In the New York Times today, Howard Gardner writes about "Reinventing Ethics" in an age in which The Bible offers few answers to complex modern moral questions. Professional societies are scarcely in any better position. He notes:
"Ethical dilemmas are no longer going to be decided solely by those who wear certain clothing and who have a certain professional pedigree. How then should we go about deciding which of the alternative courses of action is the right one, or at least the one that is more ethical?"
Gardner's solution seems to be to engage people's moral imaginations in virtual communities:
"If we can draw on wise people across the age spectrum, and enable virtual as well as face-to-face discussion, we are most likely to arrive at an ethical landscape adequate for our time."
It sounds to me like Gardner is advocating something like the wisdom of the crowd. It's too bad his writing is not more analytical—by exploring, for example, how Smith's theory of moral sentiments works. In short, Gardner advocates a policy solution without providing any underlying theory for it. The result is less convincing than it might be.