Thought for the Day: Moral Change?

“I am comforted and buoyed by the insights  of the philosopher Anthony Appiah, who  has studied how moral evolution happens across history and the world – how deeply rooted practices deemed not merely right but honorable thought can shift relatively quickly,”  says Krista Tippet in her recent book, Becoming Wise. 

“In his family as well as his scholarship, he’s experienced one of these recurring places in human life where within one generation, we look back at something that seemed normal forever and ask, ‘What were we thinking?’  ‘How could we have lived that way?’  Appiah studied how foot binding ended in China, how dueling ceased to be the way for honorable gentlemen to settle disputes, how slavery was abolished as a fundament of the British Empire.  As he tells it, change begins to happen slowly in the human heart over time.   Only then do the movements and leaders  come along and topple the structures.  . . .

For all his erudition, Anthony Appiah’s prescriptions . . . are refreshingly simple.  He talks about ‘sidling up’ to difference, not attacking it with a solution-based approach as Americans are wont to attack what they see as problems.  The way to set moral change in motion is not to go for the jugular, or even for dialogue – straight to the things that divide you.  Talk about sports. Talk about the weather.  Talk about your children.  Make a human connection.  Change comes about in part, as he describes it, by way of ‘conversation in the old sense’ – simple association, habits of coexistence, seeking familiarity round mundane human qualities of who we are”  (p. 133-135).

From –


Just for today, have a conversation about ordinary things with someone who seems somehow different than you are.

Aloha, Renée

Anthony Appiah’s photo from his webpage:


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

3 responses to “Thought for the Day: Moral Change?”

  1. Rosita says :

    Good. Wha’ can we do for better the world? And why we should (not) losing trust in humanity? Is there still any reason to believe and trust in human beings? Wha’ do yuh think?
    Hope y’all are fine,

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: It’s really easy to get depressed when we see all the suffering and destruction in the world. However, whining – although sometimes understandable – won’t help. (This is how I’ve been feeling lately). However, Vincent Mina, the chair of the Hawaii Farm Union here on Maui (where we have many agricultural challenges) says, “If you do anything substantive, it will be hard. Just get on with it.” So what we can all do is to look around and see what needs to be done where we are – and work to do it. We are all needed; much needs to be done; now, more than ever. And most people have “the light of God” inside them. So let’s get on with it. How are your dogs? Aloha, Renee

      • Rosita says :

        Thxs for giving me a light, sweetie! I was really needing that ❤️ And, BTW, my dogs are good. Can yuh give me some typical Hawaiian recipes – 1 salt & 1 sweet -, plz?
        Hope y’all are fine,

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