The following text is from a presentation I gave earlier this semester in Philosophical Foundations of Education at USF.
What do you understand by the terms ethical and “political”?
Ethical: I take ethics to mean an examination of human behavior in relation to “the Good.” It doesn’t require a pure or perfect explication of the Good, but rather an assumption of an extrinsic and universal standard, no matter how contested its details, how murky our understanding, or how complex its application.
The ethical does not begin with an apprehension of what the Good is, but of that the Good is.
It seems to me that any attempt to “be a better person,” “improve society and social and economic conditions,” even “progress in my moral awareness and development as a human being,” requires a standard by which to measure/judge/assess/ or even merely intuit what it means to “be better,” “improve,” or “progress.” All of these beg the question: according to what standard?
Without the assumption of such a standard, “better,” “improvement,” “progress,” become meaningless – as if, after hitting a line drive to left field, the batter could decide on a whim to run the bases in either direction (whichever suited him at the moment) or if the first baseman, upon seeing the batter running in his direction, were to pick up the base and run away with it. In either case, it’s not as if these behaviors are merely “off limits” or “breaking the rules,” or “a violation of agreed upon norms.” They are categorically different. In the cases above, the behavior kills the game itself. The condition for the possibility of the game is destroyed.