In his elegant essay on the tension between a singular global ethic and global ethics in the plural, Michael Ignatieff invites us to “think harder about the conflicts of principle between them.” He is certainly right that harder thinking is needed: advocates of both versions of a global ethic sometimes seem locked into mutual self-righteousness. What we might call singular, or universal, ethicists often accuse pluralists of parochial atavism, while the partisans of plural, usually national, ethics think that the universalists are naive at best, arrogant at worst. Both are utterly convinced that they are right.
Michael Joseph Smith is the Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought at the University of Virginia, where he has directed the interdisciplinary program in Political and Social Thought since 1999. He is the author of Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger (1987), the coeditor and coauthor (with Linda B. Miller) of Ideas and Ideals: Essays on Politics in Honor of Stanley Hoffmann (1993), and the author of many essays on the ethical dilemmas raised by contemporary international politics. His current research focuses on human rights and the continuing debates on humanitarian intervention. In addition, Smith has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in Inter-national Affairs since 1995. email@example.com