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Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Learn how ethics is part of our everyday lives by reading articles and stories that show ethical dilemmas are everywhere.

Engineers in Novels No. 2: A Single Pebble

by dtang Sep 21, 2015
Shaolin TempleShip Trackers One interesting fact about A Single Pebble is that the engineer in this novel did almost no engineering at all. Instead, he acted more like a folklore collector, who hungrily documented the legends, poems, and songs enchanted by the residents on the ship. A sentimental, somewhat daydreaming youngster, he attempted to paint a peaceful, harmonious, and romantic picture of the lives of native Chinese ship workers. Perhaps the engineer wasn’t able to recognize that the ship trackers lived in neither an eclogue from the ancient past nor a futuristic techno utopia. The reality these ship trackers lived in--early 20th century China--should be familiar to the author of this novel: John Hersey. Hersey was born in China in 1914 and spent his first ten years living there before he returned to the United States. Later he returned to the Far East to cover World War II and won most of his literary reputation writing fictions about the war. Perhaps the author’s close experience with the era of turmoil accounts for the oscillation between the serenity and violent tensions in A Single Pebble?

Engineers in Novels No. 1: The Mise-en-Scène

by dtang Sep 21, 2015
An Old Town in MoroccoThe Stranger by Albert Camus. The estrangement needs not to happen in a foreign land or on an alien. Albert Camus’s classic novel explores the intricate psychological process that turns a French man a stranger to his own society, or that society strange to him. Six hardcover books lay on my desk. My hand reached the stack and pulled out one copy randomly. Hence started my series reading and review of “engineer novels.” I had no idea the first novel I opened was going to be the exact antithesis of engineering, if the latter means logic, predictability, and above all, tangibility. Reading The Mise-en-Scène turned out to be a months-long journey full of confusion, frustration, at times anger, and several attempts to give up. The reading experience, however, supplied a perfect trope for the hero in this novel: Lassalle, an engineer who finds himself constantly “engineered” by an untamed terrain of nature and society he has been commissioned to modernize.

Can the Critical Philosophy of Race help us understand the endurance of race?

by Rob Peeler Aug 24, 2015
Contributors: Eduardo Mendieta
A short animated video, produced by Wireless Philosophy (Wi-Phi), and presented by Eduardo Mendieta, Associate Director, Rock Ethics Institute.

Helping Haiti One Step at at Time

by Rob Peeler May 01, 2015
Contributors: By Cara McDonald
Cara with a baby whose mother participated in her Moringa Tree research project. Photo was taken by Kaitrin Rodgers.The room that the 18 year old who is in this post gave birth. Photo: Cara McDonaldBaby who was born in this blog post. This guest post is written by Cara McDonald, a 2015 Stand Up Award recipient. You can see more of her story at My motivation to help Haiti is driven by an undeniable passion to see the country and the Haitian people reach their full potential. I envision a day where children are lifted out of poverty, mothers and fathers are able to care for their families and the country is not known for its poverty, but for its beauty and prosperity. This passion did not come from reading about poverty or seeing it on TV, but from witnessing it, feeling it and taking action against it.

The Day After Marriage Equality

by Rob Peeler May 01, 2015
Contributors: By Parker Werns
A 2015 Honoree. This guest post is written by Parker Werns, a 2015 Stand Up Award recipient. You can see more of his story at Across the United States, people are celebrating — another state is recognizing marriage equality! The fight for gay rights is over in another state. However, there are countless issues a queer person must face before they can think about getting married, and there are countless issues they must face afterwards. Marriage equality is just one snapshot of equity in a queer person’s life.

Food ethics: wasted?

by Rob Peeler May 01, 2015
Contributors: By Yana Manyukhina
Food PlatesFood left from restaurant patronsCompost BinsFood left over from a buffet Against the backdrop of growing environmental and societal concerns, restaurants may soon come to be judged not just by how good the food is, but also by how well the food waste is managed. America’s trend towards super-sizing does not seem to be slowing down. 16 oz soda cups, oversized dinner plates and even a single serving of ice cream at our beloved Berkey Creamery are a testimony to the food industry’s efforts to satisfy the customer with eye-pleasing amounts of her favourite treats. The health and body effects of the Gargantuan meals have long been at the center of public discourse, but the detrimental consequences of serving unmanageable portions go beyond individual consumers’ fitness and waistlines.

What is Ethics?

by Rob Peeler Sep 24, 2015
Contributors: Michael D. Burroughs
How can you move from ethical awareness to ethical action? The Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State can help guide you and give you some tools to help in both your professional and personal lives.

Environmental Philosophy (IAEP) and Population Control

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Alex J Feldman
Sterilization Image In mid-October, I traveled to New Orleans to give a paper at the International Association of Environmental Philosophy (IAEP). My paper, “Biopolitics, Race, and Global Population Control,” draws heavily on research I have conducted while at the Rock. The conference ran from the evening of October 25th through October 27th and included philosophers from a wide variety of traditions and trainings, as well as a number of non-philosophers interested in interdisciplinary work. IAEP has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere; the sessions are well-attended and encourage honest exchange.

Anti-Perfectionism from Thomas Huxley to Star Trek

by khepler Apr 21, 2015
Contributors: Thomas Joudrey
Thomas H. Huxley, Circa 1883, Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsReproduction of an Assimilated Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart), Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsKatharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons Perfectionism would seem to be beyond reproach. It pervades everything from our legal system to our popular culture, structuring the promise of what we might become. But might it be an albatross around our necks--or, worse still, flatly incompatible with an ethical life? Perfectionism is so deeply entrenched in cultural discourse that its invocation is bound to strike one as today as platitudinous. To the extent one hears the common anti-perfectionist refrain—“nobody’s perfect”—it is only to stipulate that nobody manifests or realizes perfection in actuality, not to contest its appeal as an abstract ideal. Perfectionism is woven into America’s genealogy. The quest for perfection appears, dramatically, in the opening sentence of the United States Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union . . .” When in 2008 then-presidential candidate Barack Obama sought to set the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy in the context of the history of American racism, he proposed seeking national redemption through the concept of perfection: “The answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution—a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.”

Engineers in Novels: A Series Preview

by khepler Sep 21, 2015
Contributors: Xiaofeng Tang
Dostoyevsky as an EngineerThe Saints Innocents Cemetery When I defended my thesis on the integration of engineering and liberal education, one audience member asked when I expected engineering education to truly become a liberal education, to which I answered: “When the graduates from these integrated programs go out and pursue diverse careers and become role models for young engineering students. For example, when we are not surprised by engineering graduates who go on to work as artists, philosophers, and novelists.” There are two popular views regarding the career prospect of an engineering education. One holds an engineering degree that leads to a very predictable career path: an engineering graduate gets an engineering job, and, if she or he is lucky, migrates to a managerial job in a few years. The other view is similarly optimistic about engineering graduates’ job prospect, for a different reason. In this assessment, an engineering education lays a broad foundation for the students and prepares them for a variety of career options: research and development, management, law, politics. In the common understanding, however, the breadth of career afforded by an engineering education has its limits. For example, very few people might naturally associate an engineering degree to a literary career. That is not to say that engineering is inherently antithetical to creative writing. One of the greatest novelists of all time, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, attended Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute during his youth and upon graduation took a job as a lieutenant engineer. José Echegaray y Eizaguirre, the first Spanish writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature was a civil engineer. It is however a reality that engineer-writers are relatively unknown among readers of fictions, and few literary fictions pay a close look at the lives of engineers. With this statement, I am excluding the numerous science fiction works that are inspired by genetic engineering.