Ethical pluralism and global information ethics

Ethics and Information Technology 8 (4):215-226 (2006)
Abstract
A global information ethics that seeks to avoid imperialistic homogenization must conjoin shared norms while simultaneously preserving the irreducible differences between cultures and peoples. I argue that a global information ethics may fulfill these requirements by taking up an ethical pluralism – specifically Aristotle’s pros hen [“towards one”] or “focal” equivocals. These ethical pluralisms figure centrally in both classical and contemporary Western ethics: they further offer important connections with the major Eastern ethical tradition of Confucian thought. Both traditions understand ethical judgment to lead to and thus require ethical pluralism – i.e., an acceptance of more than one judgment regarding the interpretation and application of a shared ethical norm. Both traditions invoke notions of resonance and harmony to articulate pluralistic structures of connection alongside irreducible differences. Specific examples within Western computer and information ethics demonstrate these pluralisms in fact working in praxis. After reviewing further resonances and radical differences between Western and Eastern views, I then argue that emerging conceptions of privacy and data privacy protection laws in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Thailand in fact constitute a robust, pros hen pluralism with Western conceptions. In both theory and in praxis, then, this pluralism thus fulfills the requirement for a global information ethics that holds shared norms alongside the irreducible differences between cultures and peoples.
Keywords Aristotle   Charles Taylor   Confucius   John Rawls   Plato   data privacy protection   ethical dogmatism   ethical pluralism   ethical relativism   harmony   judgment   privacy
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