This review is for: The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles (Hardcover:Prometheus Books)
This book is about the humanist requirements for moral progress on a global level.
The author, Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay from the University of Montreal, is not your traditional humanist. While respectful of religion in general for its contributions to civilization in the past, he nevertheless has no truck with superstitions of all sorts, and today's organized religions, in particular. Tremblay presents a rational response to the unfounded claim that one has to be religious to act morally. Instead, he strongly argues that there is no need to believe in gods or deities to be good and act accordingly, rejecting both excessive selfishness and materialism.
In fact, the future of humankind would be best secured if we were to adopt a superior humanist code of ethics that is based on respect, tolerance, co-operation, reason, science, peace, democracy, education, sympathy, empathy, compassion, charity, and kindness to others, and less on rigid and absolutist religious dogmas and illusory promises of an afterlife. He argues, I think persuasively, that humanism can provide such a superior moral approach and a better way to solve humanity's global problems. Indeed, it is high time that we wake up around the world and view religion for what it really is, that is as much a source of hatred, intolerance and violence as a source of human morality.
'The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles' is an ambitious book and it shows a great talent for synthesis on the author's part. The book deals with the moral foundation of any society, irrespective of geography, ethnicity, nationality, race, sex or creed. There is a simple, thought-provoking but easy-to-understand worldview that emerges from this book:
1. Humanity needs a more advanced moral code than those provided by dogmatic religions;
2. religion-based moral codes are incomplete and inadequate for our increasingly shrinking planet;
3. a reliance on the great universal humanist principles is the best way to guarantee human survival.
The author is a Canadian economist, humanist, political figure and moral philosopher who relies on many disciplines and who brings a remarkably wide range of experience in his thinking about the big ethical questions, in a way that few authors can match. Dr. Tremblay's combined expertise in economics, politics, geopolitics, logics and philosophy casts a new light on ethics and morality. That's what makes his book 'The Code for Global Ethics' exceptionally original and powerful.
He is well versed in the literature and ideas of Western civilization and of other civilizations. To establish a superior humanist code of ethics, he cites like-minded thinkers such as, Immanuel Kant (Categorical Imperative), Adam Smith (Moral Sentiments), David Hume, John Locke, John Rawls, Confucius, John Stuart Mill, Aristotle, Baruch Spinoza, Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell and Paul Kurtz, among the most famous.
The result is a most welcome and interesting book that encourages us to view the world from another's perspective. It outlines basic and universal humanist principles about the human condition of all human beings. This universal humanist code of ethics is presented as a substantial improvement over the traditional Golden Rule of moral conduct found in most religions, including Christianity (see Matthew 7:12). Indeed, as the author states it on pp. 66-67: 'The Super Golden Rule of humanist morality does encompass moral reciprocity, but it goes much further and opens on genuine altruism, compassion and human empathy. It truly defines our moral obligations to others in positive terms about what should be done. As human beings living on the same planet, we have a humanist moral duty to be responsive to the needs of others.'
The rest of the book is organized around ten easy to read and rigorous chapters, each one beginning with a fundamental humanist value and proceding with a critique of alternative religion-based values. The result is a powerful and straightforward presentation of humanism in its essential elements.
For humanists like me, it shows convincingly how strong and superior humanist ethics is as compared to religion-based ethics, considering the plethora of examples and quotations that the author has uncovered.
-Chapter Eight is my favorite chapter because it is fluid and coherent and because it demonstrates why, in the twenty-first century, humanity is still threatened by devastating wars of aggression, with the possibility of nuclear wars hanging over everyone's head as a permanent Damocles sword. It's probably the best indictment of the war mentality written since Mark Twain's War Prayer.
-Chapter Six is a close second choice because it discusses the irrational need that humans seem to have for superstitions of all sorts, religious superstitions being only one manifestation of such a need.
-And there is Chapter Three on tolerance and the fundamental distinction that the author makes between maximum tolerance for an individual's choices and minimum tolerance for totalitarian and theocratic systems of ideas that enslave man and make impossible a proper functioning of democracy.
-Chapter Seven is also fundamental and so topical, as it situates man in the total Universe, not at the center of the Universe, but as an intelligent being who happens to exist at the fringe of one galaxy, the Milky Way, and who must survive in a nature that is cold, indifferent and amoral, and that has no requirement whatsoever for man to exist at all.
All humanists will welcome such a cogent presentation of universal humanist values. Everyone who believes that a better world is possible and that there is an urgent need to fill the current moral vacuum will also find reasons to be hopeful and optimistic while reading this book. Even some religious people will discover that they have intuitively been humanists all along! I like the Annex (pp. 210-11) that features a quick comparison of comparative moral commandments. Most useful.
The moral universality of humanism is a big idea whose time has come. The bibliography is very complete and the index is extremely helpful. They are both an encouragement to further reading. This book should be required reading in any course on comparative ethics and by any person interested in questions of ethics and morality.