10 Questions with Steve Chadwick

<p>Steve Chadwick, author of <em>How Should We Live? Everyday Ethics in Aotearoa New Zealand</em></p>

Steve Chadwick, author of How Should We Live? Everyday Ethics in Aotearoa New Zealand

1. Now that the book is finished, are you happy with it?

Yes, very pleased. It has turned out better than I expected.


2. What were you looking for in your contributing writers?

I wanted a variety of contributors from across New Zealand so that a broad perspective could be represented. It was also important to invite contributors who specialised in different areas of ethics but who could write about complex issues in a concise and clear manner. As the book is concerned with practical ethics in a specific New Zealand context, it was also important to choose contributors who had lived in the country for a while and so understood the situations that Kiwis find themselves in, as well as the aspects of life that are particularly pertinent to them.


3. In New Zealand, which is a largely secular society, is it now up to ethics to stand in for the codes of religion by which its citizens previously lived?

It is important that we know how to live peacefully together to enable us to function as a community, and so developing ethical codes largely agreeable to all is the ideal. However, even in a largely secular society, the codes of religions are still important to many citizens and so it is always important for this to be recognised.


4. Is there a difference between ethics and a moral code?

Moral codes are specific to different cultural groups and societies and we are all brought up influenced by different ones. In the context of this book, ethics is more abstract and its purpose is to present a wide variety of views that are not tied to any particular moral code.


5. As a university teacher, do you find that students enjoy ethics courses, and why?

I have always found that students get excited considering ethical questions, especially when they are put into the context of their own lives. Encouraging students to draw upon their own experiences, or the experiences of others they have personally known or have read about, makes the subject all the more pertinent. This book is especially useful for this purpose due to its New Zealand focus.


6. Can you explain the title – How Should We Live?

Without necessarily being conscious of it we frequently face moral dilemmas in our everyday lives. Some we face as individuals, such as: Should I be a vegetarian? Download copyrighted music? Use pornography? Have an abortion? Others we face collectively as members of society, such as how we should treat the environment, protect online data, deal with inequalities of wealth, or treat those who commit murder. Although these latter issues may seem more distant from our everyday lives, it is only through the actions of individuals that such collective decisions can be made. In New Zealand, which is a relatively free and democratic society, we are all able to affect the outcome of these ethical debates by raising public awareness and voting in elections. In doing so we can ensure that decisions are not simply made for us. By addressing all the topics included in this book it is hoped that it will help inform our ideas of how we should live both as individuals and as a society.


7. The writers in this book communicate very clearly, yet there is a rigour to their approach to ethical arguments that won’t come easily to all. How does one develop that rigour?

With respect to ethical arguments an ability to detach oneself from the particular issue in hand, and appreciating that ethical issues are far from black and white is essential to effective ethical discourse. Many people find this difficult to do as their own experiences in life can easily cloud their judgements. This ability can be developed through teaching ethics to students, especially by facilitating discussion in a tutorial setting. All the contributors to this book have spent many years doing this, and it is evident from their clear and rigorous style.


8. What is the value of studying philosophy, of which ethics is a part, as part of a university degree?

Having highly developed critical thinking skills is of paramount importance to successfully completing any university degree. Philosophy is particularly adept at developing these as they are necessary to formulate any philosophical argument. Furthermore, while many philosophical questions are very abstract, and can seem of little relevance to everyday life, a consideration of these can assist us to think more deeply about the more relevant questions that are examined by other disciplines.


9. Being the book’s editor: stressful or rewarding?

I did not find it particularly stressful as the contributors were a joy to work with: professional, punctual and great writers. Also, the proof editor Kate Stone was extremely helpful, as was everyone at Massey University Press. I found the whole process extremely rewarding as is evident from the quality of the finished product.


10. What are you reading at the moment, for work and for pleasure?

For work I am currently reading The Astronomical Sublime by Elizabeth Kessler. For pleasure I am reading Alan Partridge’s autobiography – it’s interesting to read a book written by someone who has never actually existed!