Ethics in the Twenty-First Century

In 2016 The Dalai Lama Centre for Compassion will begin a project on the theme of Ethics in the Twenty-First Century. This project aims to identify and address the central challenges to common ethical understanding in the modern world.

Project Outline  

Ethics is the bedrock of what universities teach, not just in their philosophy departments but through the guiding principles that infuse everything they do. The questions of ethics are met with daily in all our lives, and have given rise to extensive literary and cultural traditions worldwide.

For much of human history, religious institutions have been accorded ultimate authority on these questions. But as His Holiness the Dalai Lama argues in his bestselling Ethics for the New Millennium, written in close collaboration with the Director of the DLCC, Alex Norman, increased religious pluralism and growing secularism has created a need for new modes of guidance in formulating our moral principles.

In the same period human thought has undergone unprecedented development. New disciplines including economics and sociology have yielded novel insights and methods for addressing questions concerning how we ought to live, and what actions are right and wrong. But there is as of yet little agreement on how to synthesise results reached by different approaches.

Furthermore, advances in science, technology, and shifting societal structures continue to throw up unanticipated ethical challenges. These include the prospects of rapid progress in genetics for ‘designer babies’, the regulation of electronic communications including the internet, and the environmental and systemic effects of the Earth’s dramatically increased population.

Beginning in 2016, the DLCC will organise a series of events addressing these and related issues. The Centre will invite contributions from leading thinkers around the world, in addition to drawing on its internal pool of Fellows. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will visit the Centre as part of the project at a date to be confirmed. AV and other media will be made available online and in print.

Central topics to be addressed will include how modern societies should order themselves in the face of widespread moral disagreement; what it means for ethics to be ‘secular’ and what a secular ethics should aspire to; and how we can find guidance in these issues in the absence of agreed authorities.