10.0726 applied ethics forum

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 19 Feb 1997 22:18:32 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 726.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@vma.smsu.edu> (67)
Subject: applied ethics forum


Is there hope for democracy in cyberspace? That is: do the
environments of Computer-Mediated Communication offer
new forms of communicative possibilities that might enhance
democratic discourse? Might the dialogical space of CMC create
new forms of democratic discourse and community?

To examine an effort to respond to those questions in praxis, we
invite you to visit our web site and discussion forum, "Abortion:
Philosophical and Religious Perspectives"
sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of
Applied Ethics (Carnegie Mellon University), Drury College, and
Routledge Publishing.

The forum takes place from Feb. 3 - 21, 1997, among: Helen
Alvare (Office of Prolife Activities, National Council of Catholic
Bishops, Washington, DC); Seyla Benhabib (Harvard
University/University of Vienna), known for her work in
feminism and feminist critical approaches to Juergen Habermas;
Rev. Howard Hunt, an ordained minister in the United Church
of Christ, which supports abortion rights; and Laurie Shrage
(California State University, Pomona), author of _Moral
Dilemmas of Feminism: Prostitution, Adultery, and Abortion_
(Routledge, 1994).

This exchange utilizes a web conferencing software which allows
invited participants to establish and respond to discussion
threads presented in the form of a web page.
The site consists of background materials (including summaries
of ethical approaches to abortion from Catholic, Jewish, Islamic,
and Protestant frameworks) and discussion archives (fully
accessible web pages containing the exchanges among forum
participants, including editorial summaries and links to
background resources).

Our large goal - as articulated in the home page of our Academic
Dialogue on Applied Ethics
<http://www.lcl.cmu.edu/CAAE/Home/Forum/ethics.html> -
is to explore the "conversational ethics" of Habermas, Rawls,
Rorty, and Putnam, especially as these offer guidelines for the
_forms_ of discourse necessary for democratic polity (e.g.,
Habermas's rules of discourse as outlining the requirements of
an ideal speech situation). By applying these guidelines to
discussions of hard ethical cases - including the especially
divisive issue of abortion, as framed by deeply-held but diverse
religious commitments - we hope to explore the strengths and
limits in _praxis_ of such conversational ethics. The forums
further seek to exploit the best possibilities of computer-
mediated communication, as such on-line exchanges bring
together representative voices otherwise separated by geography
and time, in a dialogical space which encourages equal
participation and respect for alternative views - while it also
provides participants a continuously updated textual protocol of
the exchange and the opportunity to develop what are thus
informed, well-thought out, reflective responses (in contrast
with the often hasty and unproductively heated exchanges
marking face-to-face exchanges).
We are finding that the exchange as it has played out so far - and
as documented in the publicly-accessible discussion archives -
indeed achieves remarkable moments of positive and
productive civil discourse.

While the first phase of the discussion forum involves invited
participants - in the second phase (Feb. 21-28, 1997), anyone
willing to abide by the discussion guidelines framing the
Dialogue is invited to submit comments by e-mail, which will
then be compiled as web pages in the discussion archives. We
invite you to visit the site and adding your comments to the
-- Robert Cavalier (CAAE/CMU) and Charles Ess (Drury College
and Research Associate, CAAE/CMU)