Wednesday, June 13, 2007
further adventures in ethics
Working up my new graduate course on media ethics, an interruption from a colleague who edits a journal whose board I'm on. Should we join the boycott on Israeli academics? My pragmatic response was that each case should be judged on its own merits: judging by ascription is rarely useful. Politically, I suggested half as a joke, it would be more shocking to advance a boycott of US academics. After all, Bush's regime are responsible for Israel's impugnity to UN Declarations and every form of political and moral pressure. But after more thought I came to the conclusion that it would be best to propose a boycott of US conferences, presses and journals. At least this way, we are offering a sacrifice of our own – in terms of career advancement and peer esteem. I believe Giorgio Agamben has said that he will not visit the USA on similar grounds. Of course that also means sacrificing the option of persuading our US colleagues to be even braver than in many cases they already are in calling for an end to to the unquestioning support of Israel's occupation of miltarily occupied lands, development of weapons of mass destruction, shelling of civilians . . . Reading Arendt's 'Questions of Moral Philosophy' (in her Responsibility and Judgement, incidentally published in New York), my inertia becomes even more oppressive. Is morality, like law, finally about an individual self which in all other intellectual circumstances we both decry and disbelieve? Are we, after all, condemned to the prison of free will?