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Moral Compass Project

What significance could a ‘moral compass’ have for our human knowledge and experience of the ‘good’? How does a transcendent ‘Good’ relate to ‘good’ that people can discover and experience by themselves? Can we speak meaningfully about the ‘good’ as something that precedes our human understanding of morality, while at the same time it needs to be discovered anew in new situations?

Moral Compass Project LogoIn 2018, the PThU launched the Moral Compass Project. The project explores how one can meaningfully think about a ‘moral compass’ that transcends our personal preferences in a situation of moral pluralism.

Universal values and universal moral laws

Is there a universal standard for good and evil? According to many, if such a standard exists, we should all agree with each other about it. Since we clearly do not always agree with each other, they argue, there there can be no universal or divine law. On the one hand, this lack of a universal law creates uncertainty: how do I know that what I do is right? When will I be good enough? On the other hand, in secular society there is concern about people who suggest they know a universal law for good and evil. They tend to be called intolerant. So here is the paradox: we need shared principles about the standard that peoples’ lives should meet, but such a standard always seems at odds with their particular interests.

A ‘moral compass’ for universal values

The Moral Compass Project aims to challenge widespread notions of morality and provide alternatives. On the one hand, this is done on a fundamental level. How has the idea of a universal law developed over time and why has it been lost? The project contributes to strengthening a 'moral compass', focused on the good without holding us hostage. On the other hand, the project explores in three applied fields what a 'moral compass' could contribute to concrete ethical questions in the field of freedom of speech, the notion of the family and questions concerning the end of life.

Subprojects of the Moral Compass Project 

The Moral Compass Project consists of six subprojects:

  1. Detachment and Ethical Reflection (Dr. Rob Compaijen)
  2. Law and virtue in the Protestant tradition (Dominique Klamer (PhD), supervisors: Prof. Dr. Pieter Vos and Prof. Dr. Maarten Wisse)
  3. Spinoza and Gunning as discussion partners in modernity (PhD project, linked to the research of Prof. Dr. Maarten Wisse).
  4. Freedom of speech (Dr. Klaas-Willem de Jong)
  5. Am I my brother's keeper? A Christian-ethical exploration of family responsibility (PhD project, linked to the research of Dr. Petruschka Schaafsma)
  6. Medical ethics around the end of life (Dr. Stef Groenewoud and Prof. Dr. Theo Boer)

PThU researchers involved in the Moral Compass Project