Thinking it through from all sides

A message from Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Ethics) Professor Hayden Ramsay:

I watched the President of Ukraine, His Excellency President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent address to the university students of Australia, including ACU students. I thought this was extraordinary; as if Churchill or Roosevelt or earlier leaders had taken an hour off wartime command to take questions from young people studying at the other end of the world. The President speaks with great authority at this time and his message commands utter respect.

What impressed me, however, was that students were not overawed or just praising Ukraine and demonising Russia. They asked critical and thoughtful questions, using reason and intelligence.

I sometimes feel it’s almost gone. In ethics, politics, arts and culture, corporate life, religion, academic work—sides are drawn up, views held with intransigence, people signal and cancel and refuse to listen to even a careful case against that year’s/season’s/month’s orthodoxies. Of course, this isn’t unprecedented. It’s a particular period in history; we’ve had it before, and it will recur.

Universities play many roles in complex, modern societies. Perhaps the key role, in solidarity with universities’ distinguished history, is to insist on rational critique and a careful hearing of every view based on reason and held with sincerity.

I’ve recently been reflecting on the resistance to this intellectual tradition, even in the Catholic Church which I attend, and in the great moral debates of our day.

What can we do? Catholic universities are generous in their interpretation of intellectual mission and outreach. Unlike institutions which effectively exclude unpopular academic perspectives, eg Catholic theology, Catholic universities are hungry to include every possible discipline perspective. As institutionally Catholic, they insist that the Catholic perspective on a topic, where it exists, be treated with at least as much academic respect as other perspectives. But we exclude nothing. No signaling, cancelling and demonising, particularly of the much-demonised Catholic and other Christian faiths.

My team is having a wonderful time engaging in ethics discussion and activity with academics across ACU and overseas, particularly in the US. We’re extending our activity with corporates and launching a second online forum, currently under preparation. As well as highlighting the centrality of ethical thinking and debate for an institution such as ours, we’ll be saying much more about rational critique within the broad intellectual mission of Catholic universities, how we can extend, promote and share it.

We’re always happy to speak to anyone about these things, and I’m grateful to the many staff who are already working with us.

Feel free to make contact.

The following slideshow controls change the content above and below. Information is displayed below the controls while video content plays above the video controls.

Service Central

Visit Service Central to access Corporate Services.

Other service contacts

Learning and Teaching
Request Something

Make a request for services provided by Corporate Services.

Request something
Knowledge base

Find answers to frequently asked questions 24/7.

See Knowledge Base