Not everything matters equally. If academic ethics is to be useful – if, indeed, it is to be ethical – it should address itself more to the things that matter most than to things that matter less.
It is hard to imagine a pair of sentences more uncontroversial – no, downright trite – than the two above. And yet not only are these basic principles not acknowledged, they are often reversed: often the manifestly least important work in academic ethics gets the most applause and recognition. This may be because it is more arcane and therefore perceived as requiring greater cleverness.
This needs to stop, and that demands a system whereby important and useful work is incentivised by enhanced status and funding.
His proposed Tier One (the tiers decrease from there):
Matters to do with the maintenance of the planet and of the human species, e.g. the ethics of climate change, and the prevention of catastrophic war.
Comment: If there is no planet, all other concerns, ethical and otherwise, are irrelevant. Likewise if there are no humans to argue about ethics, or to be the subject of its concern.