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HUMANITIES 131 Govier's unwillingness to distinguish convention from trust raises a further, particularlyproblematic, issue. If 'trust' depends on a sense ofwhat 'most people' do, of what 'people like us' do, and if, in the case of strangers, the decision to 'trust' must depend upon 'rough generalizations,' then this so-called 'trust' can only serve as an apology for all kinds of discrimination and persecution against those deemed to be outside of 'most people.' Her only response is to call this'sad.' As is common in communitarianwritings, Govier's explicitenemy is'cynicism .' Yet, the failings of her account make clear the truth of cynicism. Convention is not trust. It requires no act of will. It is unthinking, parochial, complacent. It is precisely the recognition that 'most people' will always be merely conventional, with all the hypocrisy that entails, that justifies the cynic. 'Things' may 'work/ but they are not 'all right after all.' It is the cynic's trust that people will keep doing what they have been doing, no matter what the consequences, and that 'reforms' will systematically avoid addressing the real bases of conflict, that gives the cynic 'no confidence in the possibility of [meaningful] change.' Indeed, it is precisely through his or her cynicism that the cynic expresses 'solidarity with suffering humanity .' Perhaps it is only the cynic, who knows that our institutions are based on distrust, who is trying to be, as Govier advises, 'more trustworthy.' Govier does a good job of showing that trust lis more prevalent and more significant than most of us appreciate.' In particular, I would happily recommend her third chapter, 'Needing Each Other for Knowledge/ as a solid, intuitive introduction to the arguments concerning the social bases of knowledge. But, with her mandatory optimism and her refusal to investigate the trustworthiness of our institutions, she can only contribute to the cynicism she sees as the enemy. (CHlUS BORST) Leo Groarke, editor. The Ethics ofthe New Economy Wilfrid Laurier University Press. x, 332. $29.95 This volume consists of twenty-three papers, mostly presented at a conference at Wilfrid Laurier University in the autumn of 1996. Nine of the authors are philosophy professors, a few others professional ethicists with various organizations, especially medical ones, a few are civil servants, some are professors of management, and a very few are with private businesses or with nongovernmental (so far as I can tell) consulting or think-tank organizations. The general subjectis restructuring and downsizing - generally speaking, trying to make organizations more efficient,hence more profitable, by reorganizing and reassigning, or by cutting positions. The latter, of course, causes considerable pain and disruption, detailed in a couple of the papers. The question is, just where is there an ethical question? None of the authors seems to be an out-and-out Luddite, though some seem to labour to some extent under familiar but dated academic 132 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 illusions - that money comes out of thin air, that it's perfectly OK to impose requirements on private businesses that effectively preclude profitable operation, or that we can just look at benefits and ignore costs. And none of them come right out and defend private business, small and large, as the overwhelmingly main source of social wealth, though it is. None of them acknowledges explicitly that lower prices mean higher real incomes for those who buy the products in question; and few seem to recognize that jobs are not ours by right but are actually arranged by mutual consent between independent parties. Mutual consent gets you somewhere, but there are problems, for as David Drinkwater says, in perhaps the most useful single paper in the collection, unwritten contracts, informal understandings, are at least as important as what's on paper in organizations, and when those change, are violated, or become the subject of misunderstanding, there's trouble. We may well say that the main job of philosophy and, more generally, ethical thought on these matters is to try to find the most reasonable explication of these unwritte,n agreements - which, because they are unwritten, are rather too easily honoured in the breach. Most important of all, so far as the topic of these papers is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 131-133
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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