Hans Kung's Universal Ethic

Here is a digest of Hans Kung's Global Ethic which is self-consciously aimed at and supported by leaders of world religions; this ethic is defined as follows:

... a fundamental consensus on binding values, unconditional standards and personal attitudes.

  1. (There will be) no better global order without a global ethic. People of religion have a particular responsibility in this respect. We are convinced of the fundamental unity of the human family. Laws are not enough; we need to act justly; to act thus is our duty.
  2. A human being must be treated humanely - ie each possesses an inalienable and untouchable dignity; individually and collectively this dignity must be honoured and protected; humans must be the subject of rights, ends not means. Do as you would be done by.
  3. Four Irrevocable Directives:
    1. Toward a culture of non violence and respect for life - power holders should commit themselves to non  violence within a global framework.
    2. Toward a culture of solidarity and a just economic order - no human has the right to use possessions without concern for the needs of society; the use of property should serve the commonwealth; a distinction is needed between justified and unjustified consumerism.
    3. Toward a culture of tolerance and a life in truthfulness; public information should be objective.
    4. Toward a culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women.
  4. A Transformation of Consciousness - This has already been seen in war and peace, economy and ecology.

In his book Putting Liberalism in Its Place, Paul W. Kahn says that:

  1. Global declarations have failed because we only ascribe to what we can identify with politically; and we primarily identify with our nation-state or some perceived community of interest (eg a medical ethic if we are doctors).
  2. Rights theory avoids the issue of sacrifice, without which no polity can exist.
  3. The state's power - given to it notionally in the concept of the sovereign will of the people - lies in its ability to demand sacrifice, even the life of citizens.
  4. We (necessarily) separate ethics and politics on such matters as immigration.


  1. Are ethics and politics compatible? Consider:
    • Unlimited immigration
    • Radical wealth and income redistribution
    • Total demilitarisation
  2. If they are not compatible, what is their relationship?