Moral Life in the Global City

By Ian Klaus – Commerce depends on trust, civility, people doing favors. The bodega on the corner is not just a retail outlet. It’s a place where people in the neighborhood slowly get to know each other.

The ordinary virtues are things like trust, forgiveness, resilience, the basic honesty of ordinary life, a certain basic decency and civility that you see in ordinary life. These are the not-heroic virtues. Courage would be a heroic virtue. Self-sacrifice would be a heroic virtue. In a decent society we shouldn’t ask people to be heroes.

Globalization impacts every second of our daily lives. But the people we justify ourselves to, the people we care about when we exercise these virtues, are very local: Mom, Dad, family, kin, our neighbors, our workmates. When you display the virtues of decency, you’re not displaying an abstract commitment to treat all human beings decently. All you’re doing is treating the human beings you interact with every day decently. The ordinary virtues don’t generalize, they particularize. They don’t universalize. They are all very local. more>

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