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P H I L O S O P H Y F O R B U S I N E S S ISSN 2043-0736
Issue number 59
28th April 2010
I. 'Aristotle and Locke on the Moral Limits of Wealth' by Andrew
II. 'Inclusion of Ethnic Minorities in Philosophy A-Level: Report on
a Further Education College' by Sally Latham
III 'Ethical Dilemmas online course: a review' by Pencka Gancheva
In his third article for Philosophy for Business, Andrew Murray
contrasts the views of Locke and Aristotle on the ethical question of
the limits to personal wealth. As he observes, we live at a time when
Locke's assumptions -- which seemed fully justified at the time --
regarding the unlimited availability of land and natural resources no
longer hold. It may indeed be necessary to return to a more
Aristotelian view that sees the pursuit of wealth as necessarily
limited by a moral vision of what it means to live well.
Sally Latham is a Senior Examiner for the AQA, the largest of the
three Exam Boards in the UK responsible for GCSE, and AS- and
A2-level school examinations. Her study of ethnic inclusion in
Philosophy A-level highlights a strange anomaly: the lack of interest
in A-level Philosophy specifically amongst Afro-Caribbean males. The
usual explanation, in terms of the 'dead white male' domination of
Western philosophy doesn't account for the fact that other ethnic
minorities as well as Afro-Caribbean females are not
under-represented. Whoever forms the next Government in the UK will
need to address many tricky questions like this if they are serious
about the pursuit of ethnic inclusion at all levels of education.
Pencka Gancheva is a young woman from Bulgaria with a passion for
politics and strong views about ethics, or the lack of it, in the
business world. Recently she completed the Ethical Dilemmas online
program, providing me as her mentor with much food for thought in the
process. I recall one unit in particular where Miss Gancheva commented
acidly on the current political situation in her home country, where
politicians have failed miserably to measure up to the challenge of
creating a new, freer society after fall of the Iron Curtain. Miss
Gancheva has graciously allowed me to reproduce her enthusiastic
review of her Ethical Dilemmas course, in the hope that it may help
to persuade others to take the plunge.
I. 'ARISTOTLE AND LOCKE ON THE MORAL LIMITS OF WEALTH' BY ANDREW
How much wealth should a person have? This is not a mathematical
question, nor is it a legal question. Rather, it is a question of
ethics. As such, the answer will lack the precision of mathematics,
because ethical solutions rely on prudent judgement that takes into
account both general principles and the particular characteristics of
a specific situation. As an ethical question, it is not necessarily
subject to the law, though some regimes do construct limits on
individual wealth and all regimes may from time to time legitimately
legislate in ways that affect the magnitude of wealth in response to
recognised distortions in distribution that raise questions of
The question has both individual and communal dimensions. Where
wealth is held by individuals, the first question is, perhaps, how
much is enough in the sense of the question, what is necessary for a
reasonable life? But, as individual wealth grows, sooner or later the
question of what is a reasonable limit arises. The question is
communal in two senses. First, as the whole community is dependent
for its survival on the wealth available to it, questions of
distribution and taxation carry with them matters of justice.
Secondly, the community itself is faced with issues about its total
wealth and the use to which it puts it. A country, for instance, that
uses its excessive wealth simply to go to war for unjustified ends is
in an unsound ethical position. This essay will examine the question
of individual wealth, with reference to the communal issues in the
first sense. It will not investigate the question of the total wealth
The essay follows two previous essays, 'Plato and Aristotle on the
Ethics of Business' and 'Aristotle on the Ethics of Workplace
Relations', which dealt with core ethical issues in the area of
business. It indirectly meets an objection that might be made to the
claims of those essays along the lines that business is about
generating wealth for the community and that, although it follows the
'laws' of economy or of the market, it should not be subject to legal
or moral limits. Nevertheless, the essay may well be read alone for
the specific question it raises.
The essay will draw on the first two books of Aristotle's Politics
and Chapter Five of John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, the
contemporary relevance of which will be made clear shortly.
Although he should be read together with Plato, Aristotle stands head
and shoulders above others in the Greek classical world, which
formulated the fundamental understandings of Western Civilisation. He
remains a voice of sanity even today. John Locke is a suitable
representative of the Early Modern period and of the change in
political thinking that came with the revolutions of the 17th and
18th Centuries. He may not be the period's greatest thinker, but he
remains significant for the historical impact of his work, notably in
the founding of the United States, and his thought stands as a
significant statement of the principles of liberal democracy.
We will begin with Locke's chapter, 'On Property', and examine his
arguments for the right to private property and his consideration of
limits. It will then critique this position by examining Aristotle's
treatment of the same questions. There are deep links between the
texts. On the one hand, Locke often appears to take his 'curriculum'
from Aristotle, for instance, in his discussion of various societies
in Chapter Seven. On the other hand, in his ordering of the
discussion and in his assertion of principles, he puts maximum
distance between himself and Aristotle.
Locke on Property and the Limits of Wealth
John Locke's Treatise was, in its time and historically, truly
revolutionary. Politically, it aimed at undermining claims of the
legitimacy of the absolute rule of kings and though written under the
Stuarts, it was not published until the reign of William and Mary and
the beginnings of the kind of limited monarchy and ultimately limited
government that Locke proposed. Socially, it promoted new
understandings of human individuals in contrast to natural
communities and of changed relationships between husbands and wives,
parents and children. Economically, it strengthened the notion of
private property and opened up the prospect of unlimited economic
growth. Today we live out the implications of each of these
revolutions, but for now our interest is with the third.
In Chapter Five, Locke's argument is both theological and
philosophical. He begins both with the creation of Adam in a fresh
world and with a single human being born into the state of nature
prior to the establishment of legitimate government. His intent is to
justify the right to private property as a right with which neither
civil nor ecclesiastical power can interfere. To do this he begins
with the claim that what is given by either God or nature is given in
common to all human beings. The progeny of Adam share the same
inheritance; whoever is born has a right to preservation. The
question that Locke poses is how can something (the earth and its
fruits) that is given to all of humanity and therefore owned in
common become the personal property of one person?
His answer is that a human being is its own property such that nobody
else can claim ownership of the person. Similarly, one's labour is
one's own, so that whatever one mixes one's labour with becomes one's
Whatsoever he removes out of the state that nature hath
provided, and left it in, he hath mixt his labour with, and
joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it
The only determinant of ownership for Locke is the labour that one
puts into hunting, gathering or planting. The argument is extended to
land itself, so that one can enclose and claim ownership to just as
much open land as one can effectively work. A secondary justification
is that land that has been cultivated yields 'a hundred times' the
product of waste land, so that the cultivator has increased the
general wealth of all. Although law later enters in and arrangements
change, Locke makes it clear that this right to property is prior to
Locke, however, concedes a natural limit to human acquisition:
Every one had a right to as much as he could use, and
property in all that he could effect with his labour... He
had only to look, that he used them before they spoiled,
else he took more than his share and robbed others.
To take more food from the common than one could use, and so allow it
to spoil, or to fence more land than one could actually cultivate was
wrong, because it wasted the common stock. Locke did allow that food
might be bartered for more durable goods, but nothing could rightly
be allowed to perish. In this condition, and without natural slaves
or serfs, one would imagine that wealth, primarily found in land and
useful product, would be fairly evenly distributed.
In Locke's account, it is the invention of money that changes the
situation. By convention, otherwise useless yet imperishable metal is
given value and is able to be used in exchange. The grounds for a
moral limit to wealth are gone, and so people can store up as much as
they wish, which they will do in varying degrees because of their
differing degrees of industry. Disproportionate and unequal wealth is
given moral justification on the basis or 'tacit and voluntary
consent' given by all to the valuation of coin. Locke makes three
more critical moves. First, the lack of limit on wealth applies also
to land, because what was first brought into ownership by use is now
regulated by positive law, and so can be traded as can anything else.
Secondly, he has great faith in the ability of human industry to
multiply wealth. Hard work and clever technique can multiply useful
product from land -- ten, a hundred or even a thousand times.
Thirdly, with the relatively recent discovery of the wilds of
America, he does not imagine that exploitable land and natural
resources would ever run out.
The moral landscape that Locke paints is very much like the one that
underlies our economy today. It shows enormous confidence in industry
and our ability to generate wealth. Although we may have begun to
experience doubts, our economic assumptions maintain with Locke the
belief that the resources of the earth are unlimited. We do not put
limits, moral or otherwise, on the private property or wealth of
individuals or corporations. Let us turn to Aristotle in order to see
how he might react to the Lockean moral landscape.
Aristotle on Property and the Limits of Wealth
Aristotle at once presents a very different world view. He does not
imagine a primordial time, either theological or natural, in which
fundamental moral and political principles might have been
established. Rather, for him the world has always been much as it is.
Civilisations have come and gone. Cities have been founded more or
less successfully and have in time disappeared to be replaced by new
cities. Cities that have been well founded with good laws and fine
people and which have been fortunate in their placement and in their
relationships with their neighbours have been very good places in
which to live.
People live in a territory and while distributive justice insists
that all living there should be able to live satisfactorily, it is
the constitution and laws that determine how property and wealth are
distributed. The challenge is to write good laws so that the city
does well and all the citizens live well. Indeed, Aristotle
criticises the Spartan laws for having enabled some to possess too
much property and some to possess too little. A negative imperative
for the legislator is that if groups in the city feel wrongly done by
they will form factions, and strife will break out. Aristotle examines
the question of property and wealth in two ways. In Book One of the
Politics, he looks at the economic consequences and necessities of
the different lives that people might live. In Book Two, he provides
a more theoretical treatment of what should be held in common and
what should be held privately. We will begin with Book One.
For Aristotle, possessions are about life, and it is a necessary part
of the art living to know how to obtain, maintain and use the
instruments that allow us not only to live but also to live well.
At root, the issue is sustenance, and possessions (land, tools and
materials) enable human beings to feed, clothe and house themselves
and to move around and interact with others. The manner of obtaining
possessions determines the different kinds of life -- in the first
order, farmers, fishers and hunters, each of whom harnesses resources
given by nature. This leads Aristotle to his first definition of
wealth as 'those goods a store of which is both necessary for life
and useful for partnership in a city or a household'. He is clear
that acquisitiveness of these kinds of possession has limits. One only
needs as much as one can use effectively and well.
Aristotle's second definition of wealth comes in response to commerce
and the invention of money. Money is useful, because it allows
exchange of things necessary to life across time and distance, but it
has led people to 'define wealth as a given amount of money'. One
can see how Locke has used Aristotle's thought, but from this point
they differ. Aristotle sees the strangeness of storing money, which
apart from law 'is worth nothing and is not useful with a view to any
of the necessary things.' Nevertheless, he concedes that there is
an art of commercial expertise, which trades goods through the medium
of money and that in one of its forms the resultant wealth is
apparently without limit. How can this be? It is because the end
of this kind of commerce is the generation of money-wealth itself
rather than the exchange of goods, and money-generation imposes no
natural limits. How could people choose this end? Aristotle says,
The cause of this state is that they are serious about
living, but not about living well; and since that desire of
theirs is without limit, they also desire what is productive
of unlimited things.
This kind of life, he says, is about bodily gratification and excess,
and not about the necessary things of life.
In Book Two, Aristotle raises the question of 'whether possessions
should be common or not' in response to Plato's Republic and
Socrates' suggestion that all property should be held in common. He
argues pragmatically for private property.
What belongs in common to the most people is accorded least
care: they take thought for their own things above all, and
less about things common, or only so much as falls to each
Yet after examining cities, where things are shared and reflecting on
the city as a unity of a multitude of different (and therefore
complementary) people, he concludes that use ought to some degree be
It is evident, then, that it is better for possessions to
be private, but to make them common in use. That [the
citizens] become such [as to use them in common] -- this is
the task peculiar to the legislator.
This may seem a difficult task, but it is achievable even in our time
through taxation and the public provision of services.
Aristotle offers another argument for private property, namely, that
people take pleasure in relation to the things they call their own.
That pleasure itself is good and natural, and that wealth makes it
possible to be generous to others is also good and builds the
community. The down side is that some people can turn out to be
selfish and greedy and that in the case of accumulation of wealth
this can lead people into depravity. Aristotle's solution to the
problem raised by wealth and its potential unlimitedness is virtue.
A better defining principle would be 'with moderation and
liberally' (for when separated the one will tend toward
luxury, the other toward a life of hardship), since these
alone are the choiceworthy dispositions concerning the use
One ought to live moderately or temperately, and the proper response
to wealth is to live liberally. With this we can turn briefly to the
Nicomachean Ethics. Here, however, we leave Locke, because whatever
he might say about personal virtue, he would not allow it as part of
political or economic thinking; not so, Aristotle.
In the Ethics, Aristotle proposes two virtues in relation to money or
wealth. Liberality is the virtue of contentedly giving money or gifts
to the right people for good purpose. Its contraries are prodigality,
according to which money is squandered, often licentiously, and
illiberality, which is the mark or the 'stingy' or 'grasping' and
those who are 'sordidly avaricious'. Liberal people are easy to do
business with because they are somewhat indifferent to money.
Similarly, they are unlikely to be very rich, since they are 'neither
acquisitive nor retentive of money, but [are] ready to part with it
and [do] not value it for itself but only with a view to giving'.
For those who do have significant wealth, the appropriate virtue is
magnificence, or we might say philanthropy:
The magnificent man is a sort of connoisseur; he has an eye
for fitness, and can spend large sums with good taste; so
his outlay will be large, and appropriate.
Such a person is public-spirited and is given honours by the city.
The contraries are vulgarity and pettiness.
Aristotle has no difficulty with the existence of differences in
wealth among citizens. Inheritance, cleverness, hard work and luck
can each play a role in generating difference. In fact, his 'best
practicable' constitution aims to achieve a balance between wealthy
and poor in their participation in the life of the city. When,
however, extreme variations occur between the very poor and the very
rich, issues of distributive justice arise. Not only is wrong done,
but the conditions readily lead to discontent, civil strife and even
revolution. Also wrong are greed and depravity, and those who are
wealthy are called to liberality and philanthropy.
For the modern period, Locke imagines the possibility of unlimited
wealth riding on the unlimited exploitation of resources and labour.
We have been very successful in generating wealth, but we are
beginning to live with some of the consequences of Locke's imagining
as we face issues such as climate change and the depletion of natural
resources. It is hard to argue that we have used our wealth well, and
the Global Financial Crisis has shown the cost of vice to the
well-being of the global community. Yet something of the Aristotelian
remains. Our taxation systems redistribute wealth, limit consumption,
provide public utilities and encourage philanthropy. When pushed,
they can punish vice (excise on alcohol), penalise excessive
consumption (luxury taxes) and limit the accumulation of wealth
(inheritance taxes). It is not clear from public debate, however,
that we truly understand what we are doing.
The Aristotelian solution is to understand what it is that we are
doing and to generate the virtues appropriate to living well. It
calls for a high level of moral consciousness. Blind belief in the
rationality of invisible market forces and the consequent immunity
from serious thought and moral question has not served us well. A
moral limit on wealth is not the outcome of economic calculus but
rather a consequence of human beings living virtuously and choosing
wisely. In the Aristotelian view, it is this that education and the
laws should encourage.
1. Aristotle makes the point about lack of precision in ethics in the
Nicomachean Ethics I, 3; I, 7; II, 2. 'But we must still remember the
caution given above, and not look for the same degree of exactness in
all our studies, but only for as much as the subject-matter in each
case allows and so far as is appropriate to the investigation.'
Nicomachean Ethics, translated by J.A.K. Thompson, revised by Hugh
Tredennick (London: Penguin, 2004), I, 7 (1098a25-28), p. 17.
2. Philosophy for Business, Issue 54, 19th October 2009.
3. Philosophy for Business, Issue 55, 4th December 2009.
4. Aristotle, The Politics, translated by Carnes Lord (Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1984); John Locke, The Second Treatise
of Government, translated by C. B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett,
1980). Aristotle lived 384-322 BC. Locke (1632-1727) published the
Second Treatise in 1689 after the English Glorious Revolution of
1688, although he had written it some years previously.
5. Aristotle's achievements are very much linked with those of
Socrates and Plato, and the Politics should be read in conjunction
with Plato's Republic, Statesman and The Laws.
6. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) did much of the original thinking behind
the new political scheme, most easily found in his Leviathan. Other
important figures were Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), Baron de
Montesquieu (1688-1755) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Adam
Smith (1723-1790) contributed to economics in An Inquiry into the
Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
7. Second Treatise ch. V, n. 27, p. 19. In Locke's time, commons,
where villagers could gather firewood or graze animals or hunt,
existed, and within reasonable limits, appropriation of materials was
not dependent on specific consent of other villagers or of some
authority. His argument about land at times presumes an earlier
situation of 'wilds' that were unpopulated and outside regulation of
law, like in America.
8. Second Treatise ch. V, n. 46, p. 28.
9. I will maintain the term 'city' for the broadest political
community, as is proper to Aristotle's treatment of the Greek polis,
sometimes translated 'city-state'. We might today translate it as 'a
country', which implies more than 'a state' in the modern sense.
There is, however, a certain irony about maintaining the term 'city'
because today we more and more live in cities without any apparent
attachment to the country-side around us. The work we do in cities
often appears not to be useful yet it somehow generates money-wealth.
10. Politics I, 4.
11. Politics I, 8 (1256b28), p. 46.
12. Politics I, 9 (1257b8), p. 47.
13. Politics I, 9 (1257b12), p. 47.
14. This could apply to the 'middle men', but Aristotle is also
critical of those who make money from money -- the usurers.
15. Politics I, 9 (1257b40-1258a2), p. 48.
16. Politics II, 5 (1262b39), p. 60.
17. Politics II, 3 (1261b32-34), p. 57.
18. Politics II, 5 (1263a37-40), p. 61.
19. Politics II, 6 (1265a32-35), p. 65.
20. An essential attribute of the Lockean liberal state is that
neither the state nor its laws penetrate areas of morality as such,
unless there is harm or conflict arising from the actions of citizens.
21. Ethics IV, 1 (1120b15-17), p. 84.
22. Ethics IV, 2 (1122a35-b1), p. 90.
(c) Andrew Murray 2010
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
Catholic Institute of Sydney
II. 'INCLUSION OF ETHNIC MINORITIES IN PHILOSOPHY A-LEVEL: REPORT ON
A FURTHER EDUCATION COLLEGE' BY SALLY LATHAM
The Foster Report (2005) published for the DfES stated that Further
Education colleges of the future should 'deliver its core purpose in
an inclusive way which improves diversity and equality of
opportunity'. This report will focus whether the delivery of the AQA
A-level Philosophy syllabus at Sutton Coldfield College, a very
large, multicultural college, offers equality of opportunity and
inclusion in a specific area of student diversity -- ethnicity.
The report will take to following structure:
1. A broad overview of government policy regarding inclusive
provision, through, for example, LSC and DfES documentation, and
linking this to the statistics for the ethnic background of students
in the college Sixth Form, and for Philosophy A-level. The specific
anomaly regarding the number of Black males taking the subject will
2. A closer look at the AQA Philosophy curriculum and policy on
inclusion and diversity, in an attempt to explain and assess some of
the findings in the previous section. The issue of lack of Black role
models and philosophical tradition will be considered, along with the
much wider issue of perceived lack of relevance in the subject, which
may be magnified in this demographic.
Government Policy on Inclusion and Diversity
The LSC Equality and Diversity Strategy (2004/7) includes two points
that are particularly pertinent:
- Ensuring personalised and inclusive learning for all
- Measuring outcomes with a focus on results rather than
the processes used to achieve them.
It seems then, applying this to the case in hand, that the college
delivering the Philosophy curriculum in such a way that each learner,
regardless of ethnic background, is included, and that the curriculum
is tailored to individual needs, which indicates that the curriculum
should be regarded as a praxis, where learner needs should be
addressed in ensuring that they can relate to syllabus content and
see the relevance of the subject (Smith 1996, 2000). But then the
Strategy goes on to say that the success of such an approach will
only be measured in terms of results, taking a much more product
based approach to curriculum. It seems that the LSC will be assessing
results, and the personalised learning process will be down to the
different institutions to deliver. Presumably, should the statistics
not indicate that ethnic minorities are achieving measurable results,
then the personalised and inclusive learning will not be judged to be
This can be considered alongside the DfES Five Year Strategy for
Children and Learners (2004) which states that the proposed
transformed 14-19 phase should offer a:
... wide choice of high quality programmes for every young
person, with challenge at all levels, and support to
overcome barriers to progress.
Although not stated explicitly in the document, I am taking barriers
to progress for ethnic minority groups to include issues such as the
language spoken at home, different religious and cultural backgrounds
and beliefs, and perhaps also parental expectations of education and
subjects to be studied (this obviously, is an issue for research in
itself). In this document, it is not stated how this will be measured.
The next consideration would be the statistics for ethnic diversity
in the college during 2004/5 when this research began, and compare
this to the intake of Philosophy students.
- As a college, based on students who started the college,
in 2004/5 52% were from an ethnic minority background.
- This is comparable with the start rate in AS Philosophy,
where 56% for the same year were of an ethnic minority
- Of the high achievers that year (measured on A and B
grades) 50% were of an ethnic minority background.
If we follow LSC guidelines, and focus on measurable results, then it
seems the college provision of the Philosophy curriculum has
successfully implemented LSC and DfES guidelines on inclusion and
equality of opportunity. But there is a glaring anomaly. Despite
Black males comprising 7.7% of the college starting students, not one
black male joined the AS Philosophy class that year. This trend
continued, with no Black males enrolling in 2005 or 2006, and one
Black male enrolling in both 2007 and 2008. This makes the issue of
curriculum delivery, retention and achievement for this particular
minority group redundant, as they are not even taking the course in
the first place.
Research produced for the DfES by the University of Birmingham (2003)
showed that young Black men in post-16 education often view college as
a chance to re-enter education and mainstream opportunities for young
people who have been alienated by previous experiences of schooling.
- In particular, college can provide a space where young
Black men are supported by a community of Black students,
and an opportunity to study a curriculum that celebrates
Black cultures and histories.
Why, then, in a college with such ethnic diversity of learners, has
Philosophy failed to engage Black male learners? If FE colleges are
the opportunity to engage previously disengaged learners, why is
Philosophy failing to extend inclusivity to Black males? To some
extent, we can look to the specification content, although scope for
change here might be limited. On the other hand, the problem may be
to do with perception of the subject in general.
Possible Reasons for the Under-representation of Black Males
The first issue considered was the specification content itself. The
AQA Philosophy A-Level curriculum has clear aims and objectives --
that learners have clear knowledge and understanding of themes and
texts, and can take a 'rigorous approach, both critical and
constructive, to the study of philosophy'. The aims stated in the
syllabus list a range of transferable skills such as comprehension,
interpretation, evaluation and analysis, and it is recognised that
there will be an increase in maturity from AS to A2.
The specifications also state that it 'provides a worthwhile course
for candidates of various ages and from diverse backgrounds'. The
specifications also include a section on 'Spiritual, Moral, Ethical,
Social, Cultural and Other Issues' in which it is stated that
candidates should be aware that 'society is made up of individuals
with a variety of opinions'. They are also careful to state that 'AQA
has taken great care in the preparation of this specification... to
avoid bias of any kind.' (2006)
With such seemingly good intentions and claims to inclusivity, what,
then, is the barrier to inclusion?
Without going into great detail into the old specification, there
were options over the two years between certain themes, set texts,
and a synoptic study based on the philosophers covered in the set
texts. All of these philosophers are male, and all are European. This
obvious bias contradicts the inclusivity claims made by AQA, but is
seemingly acknowledged and accepted, as the syllabus states that it
covers philosophy 'of a Western tradition, not Eastern cultures,
which is covered in the Religious Studies syllabus'.
Thus although it would seem on the face of it that the individual
centres can tailor the curriculum from a number of syllabus options
-- texts and themes -- there is obviously limited flexibility when
there is no Eastern or Afro-Caribbean philosophy to choose from
(although from experience it is possible to make some references in
certain areas of the specification). Having said this, the number of
ethnic minority learners from Asian backgrounds studying philosophy
at the college is proportionally high. Perhaps this is due to a
stronger philosophical tradition in Asian and Western European
cultures than in Afro-Caribbean. But this would not explain the
gender differences, as Black females are fairly well represented.
This lack of non-western themes and texts makes the retention and
achievement of ethnic minorities (not to mention females) surprising,
even more so when the advanced level of English required to study
these texts is taken into account. However once again the issue at
hand here is not the success of the college in attracting and
retaining ethnic minorities and females, but why Black males are not
taking the subject, let alone being retained or achieving on the
course. As stated above, these points do not explain why Black males
are less represented in the subject than females, so other issues
need to be considered. The LSC guidelines suggest that how
inclusivity is achieved will be measured on results. But if Black
males are not even taking the subject in the first place, retention
and achievement are not even an issue.
It should be noted, though, that there is little opportunity for
change in specification in this regard, as the scope for any
Afro-Caribbean philosophy that would be applicable is very limited,
and the prominence of Black philosophers both historically and in
contemporary academia is very low. Although not a particularly
thorough piece of research, one can simple type 'Black philosophers'
into Google, and the first hit (at time of writing) is a site asking
'why are there no Black philosophers?'
This leads to the second consideration, regarding the lack of role
models both historically and in teaching for Black males.
Research by the Commission for Black Staff in Further Education
(2003) advises that 'Black learners should be taught and motivated by
both Black and white staff... experience positive black role models'.
This seems impossible when there are no positive role models for male
black students whatsoever in the syllabus. The obvious implication of
the lack of Black male students in Philosophy is the lack of Black
male teachers. This again, does not necessarily explain gender
differences, unless one assumes that positive role models are even
more important to young Black males than perhaps other ethnic groups.
But the lack of role models in academia will not be solved until
Black male students actually begin to take philosophy in the first
place. It seems that we need to consider other issues, perhaps the
generic character of philosophy itself. Traditionally a rather
elitist subject, it may be hard to engage learners into the relevance
of such an abstract topic, and despite earnest talk of 'transferable
skills', the use of philosophy for future employment is not obvious.
It is necessary to consider the current situation at HE, and the
employment market. Research presented in 2008 and quoted by
government minister David Lammy (the first Black Briton to study for
a Masters in Law at Harvard) shows that the proportion of university
students who are Black Caribbean males has remained at just above one
percent for the past three years. Obviously, here is a group who is
vastly under-represented in HE. Those who do go to university rarely
Mark Steel, in his 2006 article for the Independent, suggested that
philosophers need to promote philosophy as something integral to
life, rather than a stand-alone subject. He mentions New Labour's
'dislike' for philosophy, as it is not 'useful'. (Playing
Philosophical With The Truth, 22nd February 2006). Although New
Labour's perception that 'use' equates to how easy it is to make
money is probably overly cynical, it may be the case that study for
study's sake, sadly, is seen as a luxury, and that Philosophy is
perceived as a little self-indulgent in today's climate.
One main reason for this is the high level of graduate unemployment
in today's competitive market, and a possible preference for more
career-oriented subjects. When a student does not have a cultural or
family tradition of HE, they may choose to study a subject that will
guarantee employment, as sadly study for study's sake is a luxury few
can afford. With the news full of unemployment and job cuts, studying
Philosophy may simply not be a practical or viable option for many.
This issue is obviously one that applies across all ethnicities and
genders, but the point is that it will be magnified in a demographic
without a strong culture of HE.
Lesley Dee, in the report Inclusive Learning -- From Rhetoric to
Reality, suggests that 'as it stands, the FE curriculum is not based
on inclusive principles which seek to match the provision to the
requirements of the learners, but on determining the curriculum, and
then selecting students to fit the courses'. (Dee, 1999 in Green &
This claim seems to be supported if one considers the non-selection,
however inadvertent, of black males students at the college, and I
would imagine, if there had been opportunity to research it,
nationwide. But this is not something that can be easily changed
without a more prominent history of Black philosophy to draw upon,
whereas subjects such as History have been more easily able to adapt
to cross-cultural needs, and incorporate Black history modules.
The change in specification may allow some room for flexibility in
making more cross-cultural references (for example linguistic
determinism and conceptual schemes on the compulsory Reason and
Experience module). But this is unlikely to have any major impact,
and perhaps the more pertinent issue, and one which deliverers of
Philosophy and A-Level and HE can have some control over, is the
perceived relevance of the subject. Philosophy needs to be presented
as a skill that can lead to success in a range of areas such as Law
and Media, rather than an isolated and abstract body of knowledge.
Success stories of Philosophy graduates need to be publicised, and
the subject needs to be marketed as relevant to students without a
family background in HE. How this can be successfully achieved is
still to be developed. But what is clear, is that simply looking at
the specification content is only a very small part of the picture
when it comes to inclusivity in Philosophy.
Bhattacharyya, G, Isa, I, Blair, M (2003) -- University of Birmingham
for DfES Minority Ethnic Attainment and Participation in Education and
Training: The Evidence
Commission for Black Staff in Further Education (2003) Challenging
Racism -- Further Education Leading the Way
Foster, Sir Andrew (2005) Realising the Potential -- A Review of
Further Education Colleges
Green, A & Lucas, U (1999) Further Education and Lifelong Learning:
Realigning the Sector for the Twenty-first Century Institute of
Education, Bedford Way Press. Including Dee, L (1999) Inclusive
Learning: From Rhetoric to Reality DfES Five Year Strategy for
Children and Learners (2004)
Skills and Education Network -- Learning Skills Council (2005) Your
Guide 2 Engaging Hard to Reach: Minority Ethnic Groups
Skills and Education Network -- Learning Skills Council (2005) Your
Guide 2 Equality and Diversity -- Policy and Strategy
Smith, M.K, (1996, 2000) Curriculum Theory and Practice The
Encyclopedia of Informal Education
AQA GCE Philosophy Specification (2006) http://www.aqa.org
(c) Sally Latham 2009
[This paper was originally published in Discourse, vol. 9 no. 1,
III. 'ETHICAL DILEMMAS ONLINE COURSE: A REVIEW' BY PENCKA GANCHEVA
This is a short, 10-week online course that introduces to the
students major knowledge about ethics, ethical behavior, business
relationships, and professional conduct. I would say that it is a
unique opportunity to satisfy your curiosity, learn something new and
from other's point of view, and not at least, simply enjoy the whole
The program is a system of 10 units. The material is original, based
on a wide range of examples from the business sphere. Each unit
presents a few passages, related to the topic of the individual
problem considered within, and also gives quite useful links and
references to work by professionals.
- To provide a short and intense introduction to the major
areas of business ethics and conduct
- To introduce the students to the intellectual challenge
and pressures associated with company-level work
- To give participants the opportunity to decide and
consider their/ others individual rights within the business
arena, the difference between ethical and non-ethical behaviour,
and enjoy themselves of course.
The program is structured to fit the individual learning preferences.
The material contains a combination of a lecture, a discussion and
case studies, brought all together in the form of a friendly
Everyone constructs his or her own reading list. The course is
structured to fit different students' needs and preferences. Ethical
Dilemmas is a wide subject for discussion. Many philosophers and
professional ethicists worked and still work on this question, trying
to cover all its aspects and dimensions. For example I enjoyed the
works and ideas of Augustine, Plato, Bentham, Kant, Kierkegaard,
Aurelius, Rousseau, Sartre, Seneca, Socrates, Habermas, Jaspers, J.
S. Mill, as well as Harvard Business Review contributor Albert Carr.
Real legends like Mother Theresa, are interesting and it worth while
to have a look at them too.
Assessment and results of the program
Students are required to show understanding of the theories and
problems in each one of the units. They are welcome to contribute
facts and/ or analysis based on news stories, books, personal
experiences, events they have witnessed, etc. The only requirement is
that the information should be relevant to the subject of discussion.
The manner of contribution also varies, depending on what is easier
for the student -- from answers to each of the points in the unit, to
free interpretation of the topic. As a result, the course leader Dr
Geoffrey Klempner responds to student's notes or essays, providing a
rich feedback on the essence of the topic in question.
Pros and cons: what comes when the 10 units are over?
That is the final step. The 10 units are finished. Then the student
is supposed to ask himself/ herself: What new did I gain from my
learning? How this study program made me happy? Which part exactly
enriched my knowledge? Did I enjoy it?
Based on my own learning experience, I can say that the program gave
me a lot. I improved my knowledge at the area of corporate social
responsibility, the value of praxis, varieties of ownership, the
necessity of spreading the wealth which I am happy to use. Another
good point is you are given the general freedom to agree or disagree
with any position/ opinion, etc. From my view, the Ethical Dilemmas
course is more than flexible.
My personal benefits after the course
In the company where I work, technology provides even more ways to
interact with our customers, partners and workers, so I think it has
always been vital to behave ethically with each another. Now we have
emails and chats, so it is easier to communicate, but somehow, behind
our screens we cannot realise the feelings of the man on the other
side. That makes me feel a bit guilty. Was I kind and generous to
everyone I wrote to? Did I make someone feel less respected than
before? My concern is that our business society allows too much
machinery and a kind of depersonalisation.
I would be scared if I treat the people I work with unethically, or
like mass impersonal tools. This does not contradict the idea that
one should not stray over the limits of privacy, but gives me the
motivation to make sure I behave in an appropriate way with the
appropriate people in the relevant situation.
I believe that businesses need to ensure swift ethics at a higher
level. Factors such as location, age, general interests can be
ascertained through an ethical approach. It is important for me and
in general to stop resisting taking ethics further. Business people
need to make sure (my own opinion) that they are using their ethical
capabilities intelligently, responsibly and for the single purpose of
making the man at the next desk a part of the human family. That is
what I thought about after reading the tenth unit.
(c) Pencka Gancheva 2010
The Ethical Dilemmas 10 unit online program is hosted here:
The program is based on ten self-contained units in PDF format. For
more information e-mail Geoffrey Klempner at firstname.lastname@example.org.