Julian Baggini in the Times Literary Supplement:
Ethics today is in a curious state. There is no shortage of people telling us that Western civilization is facing a moral crisis, that the old foundation of Christianity has been removed but nothing has been put in its place. Christian writers such as Alister McGrath and Nick Spencer have warned that we’re running on the moral capital of a religion we’ve long abandoned. It’s only a matter of time before, like Wile E. Coyote, we realize we’ve run off a moral cliff, impossibly suspended in mid-air only as long as we fail to realize there’s nothing under our feet.
One supposed sign of this malaise is that scepticism about morality has never been higher. University philosophy lecturers consistently report that their new undergraduates tend to arrive assuming that all thinking people are moral relativists who believe that what’s right for some is wrong for others and that’s all there is to be said for it. Psychology has fuelled this scepticism, with researchers like Joshua Greene arguing that most moral judgements come straight from the “hot” amygdala, not the “cool” prefrontal cortex. On this account, moral principles are post-facto rationalizations of emotional reactions.
Yet for such a sickly beast, ethics is energetically at work everywhere. You may doubt the sincerity of corporate social responsibility but the very fact that every reasonably sized company feels the need to demonstrate it says something about public expectations.