Differences between Confucian and Buddhist

Perhaps the most important example here is the issue of privacy. As we have seen in chapter 2, expectations of privacy and correlative data privacy protection laws vary from country to country – in part as they rest on dramatically different, if not contradictory, understandings of human beings. But it is arguable that there has been an increasing recognition of a shared notion of privacy that holds for both Western and non-Western countries and cultures. This shared notion is interpreted and applied in different ways, reflecting first of all the differences between cultures in terms of the importance they place on the individual vis-à-vis the community. The diverse practices of data privacy protection thereby reflect – and, more importantly, preserve – some of the fundamental values and traditions of each culture. In this way, ethical pluralism seems to “work” as an important component of a global information and computing ethics. And so we might expect that, in other issues of digital media ethics, pluralism will likewise emerge as an important strategy for preserving cultural differences while developing a shared, genuinely global ethics.

Hongladarom has further shown how ethical pluralism works in praxis regarding the deep differences between Confucian and Buddhist understandings of selfhood vis-à-vis a shared right of respect for the person online. At the same time, however, ethical pluralism will not resolve all the differences we encounter as different cultures and traditions approach the ethical issues of digital media. To use the example of the Muhammad cartoons, for at least many (though by no means all) religious believers, cartoons that can only be seen as blasphemy must not be published. For the editors of the Danish newpaper Jyllands-Posten, however, essential ethical and political values were at stake in commissioning and publishing the cartoons – namely, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Add to this the cultural observation that, for most Danes, anything – even the queen – is an appropriate occasion for humor (at least, up to a point). It is by no means clear how the conflict here can be resolved in a pluralist fashion. Such an analysis would have to show that these two views are in fact not as contradictory as they appear – that they are, rather, simply diverse interpretations of a shared ethical norm.

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