Faculty of Law

Moral Decision Making and Political Life in Conversation with Senator The Honourable Eric Abetz

From the ‘Stories of our Law School’ Podcast Series. By Grace Williams.

The word humanity inspires a sense of community in all of us. The human community share common characteristics. It has one uniting interest: survival, and perceives itself as distinct from the larger ecological framework in which it thrives. Communities bind us together but also keep us apart. However, although we share this communality, we are also all different from each other in many ways, including our worldview, or the particular lens through which we observe our surroundings. This lens through which we take in outer events has been moulded by our past experiences which in turn inform our imaginings and expectations. It is with this in mind that in this conversation with Senator Eric Abetz, we discuss how moral constructs affect political life and the influence they have on parliamentary decision making.

A moral construct consists of the ideas we have about the world. The foundational ideas that we have, whether it is our faith - or lack of faith - in God, or our belief that all humans are equal, will shape how we process information and how we see the world. This means that our pre-existing ideas govern our worldview. So, knowledge does not "conform to objects", but rather objects "conform to our knowledge" according to a principle derived by German philosopher Immanuel Kant. If the world conforms to our knowledge, then the ideas we hold, have enormous influence on our moral decision making. Ideas are powerful things, they epitomise how the immaterial world has a direct impact upon the material world. In this podcast, Senator Abetz reveals the ideas that govern his moral construct and how they have shaped him as a person and a politician.

We all have a world view. For many of us these views may go unexamined. Stopping to evaluate our moral construct is something we rarely do as the business of life and living consumes us. But when we really stop to think about what influences us to believe something is good or bad we may start to figure out who we really are. In this conversation Eric asks an important question ‘What is your world view?’ We seldom question the grounds on which people make moral decisions. For many of us, we categorise our world view by what political party we join, and world view may become a matter of right and left. You’re either a die-hard capitalist or a self-sacrificing socialist, but those binaries are extremely shallow. Considering such a reductionist political philosophy of left and right as a moral construct is offensive to the critical thinking capacity of humanity. We are much more than our political parties. Stepping beyond those ideological voices to the point where we hear our own voices is the definition of being an individual. In a broadcast to the Australian people, the founder of the Liberal Party, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, once said ‘The moment a man seeks moral and intellectual refuge in the emotions of a crowd, he ceases to be a human being and becomes a cipher.’ A cipher is is a person of no weight, worth, or influence. What would be your world view if you stopped being an echo chamber of other people’s opinions? Formulating your individual world view in a world designed to make you monotonous is hard; keeping one will be harder. This challenge will always be worth taking up, no matter what stage in life we find ourselves in. To answer the question which Senator Abetz poses to us all, we must think for ourselves and have the intellectual determination to keep doing that, irrespective of whether our thoughts are unpopular.

Published on: 23 Dec 2017 8:45am