnational Public Policy and LGBT Law  

Jason Pierceson

Subnational policymaking is central to LGBT politics and law, in contrast to other arenas of policymaking for marginalized groups. With barriers to national policymaking in Congress and in the federal courts, LGBT rights activists have leveraged opportunities at the state and local levels to create LGBT-supportive policies. Opponents have also used subnational politics to further their agenda, particularly direct democracy, while LGBT rights activists have used elite politics, such as state courts, effectively. Subnational LGBT politics is also marked by a significant variety in policy outcomes, with a notable urban and suburban versus rural divide in policymaking and in the presence of openly LGBT elected officials. The case of LGBT policy and law has caused scholars to rethink questions such as the role of public opinion in state policymaking, morality politics, and courts and social change.

Article

Forgiveness and Ressentiment in the Age of Traumas  

Nicolas Demertzis

Various therapeutic discourses on trauma claim that a successful working through of a traumatic experience amounts to forgiveness and the victim’s reconciliation with the past. Recently, several voices have been raised against this claim, arguing that refusal to forgive is a sort of moral dignity, a defense of the victim’s integral subjectivity, and a moral protest against the unjustifiable evils and wrongdoings the victim has suffered. Among the emotions the victim is left with after the traumatic experience and after the reluctance to forgive the perpetrators and get along with life are, of course, anger, hate, indignation, depression, humiliation, and shame. An additional and far more complex emotion that characterizes the posttraumatic experience is ressentiment. Forgiveness and ressentiment are discussed as moral stances against evils and traumas. The basic tenets are: (1) the link between agency, forgiveness, and memory; (2) the moral nature of ressentiment as a Schelerean concept that parts company not only from resentment (qua moral indignation) but also from grudges and envy; (3) the dismembering of forgiveness and ressentiment premised not on the victim’s resistance to dealing with the past (or moral hypermnesia), as is usually thought, but on the process of transvaluation inherent in ressentiment, which places forgiveness beyond the victim’s hermeneutic horizon.

Article

Cultures of Honor  

Patricia M. Rodriguez Mosquera

Honor is complex, deeply relational, and important in many cultures and social groups. A definition of honor as multifaceted and consisting of a set of interrelated honor codes, i.e., the honor-as-multifaceted approach to honor, is presented and discussed by Rodriguez Mosquera. This definition provides researchers the conceptual boundaries of honor as a construct as well as methodological guidelines on how to operationalize honor in empirical research. Furthermore, the honor-as-multifaceted approach provides researchers with a definition of cultures of honor as those in which honor codes become culturally shared psychological concerns that individuals evaluate as important to their self-esteem and self-concept, thereby influencing their cognitions, motivations, emotions, and behaviors. The Honor Scale measures honor codes in line with this definition. A review of existing empirical research on honor in a wide variety of cultures and social groups is also presented and discussed. Some of the work reviewed is cross-cultural in nature, whereas other work focuses on how honor operates in particular cultures or social groups (e.g., British Muslims; Moroccan Dutch and Turkish Dutch youth; Southern Italian criminal organizations; the Canadian Army). The reviewed research provides empirical support for the honor-as-multifaceted approach and demonstrates the centrality of honor codes in a variety of psychological and social processes, including personality, the negotiation of gendered roles within the family, attitudes toward in-group members, emotions in response to threats to collective honor, intergroup conflict, the negotiation of power in intergroup relations, in-group identification processes, and prosocial motivations. Thus, the reviewed research shows that honor codes play an important role in processes at the different levels of analysis typically studied in the social sciences—individual, interpersonal, group, cultural—thereby making honor an important topic of inquiry for psychologists and other social scientists. Avenues for future research are also discussed.

Article

A History of the Concepts of Harmony in Chinese Culture  

Louise Sundararajan

This historical overview of the concepts of harmony in Chinese culture situates the topic in the ecological context of a strong-ties society that fosters a type of rationality that privileges symmetry over asymmetry. Analysis of the discourse of harmony focuses on the texts of two native schools of thought—Confucianism and Taoism—and briefly mentions Buddhism (a religion imported from India). The modern history of harmony has just begun but is already portentous. The turbulent course of China’s rapid modernization suggests the possibility that as China transitions from a strong-ties society to the weak-ties global market, harmony may be encountering, for the first time, contradictions that defy harmonization. Whatever the future holds for the Chinese legacy of harmony, its contribution to the happiness and well-being of the individuals in their intimate relationship with self and others is likely to remain unchallenged.

Article

Consumer Credit and Debt  

Hadrien Saiag

The global crisis that erupted in 2007–2008 clearly exposed that debt with financial institutions has become a key element of household social reproduction in most parts of the world. One way to analyze how this situation impacts on people’s lives is to investigate the very nature of debt (its “essence”), which is often conceived as intrinsically violent. However, most anthropologists consider how people manage their debt and take a situated approach to debt in context. Their focus on people’s financial practices takes a broad view of consumer credit as any number of monetary debts that households incur to make ends meet. Their examination of how debt is managed within the household points up that consumer credit is often used to sustain meaningful social relations, although this can trigger a debt spiral. This spotlight on how people’s financial practices relate to broader historical and social contexts shows that the rise of consumer credit is instrumental in reshaping class, racial, and gender relations in their material and moral dimensions, and that people can be found to resist debt in many ways. Although these trends in the anthropological literature make for a rich understanding of debt relations, much could still be done to understand why people in most settings complain about their debts, but do not openly rebel against them.

Article

Cosmopolitanism  

William Smith

Cosmopolitanism refers to the ideology that all human beings belong to a single community, based on a shared morality. A cosmopolitan community might be based on an inclusive morality, a shared economic relationship, or a political structure that encompasses different nations. The argument that all citizens of the world possess an equal moral status can be interpreted as a statement that all humans deserve to be given equal respect, or that their interests deserve to be treated equally. Cosmopolitanism was initially thought to have been established by the Cynics (classical cosmopolitanism), then further interpreted and elucidated by the Stoics, and later polished and cultivated by the Enlightenment scholars (enlightenment cosmopolitanism). Cosmopolitanism is an analytical viewpoint that defends the concept of global citizenship. Global citizenship is most commonly associated with a “way of creating a personal identity,” along with various ideas about one’s moral responsibilities and political rights. It is also worth noting how within the domain of international ethics, cosmopolitanism is currently being presented as a stand-alone paradigm, apart from rival approaches including nationalism, social libreralism, and realism. However, the difficulty of distinguishing cosmopolitanism from these rivals becomes apparent, and there are those who think that such discerning lines create more confusion than clarity about the various disagreements within the field.

Article

Beauty  

Jennifer A. McMahon

Literary beauty was once understood as intertwining sensations and ideas, and thus as providing subjective and objective reasons for literary appreciation. However, as theory and philosophy developed, the inevitable claims and counterclaims led to the view that subjective experience was not a reliable guide to literary merit. Literary theory then replaced aesthetics as did philosophy’s focus on literary truth. Along with the demise of the relevance of sensations, literary form also took a back seat. This suggested to some that either literature communicated truth like any other literal form of communication or it was a mere diversion: a springboard to harmless reverie or daydreaming. Neither response satisfactorily captured what was distinctive about literature: the love readers can have for literary texts and the edification or insight claimed of works within each culture’s respective catalogue of classics. However, a concept of literary beauty has again become viable due to developments in theories of pleasure and imagination. If the defining aspect of literature is the imaginative engagement it occasions, and if this imagining is constrained by plausibility and endorsed as effective relative to our goals, ideals, and interests, then literature is not reduced to either mere fact or wish fulfillment. An account of literary beauty is available which defines literature accordingly and explains how subjective and objective reasons for appreciation intertwine to evoke pleasure and insight.

Article

Digital Resources: The “Carreño Memories: Manners, Society, History” Project  

Patience Schell

Across the Spanish-speaking world, the term “Carreño” has become a cultural shorthand for good manners and refined behavior, used to frame television chat show discussions about courtesy and admonish alleged etiquette infractions. The “Carreño” in question was Venezuelan Manuel Antonio Carreño (1813–1874) who published a conduct and etiquette guide, El manual de urbanidad y buenas maneras, in 1853. This text became an almost instant bestseller across the Spanish-speaking world and a publishing phenomenon that has remained in print, in original and updated versions, into the 21st century. Patience Schell has taught the Manual de urbanidad, finding that students engage more readily with issues like hierarchies, urbanization, and citizenship in Latin American when allowed to discuss sneezing, teeth brushing, the rudeness of snoring, and why men should always wear ties at home. Lively classroom discussions, prompted by the Manual, made Schell think that the text could be converted into a game. That idea became the seed of the “Carreño Memories: Manners, Society, History” website, based on Schell’s database of the many editions, reprints and adaptations of Carreño’s Manual. The bilingual site includes information on the text’s history, an interactive globe and timeline both displaying information about the texts, as well as a contribution page so that visitors can archive their own interactions with Carreño’s books and thus preserve this important aspect of the Manual’s history.

Article

Markets and Corporations  

Keir James Cecil Martin

Corporations are among the most important of the institutions that shape lives across the globe. They often have a “taken for granted” character, both in everyday discourse and in economic or management theory, where they are often described as an inevitable outcome of the natural working of markets. Anthropological analysis suggests that neither the markets that are seen as their foundation nor corporations as social entities can be understood in this manner. Instead, their existence has to be seen as contingent on particular social relations and as being the outcome of long processes of historic conflict. The extent to which, at the start of the 21st century, corporations satisfactorily fulfill their supposed purpose of managing debt obligations in order to stimulate economic growth is particularly open to question. This was traditionally the justification for the establishment of corporations as separate legal actors in economic markets. Some 150 years on, other sociocultural relations and perspectives shape their boundaries and activities in a manner that means that their purpose and character can no longer be assumed on the basis of such axiomatic premises. Instead, their actions can be explained only on the basis of historic and ethnographic analysis of the contests over the limits of relational obligation that shape their boundaries.

Article

Spirits and Healing in West and Central Africa: A New Synthesis  

Wyatt MacGaffey

Though seemingly innocent, descriptive, and even commendatory, both “spirits” and “healing” are problematic terms in the history of African studies. Rather than identifying well-bounded domains of African life, both of them have evolved from the history of European attitudes toward Africa. “Spirits” often give rise to problems of well-being that “healing” is called upon to solve. Despite this close connection, spirits have been the primary subject matter of religious studies, whereas healing is among the concerns of anthropology. The study of African religion has thus come to be divided between two disciplines embodying the distinction between “belief” and “knowledge,” the irrational and the rational, developed in Europe during the Enlightenment. Anthropology itself has long divided social life into the separate domains of religion, politics, and economics, assigning the study of each to a different discipline with its own preoccupations and specialized vocabulary. This ethnocentric template misrepresented African societies whose institutions were unlike those of Europe. In the forest zones of West and Central Africa a particular set of beliefs and practices regulated the use of power for personal and collective well-being. Power, or the ability to effect change for good or ill, was and is still thought to be derived from forces called “spirits,” which are in fact as much material as spiritual. Following special procedures, gifted persons obtain power from an otherworld that is simultaneously the earth itself and the land of “the living dead,” who are buried in it. The uses of such power to kill or to cure, for collective or private benefit, define a contrast set of four roles—called for convenience chief, priest, witch, and magician—whose functions are simultaneously moral, political, economic, and therapeutic. This system is open to novel revelations within a stable cognitive framework, and adapts to new conditions. Different ideologies and practices of social regulation are found in other parts of Africa.

Article

Situational Action Theory: Toward a Dynamic Theory of Crime and Its Causes  

Per-Olof H. Wikström

Situational Action Theory (SAT) is a general, dynamic, and mechanism-based theory of crime and its causes. It is general because it proposes to explain all kinds of crime (and rule-breaking more generally). It is dynamic because it centers on analyzing crime and its changes as the outcome of the interactions between people and their environments. It is mechanism-based because its explanation focuses on identifying key basic processes involved in crime causation. SAT analyzes crime as moral actions and its explanation focuses on three basic and interrelated explanatory mechanisms: the perception–choice process (the situational mechanism) that explains why crime events happen; selection-mechanisms that explain why criminogenic situations occur; and mechanisms of emergence that explain why people develop and change their crime propensities (psychosocial processes), and why places develop and change their criminogeneity (socioecological processes).