IMPLEMENTATION OF THE THEORY

This chapter is concerned with how the theory of ethics explicated in the first six chapters could be implemented.  The chapter consists of two sections.  The first of these describes how a shared consciousness of abilities and ef­forts to expand them could be brought about.  The second section describes the roles that the arts, religion, the humanities and social sciences, and government can play toward creating the well-ordered society envisioned by our theory of ethics.

Shared Consciousness of the Development of Abilities

The discussion thus far has tried to point out the poten­tial value of various kinds of informa­tion related to abili­ties and the effects brought about by exer­cising abilities.  It has tried to show the importance such information could have for enabling individuals and groups to live a good life and to create a well-ordered society.  The benefits to be derived from making a conscious and deliberate effort to recognize abilities and the effects of their use and then to share such information have not been given explicit atten­tion.  In this section these matters will be brought into a more coherent whole, and then the question of how a shared con­scious­ness could be brought about will be inves­tigat­ed.

In the “Overview” chapter (pages 22 ff) it was stated that abilities can be recognized and that the strength and success of rela­tionships is highly depen­dent on the reasona­bly accurate recogni­tion by each person or group of the abilities of the other.  One of the great things that friends normally do is to help each other recognize some of their personal traits including abilities.  Friends discover how they affect each other.  It would add a new dimension to friend­ship if people would make a more conscious effort to help each other in these ways.  It would help to initiate friendships as well as cement them.

At the same time there is a need to recognize inabilities and inadequacies.  Injustices, frustrations and suffering need attention.  Where no way is known for treating a par­ticular ill, efforts to find a way need to be made.

In the introduction to the general concept of appren­ticeship (Cf page 24) it was mentioned that part of learn­ing to do anything well is learning to distinguish good workman­ship from poor.  Establishing any measurement of excellence requires a feedback system.  People need to find out how their creations, actions, activities and manner of doing things affect others.

A discussion of ecological, economic and social niches was contained in an earlier section by that title (pages 53 ff).  It described how persons and groups within each niche could examine their effects on the acquisition and use of abilities by others.  It suggested that by analyzing these ef­fects the persons and groups within each niche could arrive at a shared understanding of the principles involved.  It urged that redefi­nitions of social responsibilities be undertaken, aimed at fostering maximal contributions from each for the well-being of all.

One of the first comments that was made explicitly about sharing information relating to abilities came in the dis­cussion of “The Quali­ty of Life” (Cf pages 57 ff).  In connection with the Aris­totelian prin­ciple describing the satisfactions people get from the exer­cise of their abili­ties it was said that people want their own abili­ties to function within and be a contributing part of some higher level collective abilities.  It was said that people also want there to be a shared understanding of the relation between their abilities and those higher collective abili­ties.  It was pointed out that the abilities of any group are deter­mined in part by the abili­ties of the group’s members and in part by how well the patterns of communica­tion within the group enable the members to coordinate their efforts.  Thus, a shared understanding of how the abilities of each of the members con­tribute to the group’s collective capacities adds to the group’s effectiveness and to the satisfaction the members receive from their participation.

On page 25 of the “Overview” chapter the need was men­tioned for groups generally to seek to improve the quality of work life within the group.  As ways of doing this, page 32 of the section, “Dependency on Resources, Assistance, and Positions”  suggested: (1) awarding of offices on the basis of the abili­ties already pos­sessed by the candi­dates, (2) rotating persons through offices, and (3) ensuring that each office carries with it only the minimal powers required for the effec­tiveness of the organization as a whole.  Implemen­ting these suggestions would evidently require explicit identification of the qualifications for each position and an analysis of the decision-making activities associated with each.

A life of “doing the most good” could be described as a life of trying to do as much good as possible in each situa­tion without unduly compromis­ing one’s chances for doing a greater amount of good afterwards.  It involves learning to contribute effectively to the well-being of others.  One’s effectiveness depends on being perceptive in recognizing the ways that the well-being of each of the participants in any given situation could be affected by whatever one might do.  Chapter 4 (pages 53 ff) set forth criteria for evaluating well-being.  It suggested that learning to contribute effec­tively to the well-being of others could be greatly facili­tated if people who were trying to gain this capacity could share their successes and failures with one another.  The would-be learners would learn to see everyone’s life history as a history of acquiring and exercis­ing abilities and they would learn to recognize the ways in which such life his­tories can intertwine.

The section “Policies Consistent with the Aim of Doing the Most Good” (pages 97 ff) contained many recommendations for public policy but also emphasized the need to review and evaluate public policy decisions.  This evaluation would employ the same criteria of well-being that are proposed for other areas.

All of this can be summarized by saying that living a good life, a life of doing the most good, needs to be a coopera­tive enter­prize and this enterprize needs to have a life of its own.  This enterprise needs to involve a delibe­rate effort to promote human­i­ty’s common life of intellect, emotion, spirituality, and moral consciousness.

Now let us look at how a shared consciousness of abili­ties and their development could be brought about.  It seems to involve activities on four levels: (1) internal analysis and reflection within each person and group, (2) informal sharing,  (3) the creation of new practices and institu­tions, and (4) governmental regulation.

On the level of internal analysis and reflection a pos­sible break­down of useful activities for each person and group would be:

a.  An effort to recognize one’s own abilities and those of others

b.  Keeping records of one’s career and the history of other aspects of one’s life and taking note of the events, persons, and groups that have had significant effects on one’s life and the course of development of one’s abilities

c.  Evaluating how fully one’s abilities are being util­ized and how effective one is being in contributing to the well-being of others

d.  Formulating and carrying out short-term and long-term plans for expand­ing one’s abilities and for utilizing one’s abilities for promoting the sustained expansion of human capaci­ties

On the level of informal sharing what is envisioned is a sharing of the results of one’s recognitions of abilities, one’s reflec­tions on one’s life history, and one’s

short-term and long-term plans.  This sharing would typical­ly take place a little at a time as mutual interest became identified and as mutual trust developed.  As such sharing continued perhaps individuals and groups would learn to feel freer about self-disclosure and would at the same time better learn to respect each other’s confidence and become more sensitive to the proper boundaries of confidentiality.  Hopefully, also, people would develop a greater will­ingness to help one another and to make the sharing more mutually beneficial.  Sharing between groups could often take place under the general cognizance and expressed willingness of the leader­ship of the respective groups without necessitat­ing formal arran­gements.

On the third level, pertaining to the creation of new practices and institutions, several efforts seem worthwhile:

a.  Peer counseling.  In addition to the informal sharing described for level two there could be groups of usually four or five persons who would exchange information and act as a “su­pport group” for one another.  The content of the sharing could be much the same as in the more infor­mal and less organized sharing of level two but perhaps a greater emphasis could be placed on evaluating the valid­ity of the information exchanged.  Meetings might occur quarterly.

Peer counseling between groups could occur by having four or five groups each appoint a representative.  The representatives would exchange views and funnel information between their respective groups.

It is envisioned that this kind of peer counseling could become something of an enter­prise in itself with member­ship organizations promoting it and articles and books being published on the subject.

b.  Mentoring and advising.  Some persons who have had a considerable amount of experience in some field of work or other area of life would be quite willing to act as mentors to others.  The mentors would meet with their pupils singly from time to time for as long as they both wished to continue the relationship.  Often the goal would be to help the pupil find his or her proper economic or social niche.

There could also be new kinds of paid advisors who would have appropriate credentials in some area.  It is already true that business firms and governmental agencies often provide career counselors to their employ­ees, and this practice could be expanded to include the kinds of considerations contained in the idea of “doing the most good.”

c.  Consultants.  As a body of knowledge and re­search and analysis techniques are developed in these areas there is a possibilities for there to be professional consultants with backgrounds in the social and behavioral sciences.

d.  Databases.  It is envisioned that

profit-making and not-for-profit organizations could be created for collecting and providing carefully controlled access to many kinds of information.  In particular independently operated not-for-profit corpora­tions could be created and regu­lated by govern­ments.  The databases would provide, first of all, a clear­inghouse for information about workers, or­ganizations, public agencies and business firms and their abilities.  The databases would allow workers to update their resumés and advertise their services without jeopardizing their current employment. Potential emplo­yers of full-time and part-time employees could iden­tify them­selves to workers.  The data would also allow statis­tical studies to be made to determine the typical rates of advancement of dif­ferent classes of workers.  Similar studies could be made for workers trained by particular methods or particular types of educational institu­tions.  The databases could also serve as a personal resource to each worker allowing him or her to keep track of life history infor­mation and short-term and long-term plans.

Databases could serve a similar function for business firms.  They could advertise the goods and services they provide and could locate the suppliers of the goods and services they need.  By keeping historical information reflecting changes in the goods and services offered by different business firms information would be created which would allow economists to determine the health of different industries and the ways those industries are changing.

Governmental and other public agencies could be required to provide information about the services they provide.  Publicly funded programs could be required to furnish informa­tion about the abilities they are intended to create.

It is envisioned that databases could provide a reposi­tory for short-term and long-term plans of individuals, civic groups, gov­ernmental agencies, private organiza­tions, and business firms.  The originators of the plans would control access to the information, al­though some plans of government agencies would be required to be available to anyone.  This would facilitate the coordina­tion of plans between participants and would also facilitate the launching of new projects of all kinds.

Databases could also provide the founda­tion for a quality assessment system giving incen­tives to users of all goods and services to give feedback to the purveyors of those good and services.  They could likewise be used to aid the assessment of the effectiveness of public agencies and publicly funded programs.

As will be outlined in the next section there is a need to keep track of abilities within the arts, religions, the humanities and social sciences, and government.  Databases could serve this need also.

On the level of governmental regulation, as just men­tioned in connection with databases, public agencies and programs could be required to put certain information in the databases, and regulations to protect the information from unauthorized use could be established.  It might be advanta­geous to require businesses to register their goods and services in databases, and census data might also be kept there.

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