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Is Humanity Progressing? – by Wai Wai Ko

WEEK 3 Lecture (29 JAN 2013)

I attended the Introduction to Ethics class today as the third week of the second trimester, but this was the second time that we are having lecture as the last week was public holiday. As usual, the class was team teaching by a group of lecturers but only Professor Evengelos was the main conductor.

During our class today, firstly, we recalled what we have discussed in the previous lecturer and discussed mainly about the Philosophical and Ethical Thinking in Ancient Greece”. We discussed about the Greek colonies and the Sophists as consultants of their time as the gifts of God. Then, we discussed about the ancient Greek famous philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. The most precious advice that I’ve got today is when our professor mentioned about Aristotle once saying that “Every student is always better than the teacher.” Although it was not totally related with the course, I could feel myself motivated. Then we had the class activity about a dialogue of Socrates with the Sophist presented by two of our lecturers. I’ve got to know that all the desires might be painful and sometimes, things cannot be kept at the same time but can be presented one after another.

We ended our lecturer with one great question asking “Can we say that the humanity is progressing?” by our professor. In my personal point of view, I might agree with the statement that humanity has progressed. But, I might need to added to the question like “Is the progressing of the humanity in a good way?” Because it is too obvious that it has progressed in terms of improvements in technology and developments in Science in practical ways. On the other hand, the mainstream view is that everything is getting worse and worse. According to what we are told, things were much better during the last generation. Nowadays, the world is increasingly becoming a rotten place with never-ending wars, broken families, increased violence against those that can’t defend themselves, pollution, greed, disease, etc. So, my answer is in terms of scientific, we are progressing, but on a soul level as a collective, it is the exact opposite.

As the consequence, during the tutorial session, we were asked to discuss if lying is less harmful than killing. I found this discussion interesting although there are some views of others that I do not agree with. This discussion made me think of the times that I have lied or I was lied to. In my opinion, lying might be less harmful when they cover up seemingly trivial things, rather than serious offenses, but not all the time. There is a word that we call “white lies” which are more towards positive sides. Lying about minor things can often relieve tension and avoid any significant consequences whereas lying about a significant mistake could have legal or other consequences.

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