Center for Ethics


Center for Ethics

  1. Civility and Disobedience

Thoreau wrote, “Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.” Societies and organizations depend on compliance and obedience in order to function. Markets suffer if rules are not followed, and societies do not thrive in a state of chaos. But governments and organizations can be morally corrupt; the United States once allowed people to be enslaved, and the tobacco industry deliberately withheld the risks of their potentially lethal product. Under these circumstances, obedience becomes complicity and disobedience becomes the ethical course of action. Thus groups of people and individual whistle-blowers are often called to acts of disobedience and subversion by injustice they observe or experience. Martin Luther’s reformation, the American Civil Rights Movement, environmental activism, military draft-resistance, WikiLeaks, Occupy Wall Street, the African National Congress, Gandhi’s Indian independence movement, the Chiapas Rebellion, and the Arab Spring all represent significant rebellions against dominant authorities. The targets of dissent are not limited to governments, but also include economic, educational, religious, and social institutions that expect adherence to ideologies. In some cases, individuals and organizations engaged in disobedience may themselves engage in morally questionable activities. When is it ethical to rebel against authority? When do moral causes become more important than the rule of law or compliance with norms? What is the role of dissent in healthy democracies?  Should protest always be peaceful or is violence sometimes the right thing to do? When is “working within the system” the best thing to do?

Monday, September 22, 2014                        
7:30PM      Recital Hall, Center for the Arts

Molly MaguiresThe Molly Maguires
Film screening
A 1970 film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Sean Connery, Richard Harris and Samantha Eggar, The Molly Maguires is based on the historical secret society of 19th century Irish-American coal miners who led a worker’s uprising in Pennsylvania coal country. Some of the film scenes were shot in nearby Jim Thorpe.
Original trailer for The Molly Maguires 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014               
7:30PM   Miller Forum, Moyer Hall

Erik Loomis
U. Rhode Island
"Resistance in the Pennsylvania Coal Country: Past and Present"

Erik LoomisThis talk will provide a quick history of resistance among the peoples of the Pennsylvania coal fields from the 19th century to the present, focusing on how corporate domination of the area, its people, and its natural resources has shaped residents' responses to the challenges of living in this resource-rich region. From the first coal strikes in the mid 19th century to the protests over fracking and President Obama's so-called "war on coal" today, the need to make a living and the desire to live in a safe and healthy environment has defined responses to the coal companies, making the lack of economic options a century ago and in the present vital to understanding why working people ally themselves with the coal companies who exploit them. 

Loomis studies U.S. environmental history and labor activism. He is working on the forthcoming book Empire of Timber: Work and Nature in the Pacific Northwest Forests. This visit will include a field trip to tour Pennsylvania coal mine country on Wednesday Sept 24 and will reference the Molly Maguires film screening the previous evening. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 
11 AM to 3:30 PM

Mine TourPennsylvania Mine Tour
It's a Center for Ethics field trip! Join Center for Ethics speaker Erik Loomis for a bus trip and tour of the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in Ashland, PA. Lunch will be provided. You can reserve a seat for just $5 with Beth Buechler (Center for the Arts 174) before Friday September 19.

The 2014-2015 academic year Center for Ethics program will focus on the theme of Civility and Disobedience, under the direction of Brian Mello, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Christine Sistare, Professor of Philosophy.

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Bruce Wightman

  1. Director of the Center for Ethics
    Professor of Biology
    2400 Chew Street
    Allentown, PA 18104
    (ph) 484-664-3254

Muhlenberg College gratefully acknowledges
the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation's support
of the Center for Ethics.