Workshop presentation - 中欧社会论坛 - China Europa Forum

Workshop presentation

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Thematic Workshop T 16A on The challenges of Intercultural Dialogue

8/9/10 July 2009

At Xiamen University, Jingxian

- Ethics is the set of criteria that refer to what are just and good choices that guide our behaviour. As such ethics is an expression of the requirement of making decisions and choices in accordance with the idea one has of man and of society, and also in accordance with the preservation of the future of societies as well as the future of the planet, in order to preserve their harmony and to ensure their survival. Ethics is not the declaration of a list of values to which each person would adhere. Nor can it be reduced to a series of precepts like « you shall do; you shall not do ».

- Ethics can be understood well only through the resolving of ethical dilemmas, when two values in which one equally believes become inconsistent, forcing people either to give priority to one over the other, or to look for new practices that would reconcile the two.

- Ethics is a major component of culture. For this reason, in each society it is endowed with a certain lasting quality. But ethics is also evolving, even if only because concrete situations that require ethical choices, are themselves constantly evolving. To mention only the facts that nowadays our societies are faced with new questions concerning the balance between humanity and the biosphere which are irremediably interdependent; the impact of scientific and technical activity on life, along with the development of molecular biology and of nanotechnologies.

- We are accustomed to saying, in China as well as in Europe, that our times are marked by individualism, consumerism and egoism. Each of these seems to invite one to pursue one’s own happiness and one’s own interests with relative indifference to those of others. Moreover, the market economy ideology pretends that the pursuit of individual interest is profitable to common interest. This pretension too raises ethical questions.

- How do these evolutions influence the future of Chinese and European societies ? In order to participate in the management of our unique planet which is populated, fragile and limited in natural resources, it is necessary for both of them to agree on a set of common principles. In which sense are traditional values evolving so as to be relevant for modern times ? Can these relevant values and ensuing choices and principles to guide our behaviour –as they are prevalent in China and Europe today- meet ?