The classical formulation of the object of ethics refers to a knowledge of the rules of the adaptation of the human species to their natural environments, to normative expectations supposed in the others and to the biographical evolution of the self. Accordingly, a doctrine of the duties was edified on three pillars, embracing a reference to the duties towards nature, towards the others and towards oneself. Notwithstanding the fact that human action obeys to a variety of factors including bio-physiological conditions and the dimensions of the social environment, ancient and modern metaphysical models of ethics favored the commendatory discourse about the predicates “right” and “wrong,” concurring to ultimate goals. The ethical discussions consisted chiefly in the investigation of the adequacy of the subordinate goals to the final ends of the human action or in the treatment of the metaphysical questions related to free will or determinism, the opposition of the intentionality of the voluntary conduct of man to the mechanical or quasi-mechanical responses of the inferior organisms or machines. From a “second order” approach to the ethical action and imperatives, I propose with this book a critical analysis of the metaphysical and the Kantian ethics. Relevance: In “Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics” (1992) Heinz von Foerster referred the importance of the application of his notion of “second-order cybernetics” to ethics and moral reasoning. Initially, second-order cybernetics intended an epistemological discussion of recursive operations in non-trivial machines, which were able to include in their evolving states their own self-awareness in observations. The application of his views to ethics entails new challenges. After H. von Foerster essay, what I mean with “second-order ethics is an attempt to identify the advantages of the adoption of his proposal, some consequences in the therapeutically field and lines for new developments.
All organisms behave, but, as far as we know, only humans also explain behavior. Organisms routinely destroy other organisms for various reasons, but only humans ask why. One answer is “hatred.” Clearly it is not necessary to hate another organism in order to destroy it, but the idea is commonly invoked as an explanation for human violence. Has this always been the case with us humans? Or is “hate” (and other explanations of behavior) some kind of evolutionary adaptation? If so, what kind of evolution is involved in the development of explanations, and how might they serve to support individual and/or species survival? In other words, what are some of the epistemological roots of “hate” and what are some of the ontological’ consequences of constructing such an explanation?
This paper challenges proceduralized, rule-bound approaches to ethics and considers how social workers and teams can develop an attitude of compassionate concern and become more effective in dealing with ethical problems in their day-to-day practice. It introduces the work of Humberto Maturana, a widely respected theorist, whose work has received little attention in social work. It stresses the importance of emotions, particularly love, and considers the way in which ethical action is shaped by culture. It emphasizes the importance of engaging in reflection on professional practices and team, professional and organizational culture in order for social workers to improve their awareness of ethical dilemmas and promote ethical practice. For those teaching ethics, this paper suggests an alternative to the rational consideration of moral dilemmas and proposes approaches to training that can help social workers become more attuned and responsive to ethical conflicts. Relevance: The paper argues that Maturana’s biology of cognition provides an approach to ethics that takes into account the spontaneous nature of everyday work in which social workers undertake their ethical actions.
Excerpt: The Origin of Humanness, written in the early 1990s, brings together two strands of research: Maturana Romesin’s research into the origin of humanness and Verden-Zöller’s research into the rise of self-consciousness in the child during early mother-child play relations. The authors’ core claim is that the human species has evolved by conserving love as a fundamental domain of cooperation expressed through the basic emotions or moods of mutual respect, care, acceptance and trust (Homo sapiens-amans) rather than competition and aggression (Homo sapiens aggressans or arrogance). In this, they do not declare an ethical imperative, but rather situate ethics in biology, since, in their view, a responsible concern for the well-being of the other (human, species, biosphere, etc.) arises naturally from a manner of living in the biology of love. This is what they propose as a way for conserving the existence of social human beings (and what they call “social consciousness”) and for countering the dominant culture of domination, submission or indifference in Western society. Ethics, in this sense, is a choice of emotioning on an individual basis that in relation to a social community defines how a particular manner of living is to be conserved over the coming generations.
Context: The cultural worlds that we generate in our living are worlds in which we frequently live in a self-depreciating relational pain. This arises when we feel that we do not deserve to be loved and respected because we think that we are intrinsically incapable of satisfying what we think are legitimate cultural expectations about how we should be. Problem: Can we find an answer to the general question, “How is it that our life is so frequently painful?” Hypothesis: The pain for which a person asks for relational help is always of cultural origin, and arises from some experience in which she has not been loved and has accepted that she deserved not being loved because as a result of that experience she began to feel that she is intrinsically deficient. I propose that that person will come out of her pain – and will recover her self-love and self-respect as she reconnects with her fundamental loving nature as a biological-cultural human being – when she becomes able to realize that she is not intrinsically defective and that the expectations put on her are only arbitrary cultural demands. Results: I show (a) that the recovering of self-love and self-respect occurs as a result of a conversation that opens a relational space for the interplay of the conscious and unconscious reflections in which the person in pain finds that she is an intrinsically loving biological-cultural human being; (b) that this occurs through the reflexive evocation of the inner feelings of self-love and self-respect in the consulting person as she reflexively contemplates her life while she is revealing it to a caring reflective listener in a conversation that flows without expectations, demands or judgment. In such reflective “liberating conversations,” the consulting person finds herself in self-love and self-respect, not through a rational argument but through her spontaneous connection to her unconscious constitutive human inner feelings as a loving being. Implications: We do not need to suppose any reality independent of the operational coherences of our living to explain and understand the different worlds that we generate in the realization of our living.
How might teachers think about moving to challenge prejudice against persons with handicap? Drawing on Piaget’s and Bateson’s constructivist theories, prejudices are examined in terms of the processes by which they are formed within the individual, the role they play in identity, and the reasons they may be resistant to change. Consideration is then given to strategies which may be useful in inviting reconsideration of cognitive items of this type. Looking at the learner’s experience these include certain types of questioning strategies and counterexamples. Looking at the teacher’s experience a number of techniques are recommended including, neutrality, circular questioning, and parenthesising. Relevance: This is a constructivist approach proposing a method of attitude change in the context of special education. Clearly though, it has implications for attitude change generally.