Ethics and the failure of politics, or why ethics is part of the problem. A dispatch from Athens

An audio version of this talk is at my podcast, Talks and Thoughts, available via podcast feeds.

Disillusionment with politics is probably the most obvious feature of the current mood. This is, in part, because politics has collapsed onto anxiety about material improvement and lost sight of much more. In a secular society in which this facet of wellbeing is increasingly hard to deliver, politics appears therefore to be failing.

So now is a good moment to consider what is sometimes called the pre-political – the more that politics needs.

A second thought reaches back to Aristotle who asked about the relationship between ethics and politics. He agreed that democracy is the best political system but also that it isn’t self-justifying. The deeper question of why it is the most “friendly” polity needs to be asked.

But there is a problem with ethics, today. It has been weaponised, used to divide, deploy to stop thinking rather than encourage an engagement with the muddle of life. Ethics has become part of the disillusionment, I think. So in this thought, I ask why and what alternatives there might be. Which is where Aristotle can be a guide.