Oct 7, 2020

Providing education ethics & sustainability Q3/20

Due to the current situation we have unfortunately not been able to hold any live events and have therefore focused more on other activities.

For the 3rd quarter of 2020 we would like to report on 3 topics

1. Podcast interview by ROCK YOUR LIFE! 
2. Ethical Literacy, Generation Corona and Design Your Life! 
3. Ethics of small steps 

What is ROCK YOUR LIFE!? It is a network of volunteer students, motivated schoolchildren, socially responsible companies and ROCK YOUR LIFE! as an umbrella organization that actively fights for educational justice and equal opportunities for young people. Their mentoring program builds bridges between schoolchildren, students and companies. ROCK YOUR LIFE! is convinced that every student has valuable knowledge that they can pass on to others. ROCK YOUR LIFE! believes that companies have a social responsibility and their success highly relies on skilled employees. ROCK YOUR LIFE! is a network in which goals are achieved jointly.

Ethica Rationalis supports ROCK YOUR LIFE! in order 
to promote ethical competence among young people and students who, in turn, act as mentors.

Interview with Aria Djamschidi from Ethica Rationalis

As part of the podcast program of ROCK YOUR LIFE! Aria Djamschidi of Ethica Rationalis was a “special” interview guest for the topic “Why ethics is something very common”. Ethics - that sounds like a difficult word or a school subject. Ethics and ethical behavior take place in our everyday life. Among other things, Aria talked about what ethics actually mean and how one can practice ethics in everyday life. 

ROCK YOUR LIFE! summarized the conversation with Aria: Ethics are not abstract, not big, but concrete and can be found in the details of our actions. They need to be honed through mindfulness, reflection, and training. 
Ethical behavior serves us as well as others. What goes around, comes around.

Some excerpts from the podcast: 

ROCK YOUR LIFE!: “What is ethics for you and how do you spot it in everyday life?" 

Aria: “Elisabeth, I hope I can do justice to this question. Perhaps I will start with a very concrete experience of mine. ... The practice of ethics happens in the laboratory of our daily lives, in the midst of society. There I am tested hundreds of times a day. ... I'll give an example: often when I was in the coffee kitchen with my colleagues (before the Corona period), gossip would regularly arise about colleagues or superiors. That's when I can act ethically by control my own impulse to contribute, by taking pause and deciding to not participate. Perhaps even being so brave to say something positive about the person who is the target of the gossip, putting a different spin on the conversation. ... "

ROCK YOUR LIFE!: “What is ethical behavior? Could we say that ethical behavior is behavior that includes others?" 

Aria: “… ethical behavior and involving others - empathy, yes. I think for me it was important that I first reflect, first try to really get to know myself by better understanding the forcesactive within me. What are my weak points? ... How can I rationally work on these weak points every day? For example, by working specifically against my egocentricity, for example by letting others speak, by pausing, questioning the impulses behind my actions. 

It really is like a practical exercise. For example, today I plan to pause at least three times and to truly focus on the person I am speaking with. To interrupt my impulses and listen to them, to actively listen, to be interested in their viewpoint. But how do I do that? You have to train it like a muscle - every day. Then you will notice that empathy gradually gains more space over egocentricity. If I do not work on this consciously, the egocentricity will make gains again. So, working specifically within myself against my weak points and on the other hand strengthening virtues, which of course I also have. Putting a priority on these virtues in order to build a bridge to others by acting humane, becoming a true human. 



Ethical Literacy, Generation Corona and Design Your Life! – by Angela Poech & Cynthia Potter

The topic of ‚ethical competencies‘ has been on our minds not only since the publication of Nahal Jafroudi’s book „Rethinking the Human Person – Moral Landscape and Ethical Literacy“. But her book has greatly stimulated the scientific debate on the subject. Hence, we are pleased that our contribution „Ethical Literacy, Generation Corona and Design Your Life!“ has been accepted for the (virtual) NeuroPsychoEconomics Conference 2020.]


Founded in 2005, NeuroPsychoEconomics is the first scientific platform at the interface of neuroscience, psychology, economics, and marketing. Angela Poech, Professor for Entrepreneurship at the University of Applied Sciences Munich, focused in her presentation on the question: Why is it particularly important for this generation of children, teens, and young adults to acquire ethical literacy? She obviously hit a nerve with this question, as the positive reactions of the other conference members showed. The lecture [1] was recorded in the context of the conference and is now available on our Ethica Rationalis YouTube channel.]

 [1] The conference paper is included in the Conference Proceedings under the title: „Ethical Literacy: Design Thinking as a Pathway to Teach and Acquire Ethical Competencies“. The two authors are Angela Poech, Munich University of Applied Sciences, and Cynthia Potter, American University, Washington DC. Contact address: angela.poech@ethica-rationalis.org]


Ethics of small steps
When we set the statutes for Ethics Rationalis, it was clear what our goals should be: With our work we help to translate the topic of ethics (the science of morality) into everyday life in the midst of society. So we formulated the following guiding principle for our association's purpose: "We promote the scientific research and development of rational and objective ethical principles, especially with regard to human rights and human obligations. The aim is to examine those aspects of ethics that are truly universal and that are generally recognized by everyone - regardless of origin, religious affiliation, gender or social and cultural background." 

We would like to give you an insight into our work by briefly describing what universal, applied and rational mean for us in connection with ethics and everyday ethics.
Our concern therefore pertains to ethics that are valid beyond culture, nationality, gender and religion. The basic principles of ethics are universal because human nature is universal. In an unbiased exchange with others in formats such as the PhiloBrunch, we seek to jointly develop solutions for difficult ethical issues. 


The essential question is how one can think, speak or act in accordance with ethical principles in everyday life. We are less interested in conducting theoretical discussions on the subject of ethics (although these are also necessary), but rather finding out how the practical and concrete implementation of ethical principles can take place. Do only truly heroic deeds ethically count? What are the obstacles stopping us from ethical action - are they inside and / or outside of us? When and how shouldI act ethically? What difficulties might I face if I behave ethically? Do I have to give up all my worldly possessions and my social position? How can this be reconciled with work, family and friends?

Day by day, minute by minute, we are confronted with challenges that provide insight into our inner attitudeand our character. Based on scientific knowledge from psychology, philosophy, law, medicine and other areas, we can develop methods to better deal with ethical dilemmas. This rational approach is one of the three pillars of our work.

Everyday ethics

In one of our first articles we provided a definition of what we mean by “everyday ethics”. It is the behavior that can be practiced every day and at every moment, behavior that requires neither great preparation nor supernatural efforts or sacrifices. But how can this actually be implemented? The approach that most succinctly sums up the basic idea is likely to be the golden rule: “Treat others as you would to be treated; and what you would not wish for yourself, you should not do unto others." Let us remember situations when others did something for us ... the support of a dear friend at a moment when we needed encouragement; the hospitality of strangers or the friendly greeting of a colleague who was previously unknown; the nice lady who gave us detailed directions ... gestures that seem insignificant to us at first, but which give us the feeling of being valued and perceived as human beings.

With that definition of ethical behavior, the 'field of activity' or 'laboratory' in which one can practice ethical behavior is almost unlimited. This laboratory encompasses all areas of daily life, whether you are at work, with family or friends, on the road or on vacation, etc. - there are always opportunities to behave politely, honestly, tolerantly and considerately. And, as we have all experienced, these actions are not without effect. That is why we also speak of 'ethics of small steps': it is these seemingly insignificant words,gestures and deeds that, taken together, have a significant impact on living together. 

In the following, we would like to present our very personal and individual thoughts on the ethics of small steps: 

"In conversations I pay attention to words and gestures: Do I let the other person finish? Am I really listening? Am I conveying appreciation? Am I ready to defend others? My goal is to create islands of humanity in my environment."

"For me, a prerequisite for everyday ethics is to think about which ethical principles I would like to apply in contact with others. Then I implement these principles in small steps: Being careful not to hurt others with my words; defending someone who is being slandered; remaining objective in arguments and controlling my emotions; letting others finish speaking, etc. It helps me if I consciously put myself in their shoes and asking: if the roles were reversed, how would I want to be treated?" 

"Through the intensive study of practical ethics, I realized that in exchange with others I sometimes reach my limits and become impatient. After trying the 'classic' methods (counting up to 10 ...) for a while, I took a different approach. I asked myself what the deeper reason for my impatience could be. Gradually I realized how I can better mentally prepare myself for 'impatient situations', and I learned to assess myself and my surroundings more realistically, and to get a better grip on my my emotions. This analysis has made me much more relaxed." 

"For me, everyday ethics are the many small ethical deeds: greeting neighbors in a friendly manner, helping a colleague, paying attention to family members, expressing consolation and encouragement, donating something. At the same time, it is about what I need to avoid: making too much noise, marginalizing others, slandering colleagues. In short: How can I contribute to making it more pleasant for the people around me?"

"I implement everyday ethics in such a way that I ask myself multiple times a day: is what I am about to say or do right now ethical or not? This is a double task: I have to be honest with myself (someone needs my help) and I have to overcome my resistance to doing something that I may not have the time nor the inclination to do (I am currently under stress). The key is to see my well-being at the moment as equal or subordinate to that of my counterpart - and then to act, even if it is uncomfortable."

"In my professional environment, it is quite common to position yourself in a good light and to seek recognition. I practice taking pause and focusing on my colleagues: do I for example support new teammates with positive feedback in order to acknowledge their achievements and to strengthen their self-confidence. The art is to sharpen our 'ethical senses' and spot those moments through practice."

Jun 22, 2020

Providing education ethics & sustainability Q2/20

For the second quarter of 2020 we would like to report on 2 focus topics

1. a series of articles and online discussions with our readers on the topic "Being truly human and behaving ethically in times of the Corona Crisis'

2. connecting partners with goals similar to ours; introducing Rock Your Life!


1. "Being truly human and behaving ethically in times of the Corona Crisis'.

The initial article centered around the necessity to take the position of the other. “The Other” is my partner and the neighbor or a far-away uncle. “The Other” is my newspaper delivery agent, the cashier at the petrol station and the cleaning staff in the hospital. “The Others” are all those who are now frightened, sick, isolated or those with existential difficulties. So there are very specific people who need our help now and we shared some very concrete ways of helping.

We then followed up with a discussion forum asking our members, supporters and supporters how they experienced the current situation. We asked:

What moves you or has it particularly affected you in the past few weeks?

What experience have you had in practical ethics?

Are there positive insights that you have gained for your personal life?

Or even changes in your lifestyle, in your exchange with your fellow human beings or in your inner attitude?

We summarized and structured the contributions and posted them anonymously on our website in subsequent articles. We did this to facilitate exchanges among like-minded people, which is the focus of our work.

In the feedback we received, we saw two major trends: First, the corona crisis forces us to reflect, to pause, to question habits and patterns of thought; secondly, from this distance it allows us to open our eyes to our neighbors and to practice humanity.

The messages we received from our readers were heartwarming and insightful and helped build further articles with the second one focusing on the topics of introspection, reflection and resilience, where we posed the questions:

- What options do I have in the current situation?

- What re-assessments can I do?

- Where do I get my satisfaction from in life?

- How might I want to set priorities differently in the future?

- What is a successful life for me?

Assuming there is an opportunity in every crisis, one can see that the fact that one is forced to break from  the daily "self-centered hamster wheel and consumer behavior" to "looking out for others"  - especially people who are in our immediate vicinity. This leads us to the second focus of the statements that we received: applied ethics. The crisis shifts ones gaze away from oneself to others - parents straddling the gap between home office and childcare, people in retail or healthcare with a higher risk of infection, company directors responsible for their employees, etc. Here, too, most statements are in line: This crisis is an invitation to practice more humanity.

The third article helped to take stock on our view of others and how Corona can change relationships

Some key points in the article were that nothing is the way it was. Prejudices are rooted in our social identity. It is "the part of the individual self-concept that is determined by the knowledge of membership in a social group and by the value and social importance of this membership". An uncfortable truth is that people tend to rate the members of their own group (e.g. Europeans) more positively than the members of other groups (e.g. non-Europeans). The corona crisis is now completely shaking that up: occupations in the care, retail or logistics sectors, which previously had a relatively low reputation, are now proving to be essential and important. The rude neighbor, who always seemed so strange, is now accepting deliveries for the entire complex.

Children yearning(!) for their teachers, and parents admitting that teaching requires a level of expertise that they just haven't got. Experts, who we considered to be infallible, are now admitting mistakes and conceding to not always knowing just what to do. Insecurity, uncertainty and stress is affecting everyone in one way or the other. Sure, some people are hit harder than others, but to be honest, you have to realize that almost no one gets off scot-free and that plenty of people are truly in need. Feeling so directly connected to these people is a new experience for us that can be deeply unsettling. Or enlightening...

Please note that these are only excerpts of the articles. The full articles which include quotes from our readers are published on our website: www.etchica-rationalis.org


2. introducing Rock Your Life!

One of our purposes is to serve as a platform for connecting partners with goals similar to ours. For example by connecting GlobalGiving / Apple Benevity and Apple Education with an organization called Rock your Life! We are proud to support them and we are happy that one of the founders of Rock Your Life (Elizabeth Hahnke) has agreed to be a keynote speaker in our next PhiloBrunch that we will host once the social distancing restrictions are further eased, allowing us to have physical meetings.

Here is a brief introduction of  

BACKGROUND: Education paves the way for the future for everyone and society. In Germany, the successful transition of young people to working life depends heavily on the social and economic situation of their parents' home.

Young people from non-academic milieus or from migrant backgrounds are often disadvantaged by the education system.

In recent years, around a quarter of a million young people were unable to find an apprenticeship, while for example in 2016, 43,500 apprenticeships remained vacant.

Rock Your Life! approach: One-to-one mentoring program between young people and young adults from different social classes for at least one year.

Mar 11, 2020

Providing education ethics & sustainability Q1/20

In the first quarter of 2020 we had 2 focus topics

1. organization and preparation of another PhiloBrunch that will take place end of March. This time the topic will be: "Ethics in the field of art and morals 4.0"

2. we ran another survey on a case study about practical ethics. Our topic was: A new job with a twist - what would you do?


1. PhiloBrunch "Ethics in the field of art and morals 4.0"


Our speaker Mr. Hubert Thurnhofer from Vienna is a gallery owner, philosopher, author, media consultant and maverickt hinker.
He has been running a gallery in Vienna since 1994. Since 1997 he has been managing the art space in the Ringstrasse galleries in the city of Vienna. In addition to 25 regular artists, the gallery "der Kunstraum" shows around 50 new positions every year. In addition, he was responsible for around a dozen start-ups as a PR agency, focussing on online communication and media work. Since then he has specialized in the field of corporate social responsibility. Besides various other works, he wrote and published the book "Moral 4.0" in 2017.


Introduction Hubert Thurnhofer and Moral 4.0

Lead-in presentation into the topic:

  • Solving concrete ethical dilemmas as a gallery owner and art sponsor - "charity auctions"
  • Moral 4.0: intention for the book
    - Why does Internet 4.0 need morals 4.0
    - Clarification of terms
    - From practice: "There are many morals, but only one ethics!
    - Do we need “new” basic values in the 21st century?

Case studies of how these "new" basic values work ...

Deep dive: ethical principles and their implementation in daily interactions with others

Feedback / discussion


2. Case study on practical ethics: A new job with a twist - what would you do? 

In January we set up another case study and performed a survey concerning a hypothetical ethical dilemma and published the result.

We asked visitors of our website to read the text below that describes Gerhard's ethical dilemma and decide how they would solve the situation. Please note that this is not about providing a right or wrong answer. Reality is far too complex for that. Although based on a real situation, this exercise is purely virtual. This survey serves to reflect upon the dilemma and thus become more aware of one's own motives and solutions.

An ethical dilemma ... - What would you do?
Gerhard is a lawyer and, as a compliance officer, responsible for ensuring that the company complies with the law and its own ethical principles.
Seeking to develop professionally, he starts a new job with a new employer. The salary is right, he is responsible for a team of 12 employees, he reports directly to the legal board and he is responsible for compliance management of the entire company.
After the first few months in the new job, he has already established a good network within the new employer. Has established a cooperative relationship with his team, he works well with his peers, as with the board members. He feels completely comfortable in his new position.

But suddenly he is faced with current financial reports that go to all investors and the supervisory authorities, which gloss over the current financial situation. So they do not reflect the real company situation correctly. When he points this out to the Head of Legal & Compliance, the response is only: "Your predecessor had always confirmed these reports without 'whining'. Stop being difficult, you do want to pass probation, don't you?  The topic is really complex and you are only asked to provide an 'assessment'."

Gerhard feels extremely uncomfortable because he has discovered a massive compliance issue here and he has a duty in this situation. He needs to make a decision. The entire board of directors is exerting ever greater pressure on him to finally release the report and do not want to know anything about his concerns - even stating they are damaging to the company's business.

 His mind is racing:

  • What should I do? If I release the report and it turns out that I knew it was incorrect; I may not only lose my job, I may even have to face legal consequences.
  • I have so many financial obligations. I just can't afford to be unemployed after such a short time! My CV will be totally destroyed. How would I explain this to a new employer?
  • The errors in the report are not that big and are largely based on 'assessments' - the board is right. In addition, my predecessor always accepted the reports - obviously without a guilty conscience. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe I can find a justification.
  • I have to act and officially reject this report as incorrect, that is my job. I'm not a crook. The numbers are just wrong and our investors trust the correctness. I have to endure the consequences, even if I get fired during the trial period. I want to be able to face myself in  the mirror.

How do you view Gerhard's inner dialogue and his struggle with his conscience?

You are now Gerhard - what do you do? (results of the survey in brackets)

  1. I am not worried because my predecessor released all previous reports and never suffered any consequences. (0%) 
  2. Losing my job would in fact damage my CV permanently and affect me financially. The incorrectness does not seem to be so substantial that I have to intervene. I will release the report like my predecessor. (0%)
  3. If I do not release the report but make the discrepancies public, this would possibly unsettle investors. I endanger my employer's solvency. My employer stands for sustainability and promotes good causes. So I shouldn't be so critical. The numbers in the report may not be totally accurate, but there is always some variance in these reports. I will release the report. (6.25%)
  4. I will go to the board of directors to discuss my reservations in detail. Even if the conversation does not change the incorrect numbers in the report, I will not do anything without coordinating with the board and will then implement this - either wait for the report to be corrected and then release it, or report the errors in the report. I will not do anything on my own. (62.50%)
  5. I have enough evidence to prove the errors in the report. The board obviously does not want to hear any of my reservations and has even blatantly threatened to fire me. I have no choice - I will not release the report no matter what the consequences for me personally. (12.50%)
  6. None of the above. (18.75%)
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