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, October 20, 2014
7:30PM   Miller Forum, Moyer Hall

David Pellow
U. Minnesota
"Radical Politics, State Repression, and the
Problem of ‘Eco-Terrorism’"

David PellowTo what extent are radical environmental and animal liberation movements also struggles over social inequality? In other words, to what degree are these movements that are typically seen as primarily focused on defending nonhuman animals and ecosystems also confronting oppression within human communities? What are the implications of the ‘eco-terrorist’ label that states, corporations, and media impose on these groups? I consider these questions in relation to broader historical patterns of social movement struggles against oppression and the phenomenon of state repression directed at dissident groups. I conclude with a discussion of the productive links between radical earth and animal liberation movements and environmental justice movements. 

David Pellow's interests include environmental justice studies, racial and ethnic inequality, transnational social movements, and labor studies. He is the author of the forthcoming book Total Liberation: The Power and Promise and Animal Rights and the Radical Earth Movement. 
Library Resources for David Pellow

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 
8:00 PM   Red Door Cafe
An evening of original performance by Muhlenberg students, curated by Ursula Rucker.
Guest artist Ursula Rucker premieres an evening of new spoken-word performances created by the First Year students in Muhlenberg's Emerging Leaders program. Set to live music and themed on notions of civility, disobedience and identity. Co-sponsored by Theatre and Dance. FLYER (pdf).

Monday, October 27, 2014
7:30 PM   Miller Forum Moyer Hall

Carroll Bogert
Deputy Executive Director of Human Rights Watch

"Can the U.S. Lead on Human Rights in the 21st Century?"

Carroll BogertWhat do U.S. policy and U.S. actions on human rights look like in the 21st century? Does the U.S. possess the means to meaningfully protect human rights in such places as China, Russia, and the Middle East? Does the U.S. have the moral standing to intervene around the world in support of human rights? What is the U.S. role right now? What could it be?

Bogert studies human rights in the U.S. and abroad and media coverage of protest and human rights issues. Bogert is the 2014 Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.
Library Resources for Carroll Bogert 

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.