Title: European culture: tension between relative and total autonomy
Authors: Draulans, Veerle #
Issue Date: 2006
Conference: International crosscultural conference for catholic theological ethicists: 'Catholic theological ethics in the world church' edition:1 location:Padua (Italy) date:8-11 July 2006
Abstract: At the end of the 1970s , a small group of researchers headed by Ruud de Moor (social sciences) from Tilburg University and Jan Kerkhofs (social sciences & theology) from Catholic University of Leuven raised the question of whether Europe was at that moment still the cultural unity that it once became under the influence of Christianity (Arts, Hagenaars & Halman, 2003:3). They were concerned about religious and moral decay and wanted to know if indeed
processes of secularisation resulted in a fragmentation of value patterns. In order to be able to answer these questions, they decided to conduct in 1981 a major cross-national survey on basic human values in all the European Community member states. This project resulted in a famous
and, in circles of European (social) scientists well known and often referred to study, collecting data about people’s opinions about politics, economic life, civil society and citizenship, family and work, religion and moral values. A repeat survey was conducted in 1990, in order to be able
to investigate the dynamics of value change in Europe, including a number of Central and Eastern European countries, and a third wave of surveys was fielded in 32 European countries in 1999/2000, interviewing more than 40 000 people. Although the immediate reason for starting the European Values Study (EVS) was moral and political concern, the project design developed more and more as a (social sciences and methodological) problem and theory oriented research program. The results seem to be looked at by theologians and ethicists with strong hesitation, as
though people could proof whatever they want with statistical results. Is using empirical data in ethical research desirable? Various authors question to what degree empirical research can contribute to the study of moral norms and convictions that live among people or that are, more or less hidden, driving peoples’ actions. Some even write in terms of ‘empirical ethics’, as a combination of socialsciences research and normative ethical reflection. I will just shortly mention this methodological debate in my presentation. I will focus on the analysis of three questions out of the whole questionnaire that deal with the autonomy-debate. What do we learn from the general results and the results of correlations with characteristics as age, gender, education, religiosity…)? Can this kind of research contribute to the ethical reflection about the tension between relative autonomy and total autonomy, colouring the contemporary European culture, as Cardinal Godfried Danneels states? Questions to be analysed: 1) Here are two statements which people sometimes make when discussing good and evil. Which one comes closest to your own point of view? a) There are absolutely clear guidelines about what is good and evil. These always apply to everyone, whatever the circumstances. b) There can never be absolutely clear guidelines about what is good and evil. What is good and evil depends entirely upon the circumstances at the time. (Sourcebook EVS 306-21) 2) Some people feel they have completely free choice and control over their lives, and other people feel that what they do has no real effect on what happens to them. Please use the scale to indicate how much freedom of choice and control you feel you have over the way your life turns out? (Sourcebook EVS 302-9) 3) Please tell me whether you think it can always be justified, never be justified, or something in between. Statements about private life-sphere (e.g. abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia), public life (e.g. claiming state benefits which you are not entitled to, cheating on tax if you have the chance), etc. (Sourcebook EVS 322-65)
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Centre for Sociological Research
# (joint) last author

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