Global Ethics in Relation to Our Global Social Contract

Global Ethics in Relation to Our Global Social Contract

Glen T. Martin

Part One: The Subversion of Ethical Theory by Positivism.

Human beings are today in the throes of a paradigm-shift from the early-modern paradigm and toward a fundamentally different orientation that I call ‘the holistic paradigm’. The former is based on a series of false conclusions drawn from early-modern science (the so-called Newtonian paradigm). One of these false assumptions involves this radical distinction between fact and value that was introduced into much of Western thinking as a result of this scientism. This essay examines the role of holism behind the emerging global ethics in terms of ten global ethical principles. Each of these ten principles is discussed as intrinsic to a complete set of holistic and integrated global ethical principles. Finally, the essay considers the relation of these ten principles to our global social contract.

Much traditional ethical theory going back to such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas to Spinoza in the 17th century was substantially holistic.  These thinkers were concerned with the virtuous development of the whole person, a process that never made a radical separation between the ‘facts’ of the cosmos in which we are immersed and the values recognized by a developing attentive human mind. However, with the explosive rise of early-modern science in the 17th and 18th centuries, a number of thinkers developed a radical distinction between fact and value, thereby fragmenting and distorting the realities of our human situation.

The pervasive positivism of much political and ethical thought throughout the past century has derived in part from this historic, apparently unbridgeable, distinction between fact and value, between what is the case and what should be the case. This distinction was made by such 18th century thinkers as Kant and David Hume and is integral to the early-modern paradigm. These thinkers found no credible place for the human mind within their epistemology of objective observation and empirical testing. A trained observer ignored his or her values, feelings, and personal beliefs and just observed the facts. Subjective thoughts, feelings, and desires had nothing to do with the objective facts. Within the objective set of facts, no value was observed, attributions of value were considered merely subjective assessments imposed upon the impersonal reality of the situation [1]

Thomas Hobbes in the late 17th century, David Hume in the 18th century, and others since that time declared that the only thing ‘real’ and ‘true’ about the world was that it was a collection of ‘facts’ that could be empirically identified and verified.  Like the atomism introduced by Newton as part of his well-known ‘machine model’ of the universe (i.e. everything is reducible to its parts and can be understood in terms of the external relationships among these parts) Hume, and positivism following him, understood ‘reality’ as a collection of empirically identifiable facts, and all our theories about the universe were built up through theoretical models of the external relationships among these parts [2].

This simplistic understanding of ethics culminated in the positivism that remains foundational to much thinking. I have explored this early-modern paradigm in several of my books and will not repeat the inquiry in this essay [3].  The radical distinction between fact and value remains part of what I call the ‘fragmentation’ introduced by this early-modern perspective. This positivist ideology spilled over into the economics and politics of the western-dominated world that has led to such terrible consequences as massive poverty for economically exploited peoples worldwide and perpetual wars destroying people’s lives and the civilian infrastructures necessary to support their lives.

Despite what the Geneva Conventions might say, the targeting of civilian infrastructures that support life is a fundamental component of sovereign nation-state warfare. This was done in both World Wars, in Korea, in Vietnam (along with Cambodia and Laos), in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Capitalist ‘free market’ exploitation of the poor by the rich and the destruction of people’s lives and infrastructures in modern warfare are simply two sides of the same coin [4]. Both derive from the delusion that the world is a collection of ‘hard’ facts and that values, moral principles, and compassionate identification with the suffering of others involve merely subjective feelings and ideals that have nothing but a contingent and subjective relationship to the ‘hard’ data of reality.

The fragmentation of the early-modern paradigm in the form of global capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states leads as well to a military consciousness among the ruling classes of these nation-states that objectifies, externalizes, and commodifies the citizens of other nations (or the victims of capitalist exploitation) so that compassion, justice, good will, and other elements of common human decency are largely eliminated from the strategies and activities of both economics and war. These aspects of our humanity are thought of as ‘merely subjective’ and not appropriate for those who act on the ‘cold, hard, facts’ [5].

However, twentieth-century science has discovered that the early-modern paradigm was in error. In both the social sciences and the natural sciences holism has been the fundamental discovery: the holism of humanity, the holism of the cosmos, and the holism of our planetary biosphere.  Psychology, sociology, and philosophy have now understood the absolute inseparability of the unique individuality of each of us and our common, socially founded common humanity. For Jürgen Habermas and many others, these two aspects of ourselves arise together and are mutually involved in a foundational way [6].

Many thoughtful people are involved in the development of a holistic economics and promote holistic institutions. They realize that the older paradigm fragmented not only human institutions but human beings. Those who radically separate fact from value in themselves and suppress their capacity for compassion and the identification with the suffering of others are sinking into inhumanity. They are becoming truncated and robotic fragments of human beings. Alternative economist Hazel Henderson, for example, writes:

The old economics pollutes the environment and makes a lot of people poor and miserable, but not everybody. Many do very well, including those with power and inherited wealth and special interests that influence politics and resource allocation. Globalization on such economic models is widening the gap between the rich and poor. I considered it my job to refute recognized experts because a lot of them lacked a holistic view. All I did was develop a more holistic view, which spurred my interest in making myself into a whole human being. You can’t have a holistic view without being a whole person.[7]

The old ‘objectivistic’ capitalist economics is elaborated by ‘experts’ who are not themselves whole persons, just as the imperial military commanders who impose and enforce the economic theories of these ‘experts’ are themselves not whole persons [8].


Part Two: An Ethics of Holism, Compassion, and Liberation

Holistic ethics is the relation between myself as a unique human being having personal dignity and the essential community of humankind. This community of humankind also carries the generic dignity of our common humanity in which I participate because of my shared humanity. There are some excellent contemporary formulations of a “global ethics” that articulate implications of these first principles, for example, the universal ethics suggested by Leonard Swidler and Paul Mojzes in their book The Study of Religion in the Age of Global Dialogue [10]. They correctly speak of both the Golden Rule as well as the “inherent equal dignity” of all persons and derive from this the Kantian principle that each person always be treated as an end, never merely as a means. They also speak of encompassing these ethical principles within a larger framework of “love.” These are various expressions of an ethics of holism [11]

These thinkers point out that there is a larger response that properly characterizes the ethics of holism that they term ‘love.’ I want to submit that a holistic framework for this ethics can also be named “compassion.”  Matthew Fox says of compassion: “While it includes ethics, as all true spirituality must, it blossoms and balloons to something greater than ethics—to celebration of life and relief, where possible, of others’ pain” [12]. Fox quotes Thomas Merton’s last lecture, two hours before his death, in which Merton says: “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another” [13].

The more we embrace holism, the more we become directly aware of the interconnections, not only with living beings but with the whole of the cosmos, and the proper term for the response that this direct awareness elicits in us is compassion. A holistic ethics blossoms in love and compassion, in a solidarity with all of life and the fundamental principle of the cosmos itself. A global ethics recognizes the Golden Rule not from an egoism in which my self-interest dictates that I would not do what I don’t want done to me, but from a compassion in which I realize that myself and the other are deeply one on multiple levels. The Kantian recognition of dignity undergoes a similar expansion in which I recognize the dignity of others, of living beings, and of the cosmos not only because human beings are free moral agents (as Kant says) but also because they participate in the dignity of all things as manifestations of the fundamental cosmic principle.

In his book Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethics, Hans Kung stresses the expansion of our sense of responsibility that derives from holism.  In her book Global Values: A New Paradigm for a New World, Karin Miller emphasizes a new holistic integrity. In Global Ethics: An Introduction, Kimberly Hutchings emphasizes global justice. These are all valid derivations from the new holism. However, I want to emphasize here the framework of love.  Love is not ‘merely subjective’ but can involve an authentic, objective, and true response to life and our human situation. As Swami Agnivesh affirms: “The business of true spirituality, in the end, is for love to supersede power as the shaping paradigm for the human species.” [14]

Global ethical thinker Jürgen Moltmann also points out that a global golden rule in itself is not sufficient for a global ethics, for it implies a world of equality in which people can really conceive of others doing to them what they would not want done. In a world of vast inequality and injustice, the few live with impunity with respect to what they do to others. He argues that such a world requires an ethics of liberation:

Without the liberation of the oppressed, the raising up of the weary and heavy-laden, and the rights of the humiliated and insulted, the golden rule cannot be realized. A ‘global ethics’ based only on this is an ideal, even if a fine one. A realistic global ethics in the face of the world’s present conditions can only be an ethics of liberation on the side of the poor and the earth. [15]

A holistic ethics of compassion is also an ethics of liberation that goes beyond the imagining of doing to others what I would want done to me to an envisioning of system-change. Ethics cannot be private morality alone (doing as you would be done by) since the systems of Earth make us all guilty, all beneficiaries or victims (or both in different ways) of unjust planetary systems. As Albert Camus expressed this, we do not want to be either “victims or executioners.”

My compassionate identification with the victims of the current world systems (systems most notably identified as global capitalism and the system of warring nation-states) leads me to demand the transformation of these systems of injustice and exploitation to compassionate, inclusive systems of cooperation, sharing, and mutual participation. The ethics of holism under present conditions is creative and revolutionary holism: We are morally required to transform the systems of Earth to ones of justice, reasonable equality, respect for human dignity, and ecological sustainability.

Since nothing is excluded from the ethics of holism, it is clear that political life within democratic societies, international relations between nations, as well as economic and business relations, must be guided by ethical principles of holism and harmony. Philosopher Errol E.Harris compares the ethics of holism to the universal principle of love (agape) taught by Jesus: “Genuine rational love, therefore, must extend to the entire human race…. Love of neighbor, in the full sense, transpires as love of the entire community and devotion to the ideal Kingdom of Ends” [16].

Jesus taught the bringing of the Kingdom of God to Earth. Preparing the way for the kingdom of God means global system change. Liberation thinker Enrique Dussel calls the present world system a “system of sin”:

In the totality of the systems of practices of the world, as objective and social reality, the “carnal” subject or agent desires the permanency of order, which, however, attempts to legitimate itself by appealing to the “gods” as its foundation. The “flesh” is idolatrized in the “kingdom of this world,” and promulgates its own law, its own morality, its own goodness…. This system is closed in upon itself. It has replaced the universal human project with its own particular historical project. Its laws become natural, its virtues perfect, and the blood of those who offer any resistance—the blood of the prophets and heroes—is spilled by the system as if it were the blood of the wicked, the totally subversive…. Essential to an ethics of liberation is a clear understanding of the starting point of the praxis of liberation. The starting point is sin, the world as a system of sin, the flesh as idolatrous desire, and a system that nevertheless is “moral,” having its own morality and a justified tranquil conscience…. [17]

The system generates its own self-justifying ethics, its own conception of “natural” laws and virtues. These virtues normally include the golden rule as an ideal: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you while ignoring the fact that you participate in global systems of injustice and domination that make this impossible.” The ethics of holism requires critical analysis of systems of exploitation, hidden behind the “tranquil conscience” and self-justifying conventional morality of the dominant world order. The dominant world order generates “its own law” (so-called international law), “its own morality” (the naïve liberal idea that we can work within the system to evolve it toward greater justice), and “its own goodness” (e.g., the idea our military promotes and protects democracy worldwide).

Holism requires that critical social thought that was most clearly developed within the Marxist tradition. We do not want the illusion of holism (the false morality of the dominant system) but to establish real holistic systems of justice, dignity and freedom for the earth. Ethical holism is an ethics of liberation. The fact of global systems of violence, domination, and exploitation, exposed by those of critical integrity devoted to human liberation, generates a corresponding insight into value: the system must be transformed into one premised on universal justice, dignity, and freedom. Fact and value reunite in the authentic quest for human liberation. Authentic holism is revolutionary holism. Küng writes:

In the past decades it has emerged more clearly than before that a religion can contribute not only to human oppression but also to human liberation: not only in psychological and psychotherapeutic terms, but also politically and socially. Here there is no longer propagation of a class morality (of a bourgeois stamp) of the kind that Marx and Engels rightly criticized in the last century; here—from Latin America to Korea, from South Africa to the Philippines, from East Germany to Rumania—there is a struggle for a humane society. [18]

Not only can religion embrace this new paradigm and the reintegration of fact and value, Kant taught that the social implication of the categorical imperative (that every person be treated as an end in themselves) is the ideal of the “Kingdom of Ends,” the ideal of a union of all human beings in a community of moral relationships. The ethical principle of the categorical imperative alone necessarily also gives us the social-political principle of a universal, just human community. Errol E. Harris is also stating that the ethics of holism, of rational love, implies the ideal of a moral world order of freedom, peace, justice, and harmony. To achieve this we must expose the lies of the self-justifying ideology of the current world system of sin. Küng states: “It has become abundantly clear why we need a new global ethic. For there can be no survival without a world ethic” [19].

A “world ethic” will by no means come from Christianity or Western thinkers alone. The work of such Eastern creative thinkers as Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo is also fundamental. Insight into the interdependence of all being has long been a foundational theme of the great thinkers of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. [20]  As Michael von Brück expresses this in his book The Unity of Reality:

Thus ethics has its basis not in a forever grounded ought, but in a real transformation, which includes being aware of the interdependence of all being, and this, in turn, has consequences for their behavior towards the whole of nature… Two aspects which such a new experience has to include are the “autonomous worth of creatures” and the “interdependence of all beings.” If the West represents especially the “autonomous worth of creatures,” Eastern thinking takes place in the context of the experience of interdependence. The dialogical community of the two could thus be important in working out our destiny. [21]

Implicit in the new holistic paradigm is the vision of a cooperative and participatory world order in which war and exploitation have been abolished and replaced by peace, cooperation, rational love, and mutual economic and political efforts for the common good. And, indeed, it must be a world order, rather than one fragmented into autonomous warring economic and political units. The world of the early-modern paradigm, fragmented into conflicting national power interests and a multiplicity of conflicting economic interests, is gone forever from the most advanced conceptual and scientifically confirmable levels. A true world order emerges that has truly emergent properties due to its higher levels of wholeness and integration. It will become clear that such a “true world order” necessarily involves planetary unity-in-diversity through democratic world law.

Part Three: Ten Global Ethical Principles

Global ethical principles can be articulated, itemized, or categorized in a number of differing ways. Very often the differences that show up in itemizations of global ethical principles are not fundamental. We are seeing a broad consensus emerging among many global thinkers. The expansion of our sense of self toward a holistic identification with all of humankind and the other living creatures on our planet leads to a concomitant expansion, as we have seen above, in our intrinsic human capacities for compassion, love, responsibility, integrity, justice, and sense of interdependence.  As Karin Miller affirms: “The reality is that our sense of disconnection is an illusion. We are not alone, and we are not isolated from the rest of the world, no matter how hard we try to block ourselves off from others” [22].

I have itemized ten values that arise from a healthy recognition of our holism and interdependence with all life on this planet and with all other human beings. Of course, no classification of interdependent parts can be final and veridical. Nevertheless, I think that the following features of a holistic global ethics are fundamental. Many books and articles on this subject will cite a very similar listing.  The ten holistic values that I want to emphasize are (1) dialogue (2) nonviolence (3) human rights (4) democratic laws (5) compassion, kindness and love (6) unity in diversity (7) justice-making (8) sustainability (9) global education and (10) affirmation of the Earth Constitution. The items in this list bear no particular priority to one another. They are all substantial and important. Let us briefly examine each of them in turn. I have also articulated these ten values for some of the literature of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA), of which I am President.

  1. Dialogue. A World Citizen develops the capacity for dialogue directed toward mutual understanding. A World Citizen has the ability to listen carefully to others, to thoughtfully understand their point of view, and to respectfully dialogue in a process of increasing mutual understanding and learning. Habermas and others have distinguished the communicative uses of language from strategic and instrumental uses of language. The communitive use is presuppositional to the very possibility of language, for Habermas, and strategic and instrumental uses are parasitic upon it. In the current world system, the mass media, governments, and corporations have colonized the languages of the world blocking out much of people’s ability to enter into meaningful dialogue. [foot] In the current world, many forces systematically block our ability for authentic dialogue.


Capitalism, militarism, nation-state diplomacy and propaganda, and the predominant discourse of technocratic society revolve around instrumental and strategic uses of language. The atomistic view of human beings as external to one another and in need of manipulation and control by the forces of exploitation and domination requires such language. But communicative uses of language require that we recognize the integrity and equality of others and our mutual solidarity within the communicative situation. A holistic person becomes aware of these distinctions and works to actualize truly communicative uses of language directed toward mutual understanding and solidarity.


  1. A holistic person affirms the principle of solving conflicts nonviolently. Communicative dialogue is already inherently nonviolent. As holistic persons we are also world citizens: recognizing our common humanity and our common need to work together with all others to pilot spaceship Earth. As Mahatma Gandhi stated, there are dozens of ways to solve conflicts creatively and intelligently, respecting everyone involved. We need to promote creative, nonviolent problem-solving everywhere on the Earth. Nonviolence arises from our sense of oneness, solidarity, and interdependence with others. We begin to understand that unrestrained capitalism is inherently violent, systematically and structurally exploiting the have-nots of the world, robbing them of the necessities of life such as a clear environment, adequate health care, education, sanitation, nourishing food and clean water.


We understand as well that the militarism of nations, intrinsic to the fragmentation of humanity imposed by the system of sovereign nation-states, is a structural and overt violence against our planet’s peoples and resources. Holistic persons work to end militarism in all its forms by creating institutions that replace so-called ‘defense’ and conflict patterns of behavior with the due process of law, democratic forms of decision-making, institutions of conflict resolution and mediation, and settings where dialogue directed toward mutual understanding can take place. Nonviolence applies to patterns of communication, institutions, and the proper social foundations of civilization, not simply to techniques of protest and resistance. Institutions, well-made laws, and even judicial and executive enforcement patterns can be directed toward minimizing violence and encouraging dialogue and mutual understanding.


  1. Human Rights. Holistic world citizens affirm universal human rights and dignity. All people have dignity because all people participate in the miracle that is human life. We human beings are self-aware beings capable of freedom, creativity, compassion, and justice. We have dignity that must not be violated, both personal dignity and universal common dignity. Some thinkers have identified three generations of rights that have been developed by thoughtful people worldwide since the 18th The first generation of rights articulated in the 18th century involved the democratic political freedoms: the right to free speech and press, to assembly, to religion, to due process of law, to habeas corpus, and to petition government for redress of grievances.


The 19th century gave rise to the understanding that these political rights and freedoms were of little use to people who lacked the basic necessities of life such as decent food, health care, housing, education, and sanitation. The 19th century saw the structural denial of our rights and freedoms by a capitalist economic system that was a purely mechanical and instrumental system of exploitation and domination.  From this realization came recognition of our social and economic rights to a living wage, social security, health care, education, worker safety on the job, decent housing, etc.


Ethical thinkers such as Leonard Nelson and Alan Gewirth made a direct link between these two dimensions of our humanity: political freedom is a human right but without economic resources and freedom from extreme forms of deprivation, political freedom has little meaning. Human rights include both dimensions.  This recognition of a second generation of rights is embodied in many 20th century human rights documents such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, Article 25 states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”


The third generation of human rights involves planetary rights, deriving from an awareness of our global, planetary situation that only widely developed during the 20th century.  Human beings have the right to peace and the right to a sustainable environment that adequately supports their lives.  Both of these rights are violated by the fragmented institutions that we inherit from the early-modern western paradigm: the system of sovereign nation-states and unrestrained global capitalism.  One cannot exercise freedom and political right without peace and one certainly cannot participate in the social and economic rights without peace.


War is inherently a violation of our right to peace. The doctrine of the “right to self-defense” is falsely conceived today and widely misused. The fundamental right is to peace, and “self-defense” must be integrated into that more fundamental right. Real “self-defense” is achieved when we have developed institutions of mutual understanding, trust, and due process of law such that we do not require perpetual military readiness to use violence at the drop of a hat in supposed self-defense. Similarly, the capitalist degradation of the environment through externalization of costs onto the air, water, lands, and the social framework in the service of private profit inherently violates our right to a sustainable and decent planetary environment. These third generation rights are intrinsic to the Constitution for the Federation of Earth discussed as the tenth global ethical value.


  1. Democratic Laws. Holistic world citizens affirm the rule of just, democratic laws based on protection of civil liberties and human rights. They support equality, freedom, and equal due process before the law for everyone on Earth. It is a mistake to think that one can promote holism apart from societies informed by democratic due process of law.  Assassinations by sniper teams, remote killings by drones, strikes by military aircraft, all violate, and are fundamentally incompatible with, democracy. This also holds true for the secrecy and security policies of nation-states, as well as the secrecy of private corporate practices. Authentic democracy alone makes possible the first three global values described in this essay: dialogue directed toward mutual understanding, nonviolence, and respect for human rights.


Democracy requires that corporations become transparent enough to be publicly accountable to society. It requires that government be transparent enough for genuine citizen participation in governing. It requires that any military be continually reevaluated and reduced in proportion to the increase in democracy. Democracy under some form of constitutional government provides a substantially nonviolent and human rights infrastructure for human life. Holism understands that these cannot be separated. The obvious implication is that the system of militarized sovereign nation-states blocks the development of genuine democracy everywhere on Earth. In addition, authentic democracy is necessarily democratic-socialist. For there to be genuine freedom, dialogue, nonviolent patterns of change and protection of human rights there must be substantial economic democracy. Freedom and reasonable equality go together, and vast disparities in wealth inevitably destroy democracy. Without recognition of the value and integrating function of global democracy, the other global values defined in this essay become empty and relatively meaningless.


  1. Compassion and Kindness. Holistically oriented world citizens understand that reason and dialogue must be complemented by compassion and kindness. World citizens are sensitive to the suffering of other people and animals. They act toward others out of kindness and compassion. In Buddhism this is called In Christianity, it is often called agape. In my book Millennium Dawn (2005), I argued that there are three basic principles necessary for human liberation: compassion, critical social theory, and deep nonviolence. In One World Renaissance, I argued for the fundamental nature of love in human and cosmic life (Chapter 9).


I want to reaffirm these basic principles here. Compassion without critical social theory is blind.  Identification with the poor or the oppressed can lead to charitable actions that only protect and reinforce systems of domination and exploitation. The addition of critical social theory allows compassion to identify the roots of the systemic suffering of others and act appropriately for transformation of the system itself.  Critical social theory and compassion together must lead to deep nonviolence, that is, transformative action to change the system of exploitation and domination everywhere on planet Earth. Deep nonviolence recognizes not only the violence of terror, militarism, and fragmented social orders. It also recognizes the deep structural violence of a world order in which 50% of humanity lack the basic necessities for life.


  1. Unity in Diversity. Holism does not mean a unity without parts. It always means a dynamic interaction of whole and parts across the board. We understand that the world is a wonderful manifestation of unity in diversity that must be respected and encouraged. We are all one as human beings and as children of the divine, and we are all different from one another in races, cultures, beliefs, nations, and religions. World Citizens affirm this principle of unity in diversity for the entire Earth. This principle is fundamental to the Earth Constitution and is found explicitly in its Preamble.


Global ethics embraces the vast diversity of human cultures, languages, races, religions, ideologies, and practices, all except those that are violent or destructive of the freedom of others. There is no unity without diversity. Yet, today, the world appears as composed of many incommensurable diversities with very little unity. How do we unite humanity together to confirm our global social contract? Without democratic world law enforceable over all individual persons worldwide, there is little chance that humanity will ever actualize a civilized world-system of peace, freedom, justice, and sustainability.


Unity in diversity must embrace all without exception. It must be fundamental not only to culture but to our economic, political, and social institutions everywhere on Earth. The Earth Constitution is designed to bring unity in diversity to actuality for all peoples through a planetary democracy based on deeply nonviolent institutions. It is important to emphasize that we do not want to affirm a false unity that minimizes the conflict between the ownership class and the exploited billions, nor between the victimized populations of ‘national security states’ by their masters with ‘security clearances’. The universal unity of our humanity lies deeper than this, as Gandhi recognized, and does not mean that we refrain from speaking truth to power. However, we do this nonviolently and courageously without denying the fundamental humanity of the oppressors. The Earth Constitution is designed to bring all humanity together and address these problems through just, due process of law, not through violent revolutionary or warring activities.


  1. Justicemaking. Justice-making means that we do not sit idly by in the face of injustice. We are activists for social change toward equality, dignity, and flourishing for all persons. Holistic world citizens insist on promoting equal treatment and due process of justice for all persons before the law. If laws are unjust, world citizens work to change them to protect everyone equally. Where people are being marginalized, hurt, or discriminated against, world citizens side with the victims.


Nevertheless, justice-making is not likely to prevail against the vast institutionalization of injustice that accompanies capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states.  Corporations often care little about justice and more about using their immense wealth and power to produce evermore wealth and power. Militaries worldwide care not about justice but rather how to most effectively destroy perceived enemies. We need global institutions that embody this focus on justice-making, transforming both the global economic system and the sovereign nation-states into beneficial institutions that promote dialogue, justice-making, and deep nonviolence   We need enforceable democratic world law and all that goes with it in terms of freedom, peace, protection of human rights, and environmental sustainability.


  1. Sustainability. Holistic persons of ethical understanding are committed to transforming the process of living on the Earth to sustainable, ecologically friendly forms of economics, production, consumption, and patterns of living. They are committed to making the Earth a decent place for future generations through protecting and restoring our planetary environment. They understand that sustainability requires fundamental system change. Recycling alone will not do it. Only fundamental change in the world systems of production, transportation, and housing can establish a sustainable world. This fundamental change must be holistic and integrated in nature.


This kind of change to planetary sustainability requiring substantial transformation of economics, production, consumption, and patterns of living does not happen without a global social contract.  People are going to have to recognize the world as one community with fundamental common interests and are going to have to set up rules for everyone to follow in all these sectors.  It cannot be a haphazard matter of “sovereign” nation-states signing a treaty of agreement. History is full of signed treaties that nations ignore and continually violate. It must be all individual persons on basically the same page. A truly global community of enforceable democratically legislated world law is a necessary condition for a sustainable future for humankind.


  1. Global Education. Ethically responsible citizens of the Earth are committed to promoting global education with respect to all these ten principles. Education needs to be about cognitive, moral, and spiritual growth. People everywhere should be developing global consciousness and a sense of global responsibility. They need to understand global issues and global problems and realize that local problems are often merely a local manifestation of these global issues. They should see the connections between local and global and not think that addressing local problems alone can solve the global problems.  People need to think globally and act globally. Education needs to put all specific content within the planetary framework and enhance the development of globally responsible citizens.


  1. The Earth Constitution. Holistic world citizens understand that none of these 10 principles can be successful for the Earth without the rule of democratically legislated, enforceable law for everyone under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. We need a comprehensive global social contract that both makes possible and embodies these principles. The Earth Constitution makes dialogue directed toward mutual understanding possible, because it removes many of the reasons for using instrumental and strategic language, creating the conditions of security and harmony necessary to real dialogue. Ultimately, it removes the major source of violence in the world (militarism) and undertakes enforcement of world law through methods that more and more reduce the use of force and rely on mediation, conflict resolution, and due process of law.


The Constitution not only protects human rights but expands them to the right to peace and to a sustainable, wholesome environment.  It provides the means of democratically making laws for all humankind, directed toward peace, freedom, justice, and sustainability. It explicitly fosters unity in diversity and helps make possible the spiritual conversion of humankind to compassion and kindness.  The Constitution promotes justice-making as does all authentic democracy and mandates sufficient basic resources for all persons on Earth.  It systematically promotes sustainability and global education.


The global social contract that commits to fundamental transformation from a war-system, domination system, and exploitation system provides the real basis for all the other ethical principles enumerated here.  The Constitution is found many places on-line and in many different languages [23]. It can serve as both a blueprint for a transformed world system and as an ideal by which we can evaluate our progress towards a coherent and holistic world civilization. It both embodies and substantially makes possible the first nine global ethical principles discussed here.


These principles all hang together within the holism of our human situation and within the holism of the Earth Constitution. Now is the time for humankind to move to the next higher level of being. If we want a decent future for our children on this planet we must affirm one another, in all our wonderful unity in diversity, more deeply than ever before. That is the function of the Earth Constitution. Now is the time for a truly transformative global social contract.


[1] For an extended critique of positivism see, for example, John Finnis, Fundamentals of Ethics, Georgetown University Press, 1983.

[2] For an extended analysis of this paradigm, see Errol E. Harris, Apocalypse and Paradigm: Science and Everyday Thinking, Praeger Publishers, 2000.

[3] For example, Ascent to Freedom, 2008, Chapters 2-3, Triumph of Civilization 2010,, Chapters 2 and 6, and One World Renaissance, 2016, Chapters 1-3.

[4] See, for example, Garry Leech, Capitalism: a Structural Genocide or Jonathan Glover, Zed Books, 2012 or Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century, Yale University Press, 1999.

[5] For this process in action in relation to capitalist economic theory see Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Henry Holt and Company, 2007.

[6] Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action: Volume One, Thomas McCarthy, trans., 1984.

[7] Hazel Henderson and Daisaku Ikeda, Planetary Citizenship, Middleway Press, 2004, p. 53.

[8] Without intending to, Annie Jacobsen’s book, The Pentagon’s Brain, Little Brown and Company, 2015, illustrates this very well.

[9]  See George Kateb, Human Dignity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011 and Michael Rosen, Dignity: Its History and Meaning, Harvard University Press, 2012.

[10] Swidler and Mojzes, 2000: pp. 288-294.

[11] This portion of this essay draws upon Chapter Two of my book, One World Rensaissance, Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2016.

[12] Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, Harper & Row San Francisco, 1990, p. 30.

[13] Ibid. pp. 23-24.

[14] Swami Agnivesh, Applied Spirituality, Harper-Collins, 2015, p. 68.

[15] Jürgen Moltmann, Ethics of Hope, Fortress Press, 2012, p. 176.

[16] Errol E. Harris, The Reality of Time, State University of New York Press, 1988, pp. 163-64.

[17] Enrique Dussel, Ethics and Community, Robert R. Barr, trans., Orbis Books,1988, pp. 30-31.

[18] Hans Küng, Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic, 1991, p. 46.

[19] Ibid. p. 69.

[20] See my essays: “Tagore’s Mystical Humanism and the Future of Humanity,” in Santi Nath Chattopadhyay, ed. Rediscovering Tagore. Kolkata: Punthi Pustak, 2013. “Foreword” to The Superman: Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Vision of the Religion of Humanity, edited by Santi Nath Chattopadhyay, Kolkata, India, December  2015. “Swami Vivekananda and the Earth Federation Movement,” in Swami Vivewkananda: A Quest, Dr. Santi Nath Chattopadhyay, editor. Kolkata, India: Minerva Publications, 2015.

[21] Michael von Brück, The Unity of Reality: God, God-Experience and Meditation in the Hindu-Christian Dialogue. James V. Zeitz, trans., Paulist Press, 1991, pp. 273, 275-76.

[22] Karin Miller, Global Values: A New Paradigm for a New World, p. 54.

[23]  See, for example, or or