Ethics Across the Curriculum
Ethical Reasoning In Action
Think OCEANIC | Guiding Questions: Concepts, Potential Pitfalls, and Strategies
These aspects of ethical reasoning form the acronym
The questions raised by ethics, like the ocean, are indeed profound, meaning deep and vast, and yet with the right tools remain navigable.
Like the ocean, ethical issues range far and wide, connecting to and affecting realities far distant from initial appearances.
What would it mean for ethical reasoning to be oceanic?
To think deeply and broadly, across time, to leave no border unexamined, to note the interconnectedness of life and resources across the globe.
Duties (what is morally “due” others) and obligations (what have you “obliged” yourself to do); what is owed to others; accountability
Avoidance; bystander effects; fear of getting involved; cowardice; confusion of rights and interests (rights inflation)
- Identify basic duties to aid and assist others
- Consider voluntary promises and roles you have taken and the moral requirements that come from them
- Consider all the rights (natural, legal, moral) that others may have and what may be owed to them because of those rights
- Examine the intent behind actions
Outcomes; results; future utility; ends
Difficulties predicting the future; unforeseen or unintended consequences
- Consult those with more, richer experience, i.e. “competent judges” (JS Mill)
- 10-10-10 Strategy (Sue Welch) – what could happen in 10 days, 10 months, and 10 years
- Ask: Best for whom? For what?
Justice; fairness; equality; considering and balancing all interests; impartiality; equal opportunity; objectivity
Biases such as:
self-serving and my-side/confirmation
- Seek impartiality, objectivity
- Veil of Ignorance (John Rawls) – assume no knowledge about yourself, such as abilities, interests, gender, race, socio-economic standing, don’t privilege self-interest
- Ideal Observer – try to see things “as if“ you knew everything, were omniscient
Rightful command; control or influence on moral decisions from law, experts, & religious sources
Legal and professional expectations may conflict with moral requirements; what is “legal” is not necessarily “right”
- Identify and evaluate differential claims to authority, and different authoritative expectations
- What do professional or legal authorities expect?
- What professional ethical codes may apply?
- Note how power functions in the scenario
Essentials; must-haves; requirements; “life and death” material necessities
Effort to direct and command the lives of others without moral sanction (Paternalism); disrespect; self-interest; short vs long term issues
- Ask for, listen to, value, and respect the needs others express themselves
- Note which voices are not present
- Pause discussions periodically to “check-in” and make sure all voices are being heard (“thumbs tool”)
- Ask for and gain informed consent before doing something to anyone
Character; honor; identity; ideal self; actualized self; virtues; habits
Self-deception; self-destruction; vices such as laziness and arrogance; ethical and epistemic fallibility
- Focus on the kind of person you want to become
- Consider classical virtues such as, but not limited to honor, wisdom, courage, honesty, generosity, humility, compassion, respect
- Ask: Would I be proud of the person I become as a result of this action/decision?
Empathy; love; compassion; concern; sympathy
Too centered on the immediate, close, and personal; in-group and my-side biases
- Identify vulnerable persons
- Attempt to take the perspective of others
- Try to “walk in the other’s shoes”
- Share personal stories; work with different people; travel; expand your concern to at least “humanity” if not further, i.e. beyond your circle of care
For more information contact Professor Joseph Moser at email@example.com.
Brought to you by MMA’s Ethics Across the Curriculum Program with special thanks to the Ethical Reasoning in Action Program at James Madison University.