Friedrich Wilhelm Graf

Can Ethics Shape Modern Societies?

1. The Renaissance of “Ethics” in the 1970s

Since the 1970s and originating in the United States, there has been a renewed and growing interest in the question of “values”. So-called “applied ethics,” meaning “business ethics,” “bio-ethics,” “environmental ethics,” and so on, have become important and controversial objects of both academic discourse and debates in politics and the media. How can we explain this new sensitivity toward “values”? It is primarily a consequence of rapid social changes and a continuing process of modernization. In traditional, pre-modern societies, human actors within one society usually shared a single religious faith and maintained strong institutions, such ...

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