Ethics & Morality

Ethics & Morality


Humanity’s Dark Side: Obedience to Authority

obedience to authority March 9th, 2019

There is a strain of experiments buoyed by theory that is in the category of social psychology – the branch of the study of human behavior that locates a human being in their social context. That is, people may have some individuality, some trait-like tendencies to think, feel, perceive, and act in a more or less typical way (i.e., based on their personality type). Social psychologists study how human beings function in relation to their environment. This essentially radical environmental approach doesn’t mimic the approach of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner – dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists – because the attempt is not to change behavior, but to analyze and predict it. Read on for a brief summary, some elucidating quotations, and one of the most shocking experiments ever to come out of a major university.

Read More

Altruism in Action: Helping Others is a Virtue

altruism February 19th, 2019

Altruism is one of the most intriguing virtues. I have always found it to be “upon high,” very worthy, truly excellent. It has been called “selfishness in reverse,” and is basically when a person is helpful to another when “no benefits are expected or offered in return.” It sometimes involves self-sacrifice (for example, if you give money to someone, you don’t have that money any longer, or if you run into a burning building, you may be injured). It’s human beings helping human beings, and choosing to allocate valuable resources in such a way that one does not expect to keep a lion’s share of it. Is it real? How does is mesh with capitalism and the “rugged individualism” that the wealthy and powerful have fomented in this country since the very beginning? Is love really the answer?

Read More

Truth: Detecting and Defending It

finding truth can be elusive February 1st, 2019

“We may not always know what is true, but we can develop some proficiency at detecting what is false” ~ Michael Parenti – a wonderful quote about truth. This is such an intriguing quote, I was amazed to find it virtually buried on page 37 of Professor Parenti’s 2007 book – a compilation of essays. It is, pound for pound, a great look at the value of truth. He also wrote: “Our readiness to accept something as true, or reject it as false, rests less on its argument and evidence and more on how it aligns with the preconceived notions embedded in the dominant culture, and assumptions we have internalized due to repeated exposure.” So, what is true? How can we know it? How to defend it? Read on.

Read More

Society Needs Economic, Social, Political Change

society January 29th, 2019

Three things came across my desk in a mere two days that made me feel like I needed to blog about capitalism again. I have critiqued America’s capitalistic society many times under the heading Social and Economic Justice here on this blog. The three sources that inspired this blog are: economist and Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman writing a piece entitled “Elizabeth Warren Does Teddy Roosevelt”; a surprising critique of capitalism from none other than Tucker Carlson (!); and a wonderful statement by “The Wizard of Omaha”, Warren Buffett. Here is enough about each of these surprising and refreshing ideas about the limits of capitalism in modern American society.

Read More

Morality is Your Personal Responsibility

morality in your life January 8th, 2019

Having one single, discreet, multi-purpose principle, rule, or maxim that you plug in to various moral dilemmas and questions of the good and of justice (personally, societally) is not the best way to reason. It might not be possible. Moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that entitles one to claim: “This is what I think; this is what my community believes; this is what is right; this is what is good.” Moreover, it requires a rational, critical, explicit defense of the standards, values and ethics, and ends one has in mind. Not all acts, beliefs, and customs are equal. May the best-supported ones survive and the selfish, arbitrary, elitist, ill-conceived, and harmful ones meet the metaphorical guillotine.

Read More

Socrates, Thoreau, King & Zinn on Civil Disobedience

Socrates December 3rd, 2018

In Plato’s Crito, Socrates is shown to believe, essentially, that one should obey the laws of one’s city-state (Athens), even if in a particular case the law seems excessive, asinine, and/or immoral(i.e., not in keeping with a rationally acceptable view of moral justness and rightness) (in other words, laws that are unjust). Obedience to authority, whether to obey unjust laws, autonomy vs. group membership, and social contract theory are all relevant questions based on a modern and objective reading of Plato’s Crito. Further, these considerations have relevance to the question, Does Socrates have an obligation – legally and morally– to kill himself(i.e., choose not to escape after receiving a death sentence)? It is my contention that Socrates probably does not have a moral obligation to kill himself, though legally he probably does. After bringing in a few relevant theorists/philosophers, I will sketch a working theory on how to deal with obeying the law versus civil disobedience.

Read More

Virtues and Values in Challenging Relationships

virtues and values November 29th, 2018

The relationship and the difference between virtues and values is fairly intuitive: values are those things that we want and cherish, and virtues are those attributes in us that help propel us toward those things we value. In this blog, I will offer some opinions and insight into how we can use our unique virtues and values to negotiate our often-challenging social relationships in this era of partisanship, lack of shame, and everyone opining about everything, anywhere.

Read More

Character Matters In Our Leaders and In Ourselves

character November 9th, 2018

I miss Ronald Reagan. That is not something that I say often. But as of this writing, the 2018 midterm elections just occurred, the Russia probe of Trump is about to drop, and the majority of Republicans remaining in Congress are extremists. There was a kind of class about that old coot Reagan, and it’s sorely missing now in the Commander in Chief. Character is all-important in everyone, but especially in the American President, a position that has increased in importance beyond the Founders’ intentions, and one that is of great power and influence.

Read More

Climate Change Quotes (Global Warming Quotes)

climate change November 1st, 2018

I was talking with a friend about illegal immigration, and I was thinking, We non-politician citizens here in America are damned dumb if we worry about these alleged Middle Easterners and welfare sponges and criminals heading toward our country and ignore our more serious problems. For example, Conor Lynch enlightes as to the clear and present danger of climate change (global warming): “Hurricane Florence is devastating the Carolinas, and … Republican lawmakers in both North and South Carolina are notorious for their climate denialism and have done little to prepare for the impact that a changing climate will have on their states. One can only hope that the very real storms we are witnessing today will convince Americans across the political spectrum that we must address the clear and present danger of climate change before it’s too late.” I live in coastal South Carolina, and this guy is spot-on. I wish Republicans at the national and local level (politicians, that is) would stop using wedge issues and other techniques to distract from pressing issues such as the steel trap of climate change. Click through to find interesting quotes about global warming and climate change to inspire your thinking.

Read More

Magnanimity & Altruism: Saving 50 Jews from Death

magnanimity October 4th, 2018

Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl. 

Read More