Dr. Romulo G. Bautista
Ethical Development Strategies Phil Inc
Quasi-Religious/Quasi-Secular Ethics maybe described as a hybrid of religious and of secular ethics, a middle ground between the religious and the secular ethics. In other words, a “quasi” ethics is in part secular, in part religious. As such, its middle ground is not exactly the center or equidistant to both extremes; rather the middle ground maybe leaning more toward religion (right-of-center) or leaning more toward autonomy (left-of-center). If it leans more toward religion, then it either leans more toward a religious ethics or more toward an anti-religious ethics. It must be stressed, though, that both the religious ethics and the anti-religious ethics recognized and acknowledge the existence of God, but they have opposing beliefs about the essence of God. For instance, the religious ethics might say “God exists and He is a great provider”; while the anti-religious ethics might say “God exists but He is not a great provider”. Their respective propositions serve as the basis of their commitment or non-commitment to God and His commands, which affect the choice of ethical code of moral behavior.
Secular ethics is not monolithic. Thus “secular aspect” of the “Quasi Ethics" might be grounded in the Natural Law Ethics, in the Utilitarian Ethics, or in the Duty Ethics; while its “religious aspect” may be grounded in the religious beliefs of Judaism, in the religious beliefs of Christianity, or in the religious beliefs of Islam. One must bear in mind that there is no monolithic structures of beliefs within each of these religions.
After World War II, the Catholic Church’s authority has weakened in many parts around the world and continues to decline amidst the prevailing view of naturalism, particularly among the Baby Boomers and XYZ Generations, collectively described as follows:
• The Generation of Baby Boomers (1946-1964) which is vocal on social issues and liberal in outlook. Today, many emerging national and international leaders come from this Generation. President Noynoy Aquino comes from this Generation.
• The Generation X (1965-1979) which is cynical about authority and open to new spirituality, but insecure about their financial future’
• The Generation Y (1980-1994) which is frivolous, irresponsible, transient, and known as “me now” generation.
• The Generation Z (1995-2009) which is techno-savvy, creative, confident, and has strong work ethic – the result of more mature parents and the economic downtrend.
• The Generation Alpha – the year 2010 started with this Generation – includes the babies to be born in the next fifteen years. This is expected to be the most formally educated in history. They will begin schooling earlier and study for longer period of time. This is, in effect, the direction which DepEd intends to pursue in the school curriculum from pre-school to elementary to high school, covering twelve years of formal studies, starting with the school year 2012-2013, before entering the college or university level..
The continuing decline of the Church’s influence and authority upon those Generations is the logical results of two paradigm shifts in world view which was brought about, first in the beginning of the 17th century by Isaac Newton’s Physics, and second in the 20th century by Albert Einstein’s relativity and quantum theory. There is now a prevailing confluence of contemporary physical sciences and technologies and contemporary quasi-secular/quasi-religious ethics.
One can observe today that young Filipino Catholic adults are most likely to use contraceptive pills thus reducing fertility rates, or vasectomy and legation to stop conception. They value autonomy more and obedience less. On the other hand, they are more likely to retain many of the traditional patterns of their ancestors – high marriage rates, high family stability, low separation and divorce rates, and favor more savings and low-risk investments. On the other hand, they have become more individualistic, more future-oriented, and less bound by neighborhood and extended family. They are now better educated than their parents or grandparents, and much better educated than their family histories would lead you to predict.
Contemporary young people have a created a hybrid of ethical and moral culture, appropriately described as quasi-religious/quasi-secular, which embodies, among others, the following social gospels:
• Always try to be the least believing member of one of the more observant sect;
• Participate in organized religion, but be a friendly dissident inside;
• Settle yourself securely in traditional moral practice, but champion peace-meal modernization;
• Submit to the wisdom of the ages, but with one eye open.
Modes of Enforcement of Ethical Codes in the Classroom and Beyond
Today, the greatest challenge to philosophy professors is how to handle in the classroom (and beyond maybe) their students coming from the YZ and Alpha Generations.
Obviously, there are several variables that could affect the ethical and moral leadership of philosophy professors in terms of enforcing the ethical codes of morality in the classroom and beyond. However, this might not be a concern of one who teaches philosophy in order to make a living, not wanting to make “a difference” among his students in the classroom and beyond.
“Moral” refers to the inherent goodness or badness of human acts; while “ethical” refers to the extrinsic standard of human acts which arbitrarily or conventionally measures their goodness or badness. Given such distinction as constituting the variables in the enforcement of ethical codes, we might say the following propositions:
• When a human act is both moral and ethical, enforce strictly the ethical code;
• When a human act is moral but unethical, liberalize the enforcement of the ethical code;
• When a human act is immoral but ethical, amend the enforcement of the ethical code;
• When a human act is both moral and unethical, repeal the enforcement of the ethical code.
Given the distinction between “legal” and “ethical” we might have the following propositions:
• When a human act is both ethical and legal, enforce strictly the ethical code;
• When a human act is ethical but illegal, liberalize the enforcement of the ethical code;
• When a human act is unethical but legal, amend the enforcement of the ethical code; and
• When a human act is both unethical and illegal, repeal the enforcement of the ethical code.
Application of the Codes of Ethics beyond the Classroom
It is often said that Filipinos have high ethical standard, but low ethical performance. In other words, Filipinos agree to a high ideal standard in principle, but reject the same standard in actual practice. There is one ideal ethical standard and two existential ethical standards. Thus, in actual practice it is often said that there is one ethical standard for the rich and powerful and another ethical standard for the poor and weak. There is no single ethical standard equally applied against the high and mighty and the low and helpless. This reality appears to be in the very costly impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona. This is a reality which President Noynoy Aquino intends to rectify with his program of Matuwid na Daan. But there are many legal and ethical obstacles toward this program. The on-going impeachment trial against Chief Justice Corona for his untruthful, hence unethical, disclosure of his assets in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth is a step toward the Matuwid na Daan.
Religious Ethics sets a high ideal standard, Secular Ethics sets an existential standard, while “Quasi” Ethics sets a “middle of the ground” standard.
In the on-going impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice, the Congressmen-Prosecutors seek to show and prove that Corona has “no moral fitness” to remain as Chief Justice. His “moral fitness” should be resolved by our legal code intertwined traditionally with ethical code which is traditionally grounded in Christian Religious Ethics, whose spirit is embodied in the Constitution. However, there is a growing and expanding acceptance of Secular Ethics, if not of Quasi-Secular/Quasi-Religious Ethics among Contemporary Generations of Filipinos. If a philosophy professor were a Senator-Juror, what should be his mode of ethics to measure and judge Corona’s moral fitness to remain as Chief Justice? This is certainly an interesting ethical issue in the classroom and beyond.
Corona’s moral fitness to remain as Chief Justice must be established beyond reasonable doubt ethically and legally. The impeachment was preceded by a nine-day Novena at the Supreme Court, which suggests more of Religious Ethics, but the operative adjective “reasonable” suggests more of secular ethics.