Wat is de motor achter morele vooruitgang?

DAVOS – Wat zou er gebeuren als de oude Griekse filosoof Plato zou deelnemen aan hedendaagse dialogen over het soort vragen dat hij als eerste stelde en die ons blijven kwellen? In mijn optiek zou hij veel nieuwe vragen hebben – ook over de steeds verder toenemende psychologische benadering van filosofische discussies.

Plato zou waarschijnlijk naar een toonaangevend mondiaal technologieknooppunt togen: het Californische hoofdkwartier van Google. Daar zou hij in een discussie verzeild kunnen raken met een software-ontwerper, bijvoorbeeld over de vraag of ethische vragen via crowdsourcing kunnen worden beantwoord. Hij zou het idee van de informatiewolk waarschijnlijk prachtig vinden – zo abstract, zo platonisch – en erachter komen dat Google het ideale instrument is om op de hoogte te geraken van de enorme wetenschappelijke en technische vooruitgang van de afgelopen paar duizend jaar.

Maar Plato zou waarschijnlijk het meest versteld staan over de ethische vooruitgang die de wereld in die tijd heeft geboekt. Hij geloofde immers dat 'filosoof zijn' betekende dat je de verantwoordelijkheden van een morele hervormer op je nam. Maar hoewel de moraliteit altijd centraal stond in zijn denken, zijn veel van de ethische waarheden die we nu als vanzelfsprekend beschouwen nooit bij hem opgekomen.

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