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In Hindsight

Looking back on the last year for me there has been a somewhat constant conflict between deontological ethics and consequentialism both within the Guild and for decisions in Redbrick. That is the conflict between doing what you believe to be right irrespective of the outcome, and acting with the sole intent of achieving a specific

goal.At an immediate glance it would seem that holding moral absolutes, and siding with the deon- tological school of thought would be the harder and most valiant choice. To stick to your basic prin- ciples even when the outcome can only hurt is not easy and can often be seen as heroic. Yet at times I can only find it to be nonsensical, foolish and at times even selfish.

For example, it is very easy to argue that cuts to education, particularly to individual courses, is morally reprehensible as learning for learning’s sake does have a benefit to both the individual and society. This does not really address the problems that are present in today’s debate around education.

The tougher argument is to try and acknowledge a world where learning has to somehow be financed. This forces a more useful debate to take place, evaluating the actual utility of individual topics, resources and other such factors- something that is critical now that cuts are a certain eventuality.

It does mean letting go of the principle of no cuts whatsoever, but there must come a point where dogmatically holding onto that principle is so harmful that it almost becomes useless and per- haps even selfish.

Within the microcosm of the world that is Guild politics, I have found that the first reaction of many students is to protest, occu- py, publicly critique and attack is- sues that are seen to be principally wrong. At times it can be both brave and necessary, but all too often it has come across as a form of unnecessary bravado when the same, if not better, result could have been achieved without some form of ‘grass-roots’ uprising.

It seems to me that all too often relatively complex issues are confused with moral absolutes, where rational discussion suddenly deteriorates to argument ridden with hyperbole that ultimately achieves nothing.

I do feel somewhat ambivalent about this topic. To be consequen- tialist almost seems to be synonymous with a loss of the idealistic outlook that comes with youth. An extreme argument would be to say that it is akin to the squandering of principles. The conclusion that I have reached is that in the current field of politics a higher degree of pragmatism could have a significant benefit.

Within Redbrick I have frequently found myself pushed to choose the better outcome for the society in the long run over the short run, an easy choice that can initially appear to be the more principled choice. It is a choice that every editor faces; balancing the content we publish against the consequence of what we publish and the impact that has upon the society as a whole. This almost always forces us to be more conse- quentialist about what we choose to print. I would challenge the next editor to do different


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