Ethics, Morality and Responsibility in Modern Philosophies of Our Society

Topics: Thomas Paine

What is a world without ethics, morals, and responsibility? In a perfect world, active citizenship, social responsibility, and leadership will come naturally. Thomas Paine, Paul Loeb, Steven Pinker, and Robert Reich are individual thinkers who have coined and expanded modern philosophies and ideals that can bring our society closer to a community driven, socially responsible and sustainable state with each other and with our earth.

What is holding the change back? Society can be defined by values, beliefs, and by class; however these social characteristics can lead to division and conflict amongst a community as well as a just society.

Society is not just these characteristics, it is created by everything constructive and good that people join together to build and accomplish.

Government has its origins in the evil of man and is therefore a necessary evil. On the other hand, government Thomas Paine states, “is an institution whose sole purpose is to protect us from our own vices.”

These origins of evil are the dimensions of life that hold back change; if life, liberty, and property were protected like the sole purpose of the government then as a society we could accomplish the goal.

These goals would be seemingly impossible to reach without the end goal of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Like America was to Britain, you cannot prosper with constant pressure and suffocation. In order to prosper in the long term, you need to be independent. Paine says that, by declaring independence, America will be able to ask for the help of other countries in its struggle for freedom.

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Through any type of independence, admiral notions of justice, relationships, and leadership will be created. However, these movements will not begin with the government or higher power; this movement starts from the bottom, it will not take place from the top where we trust our governments and officials to do the right thing. It starts with the individual, taking small steps making a difference and positively impacting its community and society as a whole.

In Soul of a Citizen, Paul Loeb stresses the notion that there are no natural born leaders or activist, stating ideas from psychologist James Hillam: that any true calling is centered on some sort of community service (Loeb, 70). This relates to Thomas Paine in the essence that people will act when there is a need for a leader or an organizer, as no dictator can achieve what a group of individuals can. Loeb states our willingness to become instruments of change within our community is because we refuse to accept the imperfection of the chosen issue. In Paine, this issue is independence where he argues that ‘the practice of monarchy originates from sin, and is an institution that the Bible and God condemn.”

The role of leadership is key in any organization, however there are more than one type of leadership. Here’s a list of some that relate to leadership, ethics, and social responsibility: servant, autocratic, laissez faire, democratic, bureaucratic, charismatic, transformational, team, cross-cultural, coaching, strategic, situational leadership and visionary leadership. Leadership is not limited to the business frontier, we are social animals that adopt certain roles in order to give structure to society to help it develop and grow into the vision created through change and complexity. Without the right kind of leadership, positive social change will never come to fruition. There are many road blocks for societal change, one being cynicism; which can be classified as a blockade through a fear of failure that keeps hope for change behind closed doors (Loeb). ‘Our most fundamental responsibility as citizens, is to love not only our own children, but other people’s as well—including children we will never meet, who grow up in situations we’d prefer to ignore” (Loeb). Failed leadership can lead to corruption, mistrust, and ultimately a unhealthy society, like Reich says; “Political victories that undermine trust in politics shouldn’t be considered victories; they’re net losses for society. Record corporate profits achieved by eroding the public’s trust in business aren’t successes; they’re derelictions of duty. Lobbying and campaign donations that result in laws and regulations favoring the lobbyists and donors aren’t triumphs if they weaken public confidence in our democracy; they, too, are abject failures of leadership.”

I believe visionary, cross-cultural, and strategic leadership have the best qualities when it comes down to social chance. Without seeing the potential for how the world to exist, how can you reach or even develop your ideal society? It also gives the ability to lead others, not all leaders are the best at leading themselves; however they may have attributes unknown to others. Now let’s say you have this vision, but with most societies consisting of a “melting pot”, it is hard to reach everyone because every person is different, they view things differently as well as hold different morals and values. A cross cultural leader can mix practices and preferences of people so they are on the same page. By understanding how to work with others, it will enhance not only the leader, but all of the members knowledge at various levels. Well with all your ideas, your ability to reach everyone necessary; there still comes a issue of implementing your vision, or in other words implementing the “means” to the end. This brings strategic leadership, the ability to distribute responsibility, while creating multiple paths that will lead to success. With the right strategy, there will be more opportunity for experience-based learning as well as ability to transform; transform to a state of equality and justice for all.

Paul Loeb suggest we overcome this notion by taking a stand for what we believe in whether it may be right or wrong there will be no risk of failure. He also states that society must be large and complex enough for us to have a disconnect from our feelings and or remorse or over understanding. My vision compares to Loeb in regards to destroying the evolving notion of cynicism with giving everyone a part as well as a role in society. My vision aligns with Loeb on page 227, “Our efforts worked best when we listened closely to the specific needs and possibilities of each campus–the local villages we worked to engage–and then passed on the best of their ideas so that others could run with them further.” (Loeb Pg.227) These positives aspects are key to keep society aligned and not corrupt. Without doing so evil will prevail. Power, capitalism, the root of evil stems for cynicism due to the disconnect thy has between good and evil; they will prevail as long as their agenda gets checked off, they recieve that bonus or maybe even immunity from the law. This is how big powerhouses in business as well as politics continue to dig deeper into corruption. It is crucial to have a transparent government as well as any other positions of power like police and in law and order. Without transparency, a society will never reach its maximum potential. This is the biggest and first step to take in order to achieve a just society.

“Change is the product of deliberate, incremental action whereby we join together to try to shape a better world” (Loeb). By addressing transparency you would be able to dive into the important social problems that need to be solved; such as education, employment, health care, and housing. With these main issues addressed your society will be able to almost self correct itself due to the individuals caring utmost about the society and the people around them as well as future generations. Transparency brings out humanism, which will be further discussed below.

Humanism promotes meaning and ethics, while including critical thinking to reach answers that will inherently benefit society. An event like the Voter Registration Drive we held is a community building and strengthening of the individual as well as social groups. Enlightenment ideals of reason, science, humanism, and progress are direct outcomes of the want for change, the want for independence. With reason, science, humanism comes knowledge, which leads to progression. “a fear that acknowledging human nature would subvert any attempt to improve the human condition” It shouldn’t be identified with a certain set of behaviours; rather, we have a complex variety of predispositions, violent and peaceful, that can be activated in different ways by different environments. “a poetic allusion to the parts of human nature that can overcome the nastier parts”(Pinker). This fear taps into human potential and the erosion of our spirit, which Loeb referred to as “the ultimate sacrifice”. This all stems from fear, Pinker stresses that the only way enlightenment came to fruition was by smuggling books (knowledge) that then developed norns, economic conditions, and social movements. Pinker doesn’t directly talk about fear however, he mentions the lack of progress within our enlightenment legacies by moving to the mainstream. But he does allude to the notion that the criticism of this enlightenment creates a fear of the unknown or the “black light”.

This fear of the unknown is what can divide values and skills that are essential to active leadership. Another large player in deception comes politics. Pinker states “Though the moral and intellectual case for humanism is, I believe, overwhelming, some might wonder whether it is any match for religion, nationalism, and romantic heroism in the campaign for people’s hearts. Will the Enlightenment ultimately fail because it cannot speak to humanistic needs?” (Pg.451) The enlightenment was a European movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition; heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton. The goal of the Enlightenment thinkers was to inform (enlighten the public. They aimed to convince others of their ideas; with goals to crush superstition, intolerance, and slavery.

By informing the public, sustainably oriented action will come to fruition and inspire others to take action on a personal and social level. This action starts from the individual, and will generate wealth in knowledge as well as value. On the bottom of page 124 it states, people with stronger emancipative values-tolerance, equality, freedom of thought and speech which tend to go with affluence and education, are more likely to recycle and pressure gov and businesses into protection the environment.” These ideals can help solve the issue of economic inequality. The root cause of economic inequality is the driving gap between the rich and poor, the difference between relative and absolute prosperity. However there should be no hand outs or loopholes in the system where social loafing can be. To be a productive and an asset to society you must do your part which includes work. Whether you’re a government employee or self employed your still providing for yourself and most likely others. There shouldn’t be any free handouts in regards to monetary values. However, I would like to see a redistribution of our tax money. As more than half of it currently goes to blood, it would be vital for our future to have more go to education, public systems, and health.

Pinker shows that global inequality (between richer and poorer countries) is decreasing, whereas inequality within countries is rising. He concludes that much current anxiety around inequality — spurred by the idea that the top 1% is absorbing the lion’s share of economic growth — is misplaced. (Pinker) A society cannot flourish without educated people to lead. Strong leaders make for a strong community; well-educated people make these strong leaders. Education reduces poverty, increases income, and in change boosts the economy.

A sustainable society begins with better education. Equal access to quality education is one of the most important aspects of a just society. Equality then leads to the common good, like Reich defines; “our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society”. If people truly care about one another then they would give back and lend a hand to those in need or fight for inequality and injustice because it’s impossible to not see it everyday.

Robert Reich speaks of “Leadership as Trusteeship”, which I believe is a way to motivate and imply positive societal change from the ground up. Reich conveys this ideal through; first, by recognizing responsibilities beyond maximizing capitalist profits, second by treating the environment with just as much respect and care as the economy. On page 112, Reich talks about how all these top dogs carry around what it means to be successful which in the modern day translates to power and wealth. These ideals need to be translated into stewardship, like Reich states; “Leaders are stewards of the unwritten rules we once took for granted, that constituted the common good.” What makes a society “just”?

A just society would have a justice system that treated all people equally. Everyone would be given the same rights, the same standards in a trial, and equal punishments. No one should be able to pay off a punishment when the standard calls for time served. In order to instill society change, all of these aspects discussed above will need implementation on a individual level. By promoting the values of equity, self-knowledge, social justice, personal empowerment, collaboration, citizenship, and service we can design a powerful vehicle for societal change. Like Kristins presentation of a free database for energy usage, it won’t be anything until individuals put energy into changing their ways, and passing on their knowledge to others. By valuing ideals in the common good, our society and community will become a close knit

If people will act in harmony with the golden rule always in mind, we as a society and a community can return to a state of symbiosis. All of these steps and ideals provided, thanks to Paine, Loeb, Pinker, and Reich, we can bring our society closer to a community driven, socially responsible, and sustainable place to live and flourish as we as animals are all we have. To end, i like what pinker says on page 452, “We are born into pitiless universe, facing steep odds against life-enabling order and in constant jeopardy of falling apart. We were shaped by a force that is ruthlessly competitive. We are made from crooked timber, vulnerable allusions, self-centeredness, and at times astounding stupidity.”

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Ethics, Morality and Responsibility in Modern Philosophies of Our Society. (2022, Apr 21). Retrieved from

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