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Introduction: Tension between legislating and autonomous moral conduct The tension between the two principles of legislating

and autonomy of moral conduct occurs as both seem to contradict each other and are criticisms of each others model of morality. In autonomy of moral conduct, we assume that individuals can be relied upon to derive key moral principles and understandings on their own. However, this puts us at risk of a society that becomes inherently selfinterested, where morality becomes absolutely relative and the truth is hidden in moral issues, attributed to the rights of each individuals moral conduct. When we police moral conduct, we are prescribing a set of moral standards for individuals to uphold. These standards risk moral conduct becoming a responsibility, and moral conduct becomes not of free-will but a product of coercion and compliance. This method seems to ignore the rights of an individual, alienating moral discussion and engagement. Neither model seems to provide us with a comprehensive view of how moral conduct should be like, nor is it likely that a marriage would occur between these two seemingly contradictory principles. Do ethical frameworks known address this tension? In terms of the ethical frameworks studied and prescribed, few seem to accurately address the tension between legislation and autonomy. If we are looking at the Aristotelian Conception of Justice, Aristotle proposed that justice was something which was lawful and fair (Chan & Shenoy, 2011). This framework of justices Aristotle produces could be classified as the policing of moral conduct. These are moral standards and moral practices that are prescribed to a society in order to derive a certain desired behavior from its individuals. On the other hand taking a look at Kantian ethics, Kants focus on free will, and the autonomy to act clearly leads us to classify Kantian ethics as one that promotes the autonomy of moral conduct. Neither of these two frameworks illustrates the tension between the two principles, but seems to be subsets of either principle. A framework that could possibly have tried to address the tension between these two principles is the ethical framework proposed by John Rawls. Rawls gives us an ethical framework that seems to be a harmony between autonomy and legislation. Rawls theory was not free of moral standards and rules, in fact he believed in the selection of rules of justice applicable (Chan & Shenoy, 2009) to a society of order. However Rawls also ingrained ideas of autonomy, where he believed that the individual was self-interested and rational, where they had autonomy to pursue their interests and needs. In his theory Rawls emphasized equal rights of individuals to liberties, yet also created an order which he believed was the best method of justice and fairness for the society.

Proposed stance addressing the tension In light of Rawlsian insights into this, I personally believe that both legislation and autonomy of moral conduct are separate and distinctive principles, that when taken as absolutes, will undermine the complexity of this tension. I believe the key is not in resolving the tension, but we need to strive towards a delicate balance between both policing and autonomy of moral conduct. We do not seek a perfect fit between these two principles, neither do we accept either principle as the solution to moral conduct but see the balance as delicate harmony that is open to constant discourse and engagement. These two principles are different and contradictory in many ways, but they are complementary to each other when used in the right circumstance and when with the right foundations.

The need for a commonality and a balance Before we can arrive at this balance, collectively as a society there needs to be certain agreements on the foundations of moral conduct, or as Madeleine Bunting proposed, a moral language (Bunting, 2009). We need a certain common platform to be established, before we can seek a perfect harmony between both the principles of legislation and autonomy in moral conduct. This notion of common understanding, common foundation is not new or unique. In fact many people have been debating the issue of creating commonalities in moral reasoning or moral discourse in a society. Sandel in an essay adapted from his book was quoted as saying that what a society needs is justice, and justice is not only about the right way to distribute things, it is also the right way to value things (Sandel, 2009). This idea that we need to come together as a society, collectively to engage, debate and reason morality is critical to attaining a harmony between legislating and autonomous moral conduct. Without this common understanding it is hard to see moral principles as anything other than absolutes. Yet simply seeking a commonality in reasoning is of course, complex and requires a certain maturity to be present in a society. In light of diversity and pluralism, it is increasingly harder for individuals to be engaged meaningfully in moral discourse. Individuals have increasingly begun to see any form of moral discourse as a lack of respect or a lack of acceptance. In my view there are significant steps that can be made that will lead a society closer to a commonality in moral reasoning, a society that values discourse. These propositions will also help to us work toward attaining that balance between policing and autonomy; making use of the best of both principles.

Propositions towards achieving the balanced state, implications of propositions Firstly, in terms of governance, I believe in the system of engaging moral philosophers in legislative processes. To take the moral philosopher Mary Warnock for example, her role in the legislative

assembly in United Kingdom allows her to provide important insights and perspectives on public policy. As a trained philosopher she can help to tease out different moral implications, relations and consequences in public policy or legislation. Philosophy distinguishes one moral issue from another, and allows heightened sensitivity towards underlying motivations in legislation or public policy. A common criticism of policing moral conduct is the fact that often the common moral good the legislation tries to achieve is bundled with influences of cost-benefit or value-added notions, which are distinctly capitalist or utilitarian in nature. In this case we recognize the need for order (through legislation) but we also are open to the need for alternative voices, voices of reason that are able to guide and shape the legislating process. This arrangement is bedrock to stimulate higher thinking where standards are not merely prescribed to the majority but standards are debated and monitored, not dictatorial or coercive. We look at the example of the moral issue of human rights to see the implications of this stance. In different countries the moral issues of human rights are legislated in different ways, based on each countrys governance. In Singapore recently legislation was passed to mandate that foreign domestic helpers should get one day off a week as rest. In this case, the government has stated a legislation to police the moral conduct of employers, and seemingly has taken a step towards equality for all. However if we had moral philosophers as part of the legislating process, moral philosophers would be able to give a different perspective on this, one that is not concerned about the employers rights or the employers convenience, but at root issue of equality for all human beings. This would bring legislating to a different level, where it is not simply a rule to create a technical day of rest, but a systematic change in ensuring the rights of all human beings are protected. Secondly, I believe in order to work towards this balance, there needs to be a change in the way we educate our future generations. Education needs to return to a more fundamental stage of encouraging thinking, where we move away from quantitative results but instead move towards enabling our children to think independently. This shift can come through simple steps such as including subjects like philosophy, ethics and literature to be compulsory at an earlier stage of education. Currently in most educational systems, philosophy, ethics and literature are either seen as elective subjects available only in higher tertiary educations or they are made compulsory too late in the education process for example in universities or pre-university. This discourages students from viewing philosophy, ethics and literature (subjects of thinking) as necessities. Students tend to see these subjects and the act of even thinking or discussing about these issues as burdens and responsibilities. This already then sets the stage for the view of legislating moral conduct as dogmatic, rigid, stifling or burdensome. Encouraging thought, encouraging subjects like this early in the education process will ingrain the value of thinking and the value of discourse of any kind in young minds. When this seed is planted in young minds, these students will go on to be influential people in across all positions and places, where they will appreciate and value discourse as a way to move forward rather than a burden.

An example to illustrate implications would be the example of the moral issue of discrimination, in this case positive discrimination or affirmative action. Affirmative action always has had its detractors who do not believe it helps the affected group of individuals at all. Simply put, by legislating the way people should treat another group of individuals does not ensure that these individuals will have equal rights. We aspire that people will autonomously morally come to a consensus to help these individuals but the reality is that in pluralistic societies, most individuals simply will see the other discriminated groups of people as burdens or responsibilities. If we do not take action to create standards and some form of regulation, these groups of individuals will continue to suffer in society and the vicious cycle goes on. But if our individuals are encouraged from young through education the value of thinking, the value of discourse, they would grow to see issues like discrimination as moral issues not simply burdens or obligations. Rather than have to police the way individuals interact and conduct relationships with one another, individuals will autonomously have come to a moral reason how human beings in general should be treated, much less people of a certain social group. They will view legislation as a temporary solution, and instead seek to actively dispel prejudices and biases through understanding and respect rather than avoidance. Lastly, governments have a role in paving the way towards a common moral foundation or moral language. Governments need to emphasize on the collective. By building a greater sense of the collective, a deeper burden for the community, we help to avoid the problems of autonomous moral conduct, that of self-interested moral conduct; where morality becomes subject to each persons interests and standards, but instead morality is seen as a societal interest. A sense of community enables us to strive for higher goals, where we become less concerned with what we personally derive from the legislation or the autonomy of moral conduct, but more interested in seeing the society benefit. This enables individuals to have a stake in discourse, that they want to be engaged and they want their opinions to be heard because of a desire to see the collective benefit. This is important not simply for engagement, but in creating a balance, where people understand this balance is for the benefit of the collective and society, it is not for their own interests. An example to illustrate the implications of this stance again is seen in problem of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Legislation on corporate social responsibility polices the moral conduct of corporations. Policing the moral conduct of corporations through policies and laws also aims to correct the misdeeds of corporations. Yet all because of the nature of the legislation, it creates exactly what its detractors fear: coercion. Corporations end up committing to CSR because of the requirements, the responsibility and because of pressure, CSR is done not because the professionals who lead this corporate believe in CSR, but it is a reaction to the demand placed upon them. This results in CSR that is heavily criticized for being a public relations stunt or worse yet, in some cases, creating more harm than good. However if we are able to emphasize the need for a collective, such that individuals find value in the societys well-being as a whole, CSR becomes a natural inclination, a natural way to ensure the collective is

protected. CSR therefore need not be policed as a regulation or a demand on corporations, but the individuals and the society in which the corporations dwell in will recognize the need to take care of the collective. Perhaps this is idealistic, after all corporations exist primarily for revenue, for capitalist gains. Yet the shift away from capitalist mentality has been a subject of ongoing discussion and movements. Michael Porter and Mark Kramer are influential thinkers who propose the idea of shared value in business, where we see purpose in creating value for the society as a whole (Porter, Kramer, 2011). This value of collective helps to maintain this balance, and encourages us to look at higher purposes rather than what we personally derive out of the arrangement.

Conclusion In conclusion, we need to recognize this undeniable tension and see it not as a problem but seeing the tension as an advantage. The tension as a balance is a way to create policies that truly benefit without being coercive or dogmatic, where policies can involve good amount of debate and engagement, a good dose of autonomy. Working towards this balance involves a lot of time, it involves an investment in the future, investing in the way we talk about morality, the way we reason. However with adequate measures in governments, through education and a higher emphasis on collective, we can hope to move towards a commonality in moral reasoning as well as a deep appreciation of the complex balance of legislation and autonomy.

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