Ethics & Morality

Ethics & Morality


Civil Rights and Responsibilities

civil rights June 10th, 2019

Three social issues of great importance and significant disagreement include the right to abort an unwanted fetus within a certain period of time at a medical clinic (free from harassment or shame), the right to bear arms, and the rights of those who are gay and transgender to be free from discrimination in hiring and in the workplace. These are of importance because whenever a right is withheld in America, there needs to be a very compelling reason, Constitutionally and morally speaking. They are subjects about which there is fundamental disagreement (and not a little contention!) because they are thorny ethical, religious, and cultural issues. In the time of social media and political hyperpartisanship, the solution of these matters of great concern to society are matters of civil rights, and also of civil responsibilities. As well, with the resurgence of the radical Right, settled law (e.g., Roe v. Wade) is now being reexamined. This blog is about civil rights and civil responsibilities when it comes to three key issues.

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Society Needs to Promote Positive Masculinity

positive masculinity June 9th, 2019

My friend noted that in this wonderful story, four teenage boys made a great and courageous effort to save an elderly woman from a burning house. Bravo! We lauded their inspiring, prosocial, and brave act, and I think a difference can be drawn between so-called “toxic masculinity” (which is probably too loaded a term for my comfort) and a more positive masculinity that boys and teens and men exhibit. This blog illustrates what I’m thinking.

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Responsibility for Our Fellow Man

responsibility June 2nd, 2019

My wife and I donated five thousand dollars to a local no-cost medical clinic, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. My visit was amazing. It’s a new building, and is at least as nice as my doctor’s. Probably nicer. It was built recently with 100% donations and grants! For an individual making up to about $25,000 a year or a family of four earning around $50,000 annually, primary care and many other specialties are free. Free. It felt like a wonderful asset to our community, which sits in one of the poorest states in the country. Many folks, however, believe that anything “free” is not only a waste of resources, but morally offensive. That is the cult of the individual, and it runs afoul of an important belief underlying progressive politics and moral decency: the responsibility we have for our fellow man (and woman).

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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