How ethical can we be?

I would like to appreciate the scholarly comments in this discussion on “How ethical can we be?” Heskett (2011) asseverates that an investigative study brought to bear that “ethicists who teach the subject are less likely to return library books associated with their research than the general public is to return books that it borrows.” This is interesting. Most people would have expected that scholars should not only philosophize, but also actually practice what they profess. If someone is teaching ethics, but his/her private/public life is devoid of ethical values, then such a teacher needs help. Such an ethicist ought to become a scholar-practitioner. Krishna (Prabhupada, 2011) asserts that “whatever action a great man performs, common men follow; and whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, the entire world pursues.” Unfortunately, in the 21st century – subsumed in the Kali-yuga or Iron Age, which is predominantly characterized by hypoc risy and quarrels – people do not walk their talks, but this is uninspiring. It is not surprising, therefore, that even great policy formulators become victims of the very laws they enact and promulgate.

An introspective sage may wonder if such non-practitioner scholars, who are masquerading as mentors, deserve to be heard. I should think that ethicists who are devoid of ethical values should be relieved of their services, inasmuch they are quacks. Such ethicists are pretenders and cheats. Of course, the cosmic creation is replete with the cheaters and the cheated, but it would be a bunch of hogwash and an unintelligible misdeed to condone such cheating in the academy. There is the probability of some of their students following the footsteps of such non-practitioner scholars, if we have to take Lewin’s Field theory into consideration. Prabhupada (2011) corroborates Lewin’s premise that our operational field has an impact on our behavior/actions. Bhakti-Tirtha (1998) brings to bear that there are gross and subtle exchanges that take place when people associate with each other. Therefore, hiring ethical people will positively influence the behavior of the employees. One may cherish ethical choices, and yet he/she can act in unethical ways, against his/her better judgment, due to the influence of organismic lust. One approach to address the inherent lust of employees is to resort to sonic therapeutic intervention (Prabhupada, 2011; Das, 2003) which helps to purify living entities of unethical consciousness. On a Likert scale of 0 to 10, 10 being the optimum, I would suggest leaders of society should at least be up to a 9, as far as ethicality is concerned, so as to be proper role models worthy of emulation.


Bhakti-Tirtha, S. (1998) Leadership for an Age of Higher Consciousness, volume 1. Washington, D. C.: Hari-Nama Press.

Das, V. (2003) Lawmakers and corruption: Sonic therapeutic approach. Journal of curriculum and instruction, 11(2), 88-92.

Heskett, J. (2011). What do you think?: How ethical can we be? Harvard Working Knowledge. Accessed on May 17, 2011, from

Prabhupada, A.C.B.S. (2011). Bhaktivedanta VedaBase. Los Angeles, CA: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International.

A contribution by Bhakti Vasudeva Swami (aka Vasudev Das) to Harvard Business School – Working Knowledge seminar on “How Ethical Can We Be?”  Link – Article number (comment number) 31, at: