Ethical Inquiry: The Ethics of Job Choice


At around noon every Thursday, the smell of curry and steaming plates of rice wafts out of Wilson 101. While Kabob and Curry may be the incentive for some, in reality, most come for the discussion–vibrant, student-led, philosophical, discursive and oh-so-very Brown. The room was tightly packed with newcomers and regulars alike. I arrived at 12:05 and much to my chagrin, there was a dearth of Kabob and Curry. A regular told me, “You gotta get here at 11:50 for that.”

“Ethical Inquiries” are hosted weekly by the Philosophy DUG on a wide variety of topics, including the ethics of hip-hop discussion last month. This week’s topic hit particularly close to home, especially for juniors and seniors who are all attempting to escape the inevitable question, “what are you going to do post-grad?”

The discussion aimed to ask slightly more (but only slightly) unanswerable questions:

1. What ethical considerations should there be when choosing a career?

2. Do we have a duty to leave the world better than (or as good as) it was when we entered it?

3. What does our choice of career say about our idea of the ‘good life’?

After a short introduction by members of the Philosophy DUG, we were off. The discussion began in a typical liberal arts fashion, with a member of the group answering question #2 with a decisive, “Locke would say, yes, we do,” citing his belief that while you can take some things and claim them as private property, you cannot take so much that would prohibit access to those same things for others.

The commenter also invoked notions of intergenerational justice, the idea that if you are to act rationally, you need to leave the world a better place than it was when you found it because you would want the same done to you. In other words, it’s the golden rule–on a macroscopic level.

But Locke’s credentials for making moral rules–and their application to employment ethics–were quickly contested when someone pointed out that “Locke was also a slave trader.” It was the first acknowledgement of what was to become the ultimate dilemma identified throughout the conversation: lofty ideals vs. practicality and one’s actions.

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Alums who do cool things: Ethan Feirstein ’06

Despite our determination to “get off the hill” more often, for many a Brown student, venturing beyond our collegiate bubble and into the depths of downtown Providence is all too rare of an occurrence. Unless there’s a monster truck rally at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center or a Girl Talk concert at Lupo’s, we’re usually more than happy raiding the shelves of Spiritus and entertaining ourselves on campus.

But that didn’t stop Ethan Feirstein ’06 from taking matters into his own hands. After graduating from Brown with a degree in sociology, Ethan moved to New York briefly before returning to the Providence to open up a business of his own. Realizing the need for a downtown bar that appealed to locals and Brunonians alike, Ethan opened Salon in the winter of 2010. Since then, the bar has quickly risen to the top of the ranks, becoming one of the most popular destinations in Providence for anyone looking for a pickleback shot and a killer dance floor.

We sat down with Ethan to pick his brain about life after Brown, and to find out what it’s like being a bar owner in the PVD.

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