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President Higgins: Toward an Ethical Economy

President Michael D Higgins has called for a new ethical and philosophical approach to economic policy during an address at Dublin City University.  The lecture, delivered as part of the Ethics For All Public Lecture series organised by DCU Institute of Ethics in association with Mater Dei Institute of Education, focussed on the theme ‘Toward an Ethical Economy’.

President Higgins said,

“We need to re-examine the categories by which we gauge economic value and human worth, as well as the language we employ to do so.  It is not an exaggeration to say that we live in times where economic worth is primarily seen as a matter of productive capacity.  This is reflected in the use of measures for growth as the principal measure of economic health, even if that growth does not impact on the levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.” 

The President highlighted education as being central to this changed value system,

“The society we so dearly wish for will not take shape unless we acknowledge the need for an education of character and desires, the need to encourage and support critical reflection and a more holistic approach to knowledge.  Specifically, there would surely be considerable merit in introducing the teaching of philosophy in our schools, which could facilitate the fostering of an ethical consciousness in our fellow citizens.”

Welcoming President Higgins to DCU, Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU spoke of the role universities have to play in instilling a culture of ethical responsibility amongst students,

“As this proud and resilient nation tries to navigate its way painfully out of the depths of austerity, to regain some measure of equitable prosperity, there is frustration in our communities, in terms of the attribution of responsibility for the state in which we find ourselves.  But, whatever about the issue of holding individuals to account, there is a clear consensus that the presence of a culture devoid of ethics in many of our institutions, financial and otherwise, played a key role in our nation’s loss of prosperity and economic sovereignty, and the consequent impact on the quality of life for so many of our citizens.

Educational institutions have a key role to play in instilling a culture of ethical behaviour in our society and in ensuring that the woes of our recent past are not repeated.  Here at DCU, we believe that our graduates should have the ability to reflect deeply on social and ethical responsibilities linked to their discipline and the application of their knowledge and we address this through integration of these issues across the curriculum.”

DCU Institute of Ethics was established in September 2008 to play a leading role in raising public awareness of, and stimulating debate about ethical issues, and to raise ethical awareness across all fields of the university´s activities – business, technology, politics, media, healthcare and the life sciences.  The Institute offers a Master in Ethics programme in collaboration with DCU college, Mater Dei Institute of Education, providing participants with the knowledge, skills and competence to examine ethical issues, challenges and dilemmas in professional and public life from a wide spectrum of ethical worldviews and theories. 

President Higgins' address can be viewed here.

Click here to read President Higgins’ remarks in full.