tuesday, MARCH 4, 2014
Philosophers Differ in Defining Moral Certainty Ashley Miller Hoya Staff Writer
Associate professor of theology Terrence Reynolds discussed the ambiguity of moral certainty in a world of diverse perceptions for the 40th anniversary lecture of the Liberal Studies Program in the Faculty Club on Friday evening. Reynolds highlighted the difference in conclusions reached by profound thinkers, such as Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, who used reason to try to search for morality. “With these three thinkers relying on reason alone, you end up with three very, very different ethical theories. So if you were to say, lets find the common ground in reason, the three finest thinkers of whom I’m aware wind up in different places,” Reynolds said. Reynolds said that religion, used as the basis for searching for morality, cannot unravel these differences. “You could say instead, let’s not rely upon reason alone, let’s go into the source of real certainty and rely upon a god of some kind to get us to moral certainty. Of course, the problem with that would be on which god you want to rely,” Reynolds said. He also spoke about the problem of relying on your conscience in order to make moral decisions because your conscience may not be reliable. He told a story of a childhood friend named Fred who would steal cars but rationalize it by saying that he “borrowed cars.” Later on in life, Fred’s conscience changed and he once again thought
DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA
Terrence Reynolds delivered the Liberal Studies Program’s anniversary lecture.
it was wrong. “For a long time, Fred’s conscience thought that borrowing cars was wrong. He went through some discomfort changing that position. Once he moved to borrowing cars, his conscience rationalized, justified, he wasn’t really stealing cars he was borrowing, and it was not a big deal and he felt comfortable,” Reynolds said. This malleability led Reynolds to question its reliability. “So when you and I realize our conscience is the final judge, the final arbiter in what you and I will do in life, the question you ask is really how reliable is it? Can you really trust your conscience?” Reynolds said. Reynolds claims these differing conceptual schemes have moral implications. “So now we say, the moral life then becomes much more complicated because in a sense, when we realize that there are people who see the world in ways I don’t see them because they don’t interpret the world the way I interpret it,” Reynolds said. “In the midst of all that, if you and I have different theoretical bases for ethics, we have different practical responses to questions, if we have different conceptual schemes, how in the world can we talk about moral certainty?” His solution to this uncertainty is to approach truth by experiencing and embracing the diversity of concepts and views of different people. “I could take into my own understanding concepts more like the ones I’m listening to. I can take in new ideas,” Reynolds said. “I don’t want to say that you therefore find the moral truth, but I want to say you approximate more and more in that way something resembling authenticity. You’re not just a product of someone else’s thinking.” Attendee Warren Wilson (SFS ’15) agreed with Reynolds’ critique of the idea that morality and ethics are clear-cut and final. “I think professor Reynolds was right to criticize the very naive perceptions that things are simple,” Wilson said. Wilson additionally questioned the political implications of this moral ambiguity. “If we are all so very different, how do you make policy decisions and how do you adjudicate because we are not all pulled in one direction?” Wilson said. Another attendee, Agree Ahmed (SFS ’15), enjoyed Reynolds’ discussion on conscience because he has not had the chance to discuss this subject in his classes. “You are exposed to a lot of discussion centered around reason, but it hasn’t been, at least in my academic experience, brought back to the conscience and the fact that there is like that kind of inner dialogue and you think about your actions through that rather than through reason or like logic,” Ahmed said.
COURTESY ANTONIA KOPP
The School of Nursing and Health Studies Academic Council, pictured above, raised nearly $8,000 by holding a gala to benefit Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School in Kenya.
Benefit Gala Raises $8K Kelly McKenna Special to The Hoya
The School of Nursing and Health Studies Academic Council held a gala in Copley Formal Lounge to benefit Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya, on Feb. 22. Founded in 2003 by Fr. Terry Charlton, S.J., St. Al’s supports children affected by HIV and AIDS. “Over the years, fellow Jesuits, faculty and staff from Georgetown have gotten to know Fr. Terry and have had the opportunity to visit the school and bring back to our campus information about the good work that is being done in Nairobi,” NHS Associate Dean for Enrollment Management Marianne Lyons said. All of the children had lost at least one parent to the disease and are in situations of financial instability as a result, according to NHS Academic Council co-Chair Antonia Kopp (NHS ’14). In addition to bestowing full tuition scholarships on many, St. Al’s provides all students with meals, uniforms and books. The annual cost to send a student to St. Al’s is $1,200. In the past several
years, the school has grown significantly, from 56 students to a current figure of nearly 270 students. The school has the capacity to instruct over 400 students. Georgetown programs, often affiliated with the Medical Center, have attempted to ameliorate the AIDS crisis, abroad and in the District. The university also played host to The Global Fund’s conference on medical epidemics, including HIV/AIDS, in December, amid President Barack Obama’s commitment of up to $5 billion of U.S. funds to AIDS relief. “After the four years there [in Kenya], a lot of the students go on to go to college here [in the U.S.], but they are expected to come back in the long run and settle in Kenya. They also have to do a period of service in the community,” said Kopp. In January, the NHS Academic Council partnered with the Georgetown AIDS Coalition to host the Unity Live event, featuring various oncampus performing groups. The concert was able to collect more than $2,200 from ticket sales, enough to fund tuition for two students at St. Al’s. The council’s goal was to
raise enough money, through its various events, to send eight students to St. Al’s. The second annual gala, which attracted close to 200 students, raised nearly $8,000 in ticket sales, nearly reaching the desired amount of $10,000. “Both this year and last year we had a past student from St. Al’s come and speak. This year we had someone from Milwaukee who is a past graduate and is working as a nurse now,” NHS Academic Council co-Chair Jamie Schlarbaum (NHS ’15) said. Both Kopp and Schlarbaum discussed how they were excited that so many students outside of the NHS came to the event this year. “We are trying to make this a campus-wide effort, and we want everyone to feel included,” Schlarbaum said. In the coming months, there are plans to host another donor event to try to raise more money for the school. Donations will go directly toward the funding of scholarships, uniforms and food. “Our connection with St. Al’s directly reflects our school’s values of excellence, respect and diversity, social justice and value of the common good,” Lyons said.
The Hoya: Tuesday, March 4, 2014