The Wall of Virtue

by Tom van der Linden

Hoe kan ik ervoor zorgen dat de ethiek en denkwijze van maatschappelijk bewuste mensen omtrent toekomstgerichte thema’s inzichtelijk wordt zodat mensen uit hun eigen denkstructuur getrokken worden en deze thema’s gaan bekijken vanuit een breder perspectief?

2021, Graduation work, Ethiek, Reflectie

Ethics; the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. Searching for “the Good”.

When we look back at the 20th century, we notice a lot of social changes. An example would be emancipation. People started striving towards emancipation because of the fact that there was a growing interest in equal rights. Part of this might have been a reaction to social changes but new products like anti-conception have also played their part in this process.

Our society today is changing as well. Besides the traditional problems, new ones are appearing at the horizon. In a time where people seem to be increasingly individualistic, an egocentric sound comes forth more and more often. Refugees should leave, the climate should be fixed somewhere else and the COVID-19 rules don’t apply to us. People tend to be more self-centered and experience all new kinds of problems because of this. A lot is changing, we stand before predicaments, some of which we know and some of which are new to us humankind. As a society, it’s important that we find out how to deal with our situation.

To be prepared for the future we should focus on our own morality, we should ask ourselves: “what’s the right thing to do?”

Pondering about ethics is not always easy. A lot of things deflect us from handling morally. Self-interest, our ego or group pressure can influence our choices in a way that we don’t go for that which is morally responsible. Not only this, we tend to make our moral decisions without rational thinking, almost instinctual. Quite often we don’t think about ethics at all. When we do take a moment and think about ethics; things can get hard. Searching for the Good sounds like fun, but how are we going to find it? Fortunately for us, a lot of smart people thought about this for a long time. There are multiple ethical theories, theories about defining right from wrong. One of these is called “virtue ethics”, mostly known for being one of Aristoteles’ theories. Where a lot of ethical theories are rational and sometimes quite abstract, virtue ethics can be applied to our own lives relatively unproblematically. The Good, according to virtue ethics, has a lot to do with practicing our characteristics. Searching for it means practicing virtues. When we try to be courageous, friendly or any other virtue, we’re actively searching for the right thing.

What these virtues are and how we want to apply them is something we have to find out for ourselves. We can’t be compelled to work on our own character. Without knowing what a virtue is, or which virtue we deem important in our own lives, this process becomes virtually impossible.

The target audience of this project consists of students. They are looking around and forming their opinions of the world whilst learning about it. Within this process, it’s important that they have a glance at morality. Whilst forming an opinion about the world surrounding them and searching for their own place in it, it’s important for them to look at their own role in society.

For this purpose, The Wall of Virtue has been made. This project brings people into contact with ethics. This way they can start their own search for the Good. This process starts by making them formulate their own virtuous goals which they could work on, whilst getting inspired by their peers.

Users listen to an audio fragment which asks them to start thinking about morality. By encountering an ethical dilemma, they are forced to form a moral opinion. This goes further than just an instinctual reaction; they’re asked for a rational substantiation. This way the user focuses on the values behind the reasoning. This doesn’t mean only ratio is used to form an ethical opinion.

After this, people are asked to apply this to their own daily lives. What is a dilemma, an event, a struggle which the user might think about. Then they’re asked to search for a virtue, a way of handling the situation better. What could you change about yourself to handle this situation better? How can you search for the right thing to do? By asking questions about this, people have to think for themselves. Nobody is force-feeding the right thing down anybody’s throat; people have to find it out for themselves.

Moral growth takes place by finding insights in our own thoughts and inspiration from our peers. The insights we find by listening to the audio and thinking for ourselves. The inspiration will follow by seeing the answers of our peers. After listening to the audio people may write their answers, insights or questions on the wall. This way the search for the Good is made both for and by the users.

This way the core of this project is attained; searching for the Good with our peers.