Morality & Ethics

lady-justice-1-mary-tere-perezThank you for visiting the Camden Civil Rights Project page on Morality & Ethics. Thomas Jefferson once said, “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.” Our archives section contains a variety of informative print, audio and video materials on the ideological development of the American Ethos. The section attempts to introduce the different ideological systems which have influenced our contemporary notions of fairness and to present pragmatic solutions for creating a more egalitarian society. Archived articles can be accessed by clicking on the links below. Please feel free to use the comment section to recommend materials and resources you believe will provoke thought and contribute to the public discourse on creating a more equitable social arrangement.



Altruism v. Objectivism: What is the Proper Balance?

by L. Christopher Skufca (Camden Civil Rights Project)

The Gadfly Syndrome: The Tension Between the Good Individual and the Good Citizen

by L. Christopher Skufca (Camden Civil Rights Project)

Positive and Negative Liberty

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Game Theory and Social Emotions

by Richard Landes (The Augean Stables)

Social Conflict Theory

by Kent McClelland (Grinell College)

The Virtue of Selfishness

by Ayn Rand

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

by Max Weber

Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel

by Catherine Bowler, PhD (Duke University)

Unmasking the Motives of the Good Samaritan

By Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez (Santa Clara University – Markkula Center for Applied Ethics)

The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism

by Robert L. Trivers (University of Chicago Press)

The Major Tenets of Liberation Theology

by Gustavo Gutierrez (Edited by L. Christopher Skufca)



John Paul Sartre: The Existential Choice

Synopsis: The existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre thought that human beings live in anguish. Not because life is terrible. But rather because, we’re ‘condemned to be free’. We’re ‘thrown’ into existence, become aware of ourselves, and have to make choices. Even deciding not to choose is a choice. According to Sartre, every choice reveals what we think a human being should be.

View the video HERE

Erving Goffman: Symbolic Interaction Theory and the Performed Self (2015)

Do you have a fixed character? Or do you play many roles depending on the situation? Sociologist Erving Goffman argued that we display a series of masks to others, enacting roles, controlling and staging how we appear and constantly trying to set ourselves in the best light. If this is true do we have a true self or are we endlessly performing?

View the video HERE

Aggression v. Altruism
This ten minute short discusses the psychological, biological and environmental factors which contribute to aggression and altruism. The video examines conflict and cooperation through an analysis of the Robber’s Cave Experiment; Realistic Conflict Theory; Physical & Environmental Triggers; Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis; Altruism; Bystander Effect; and Social Exchange Theory.
View the video HERE
The Golden Rule (Ethic of Reciprocity) 
The Golden Rule, referred to in Philosophy as the Ethic of Reciprocity, is a basic moral principle which states that individuals should treat others in the same manner they wish to be treated. It’s inverse, known as the Silver Rule, is that an individual should not treat others in a manner which they would not wish to be treated in. It is the essential premise underlying the Democratic concepts of human dignity and equality under the law. The six minute short introduces the different religious and cultural traditions which embrace this principle.
View the video HERE
Brendan Schulz: The Trouble With the Golden Rule (2015)

Prob w-the GRMany individuals are familiar with the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Most religious and cultural traditions have an equivalent moral teaching. York University administrator and professor, Brendan Schulz, explores the limitations of this ethic with regard to equity, diversity, cross-cultural communications and inclusion. Schultz draws on his twenty years experience in Organizational Development, Change Management, Human Resources and Workplace Diversity to propose an updated ethic, termed “The Platinum Rule,” along with the conditions necessary to fulfill it.

View the video HERE


Max Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (2015)

 How does religion fit with the world of business? Perhaps more closely than you think. The sociologist and economist Max Weber argued that after the Christian Reformation one form of Protestantism, Calvinism, encouraged a different attitude towards work, with far-reaching effects.

View the video HERE

Noam Chomsky: Corporate Assault on Public Education (2012)

Synopsis: Noam Chomsky delivered his lecture on the goals of Public Education on March 16, 2012, at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church in Harlem, NY. Chomsky discusses the  longstanding tradition of utilizing public  education as a means of breeding civic passivity and conformity, while discouraging free and independent thought. Chomsky sets forth the premise that the ruling class utilizes public education to naturalize individuals into the established corporate ethos and to dissuade them from challenging the dominant ideology and economic structure. Chomsky cuts through the political rhetoric with a detailed historical analysis of the Western practice of using social institutions to indoctrinate the young.

View the video HERE

Ayn Rand: The Principle of Self Interest

According to Russian-American novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand, our highest duty is to ourselves, therefore it is irrational to look out for the best interest of others.  Rand’s philosophical approach, which she labelled ‘Objectivism’, begins from the premise that there is an objective reality which human beings understand through reason, rather than emotion. Rand asserts that since our survival is based on pursuing our own rational self-interest, requiring individual’s to sacrifice for the greater good is immoral. This two-minute video comes from the BBC Radio 4  series, About Life’s Big Questions, in association with the Open University.

View the video HERE

Paul Piff: Does Money Make You Mean? (2013)
Synopsis: It’s amazing what a rigged game of Monopoly can reveal. In this entertaining but sobering talk, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.) But while the problem of inequality is a complex and daunting challenge, there’s good news too — psychological encouragement seems to “nudge” individuals towards greater empathy in adopting egalitarian ideals. (Filmed at TEDxMarin.)
View the video HERE
 Philip Zimbardo: The Psychology of Heroic Imagination (2008)
Philip Zimbardo explains what conditions lead good people to behave badly by sharing insights and photos from the Abu Ghraib trials. He also discusses the flip side: how easy it is to behave heroically, and how we can rise to the challenge.
View the video HERE
The Century of the Self (2002)

Synopsis: Adam Curtis’ acclaimed four part BBC series examines how the introduction of Sigmund Freud’s theory of Psychoanalysis has come to shape American culture. The series advances the thesis that Freud’s views of the unconscious set the stage for corporations, and later politicians, to manipulate public behavior through appeals to our subconscious fears and desires. The series raises important ethical questions about whether the emotional manipulation of group behaviors is consistent with Democratic ideals.

View the videos HERE

The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear  the-power-of-nightmares-the-rise-of-the-politics-of-fear.33448

Synopsis: The Power of Nightmares first aired on BBC Two in the Autumn of 2004 as a series of three one hour documentaries questioning whether Western concerns over terrorism and the threat of al-Qaeda were exaggerated by politicians seeking to maintain their power and authority. The series assesses whether an organized terrorist network actually exists and poses the possibility that it is simply a phantom menace being used to prevent the erosion of our faith in government.

View the videos HERE

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom? (2007)

the-trap-2Synopsis: This three part documentary series by award-winning producer Adam Curtis explores whether the assumption that human behavior is motivated by rational self interest has created a culture of suspicion which actually threatens individual liberties and reduces the quality of our lives. The series explores how the introduction of Game Theory and the rise of neo-conservatism have influenced Western policy decisions since the Cold War era and led to an extreme view of negative liberties which has embraced the dystopian concept of suppressing popular dissent through the use of violent force. Curtis suggests the hope of improving society has been abandoned  in favor of a safer, less satisfying form of democracy which robs our lives of their intrinsic value.

         View the videos HERE


Why We Fight (2006)

download (8)Synopsis:  Documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s in-depth look at how the United States has built the largest peace time military/corporate/industrial complex in the history of the World. The film received the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and raises important moral and ethical questions about the revolving door between our government and the defense contractor industry and the underlying economic decisions which influence U.S. policymakers to lead the nation into war.

View the video HERE

What Is Liberation Theology?

 Synopsis: According to Christian doctrine of Liberation Theology one should show solidarity with, and compassion for, the poor through one’s words, prayers and deeds. Accordingly, this doctrine implies that the moral test of any society is; ‘how it treats its most vulnerable members.’  Liberation Theology asserts the poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation.  Therefore, when instituting public policy one should always keep the ‘preferential option for the poor’ at the forefront of one’s mind.

View the video HERE


Pope Francis: Address to U.S. Congress (2015)

Synopsis: Pope Francis made history on September 24, 2015, with his address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress — the first ever by a sitting pope. His remarks touched on America’s democratic tradition, religious tolerance, immigration and economic disparity.

Pope Francis asserts that the focus of legislators should always be on the concerns of the people they serve, appealing to Congress to use their authority to shape a more equitable society: “Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.”

View the video HERE

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“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

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