Western Michigan University’s Center for the Study of Ethics in Society has always had a “generalist” approach – that is to say, an interdisciplinary orientation toward studying a broad range of ethical issues. This article explains how the center’s “generalist” orientation developed and why it is desirable for promoting public reflection about ethical issues. It focuses on these dimensions: (a) valuing an across-the-curriculum approach to promote understanding of complex ethical issues; (b) adopting a broad, rather than narrow focus, when it comes to ethics; (c) committing to practical ethics, which bridges theory and practice to shed light on issues of practical relevance to all; and (d) decentering philosophy as the arbiter for what counts as “doing ethics.” The article ends with a look at challenges concerning stable funding and administrative support for a center that does not fit neatly into a single academic unit or specialty and shares some lessons learned.
Much moral disagreement between cultures centers on what meta-ethicists call “thick concepts,” such as cruelty and courage. The main question this article addresses is, What are the advantages of combining virtue ethics with casuistry for addressing thick concepts central to media ethics disagreements between cultures? A related secondary question is, How does this framework compare with “global media ethics” approaches that prioritize thin concepts, such as “right” and “ought”? The article argues that the virtue/casuistry combination: 1) preserves the contexts that give thick ethical concepts their meaning; 2) conceives of moral agents as situated selves and confirms the value of moral expertise; and 3) presses for closure while resisting codification.