Ethics & Morality

Ethics & Morality


Responsibility & Character Will See Us Through

responsibility July 23rd, 2022

This blog is a short screed that maintains that liberty is lacking in certain key areas for certain classes of individuals (abortion rights, the right to read whatever literature one chooses, the right to choose one’s sexual orientation and gender, etc.) but alive and well for many other classes and groups. Further, responsibility is missing in many areas, too. And as the wise man  said, you can’t have rights without responsibilities. It seems pretty inarguable that character, integrity, honor, and excellence are insufficiently appreciated and cultivated by most Americans. In a word, we are not a democratic republic that seems to extol virtue. Whether we did in the past, or if it is in fact mere lore, we certainly need it now!

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What is Socratic Dialogue?

Socratic dialogue July 17th, 2022

“In order to improve yourself, Socrates insists, you have to know yourself,” said philosopher Judith Barad. Socrates hasn’t been around since ancient Athens, Greece, but the method of inquiry and self-examination he pioneered is still valid and has a lot to recommend it. “Socrates was the first to call philosophy down from the heavens and establish it in the towns and introduce it into homes and force it to investigate life, ethics, good and evil,” according to also-significant Roman orator Cicero. “Socrates’ method was to go about, as he said himself, ‘cross-examining the pretenders to knowledge and wisdom,’ and by the cross-examination, showing them that they were in error, that what they supposed they knew, they did not know,” noted the luminary Mortimer Adler. This blog is about Socratic dialogue – how to appreciate it, and what it can do.

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Abortion Rights (and Wrongs)

abortion rights July 6th, 2022

Abortion is one of the hot topics du jour—unfortunately one of ten or twenty that are now crowding each other for center stage. Indeed, America is riddled with social problems and plagued by a tearing of the social fabric that holds this heterogeneous and highly class-based country together. Though gun violence, the vast Right-wing conspiracy to subvert democracy in 2020-2022, and economic troubles do prey on my mind, I think abortion is quite relevant to values—and therefore it concerns me here on this blog.

Indeed, abortion is all about values: First and foremost, the right a woman has to control her own body (autonomy, or privacy, or freedom, or equality, perhaps).

Secondly, the so-called rights of the unborn child.

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The Republican Party is a Clear and Present Danger

The Republican Party June 30th, 2022

Things keep coming across my desk that strike the same note of fear and anger: the skullduggery, chicanery, and corruption the modern Republican Party is engaging in is a clear and present danger to the fabric of American society. We must not take this lightly, be cowed into silence, or shrink from this grave danger. Obviously, no one has to agree with my take on vigilance, patriotism, or decency—or any other value, political stance, or threat assessment—but I believe it is imperative that we stay cognizant of just how extreme, dangerous, and self-aggrandizing this broken Republican Party is.

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Wisdom: Who, When and Why?

wisdom: Picard's Specialty? June 2nd, 2022

Who has wisdom? At what age is it likeliest? How can one develop it? What does it look like? Here are some practical characteristics of this challenging concept grounded in the idea that it takes more than just age to develop; it is based more on skill and perception than accumulation of years. If the 60s is the decade wisdom is likeliest, that makes the 20s and 30s virtually impossible to really grasp the nature of and importance of learning (beyond technique, such as how to repair a car or how to administer the law, which is more easily attained at younger ages). As well, a person in their 80s is probably too subject to cognitive decline to be the wisest among us. Though it can be heard “from the mouths of babes,” usually babes just cry, gossip, and whine. Read on to hear what some experts think is likely to result in not just knowledge, but wisdom.

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What Does “Moral Values” Mean?

moral values May 23rd, 2022

Values is a neutral term; one could value relaxation, competition, humor, sexual conquest, helping others, or swindling them successfully (subterfuge and personal gain). It means what it sounds like it means – a value is something which a person holds in high regard, pursues, and even loves. Values tend to include hallmark ones such as truth, justice, humility, goodness, and kindness. In this blog, I explore the idea of moral values, asking what the term means, which values probably qualify as moral values, and how one implements them in one’s life.

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Pithy Quotes by Unitarian Universalists

Unitarian Universalist philosophy May 20th, 2022

I have been looking more and more into the religious/spiritual movement of Unitarian/Universalism. Not sure if you’ve heard much about it. It’s in the category of agnosticism, spirituality, deism, and pantheism as far as being a reasonable, admirable, defensible, humanistic approach to personal growth and community enrichment. I wanted to share a bit about the philosophy (I think that is a decent word to describe this thing – more apt than “religion” or “sect” or something. Perhaps “tradition” or “movement” would be fine, too. To that end, I will quote liberally from the Unitarian Universalist Association website and then I will share a few quotations from prominent (even, famous) U-U thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Acting Morally is About Deliberation & Practice

acting morally April 23rd, 2022

For this piece, I looked back on one of the most significant, horrific, appalling cases of child molestation and cover-up by the Catholic Church. Grand jurors in Pennsylvania found that over seven decades 300 priests molested over 1,000 children. This is just beyond the pale. This is not a blog about the ineptitude or depravity of the Church of Rome, though. It is about making moral decisions, dealing with moral dilemmas, and acting morally when one faces a choice in the moral realm. In a word, What is the right thing to do?

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Examples of “Might Makes Right” & Other Moral Theories

April 9th, 2022

It took me a while to watch the movie Sicario, and I was impressed. It’s suspenseful and such, but it also highlights ways that the characters (and people in general) make decisions about right and wrong, moral conduct, and ethical behavior: what are called moral theories. They are also known as ethical theories. In this blog, I look at various moral theories vis-a-vis characters in movies and literature, as well as politics, religion, and so on. The goal is to shed a little light on how we make moral decisions and what folks do when faced with ethical dilemmas and other challenges to their moral values.

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Moral Dilemmas: The Case of the Unabomber

moral dilemmas March 7th, 2022

Ted Kaczynski, as you probably know, was “the Unabomber.” His proficiency with creating bombs delivered through the mail was gruesome; many died from shrapnel and concussion opening a bomb, and they were absolutely innocent of any reasonable charge. His mentality was like something you would see in a high-ranking member of the Nazi party. He was extremely intelligent but had the morality of a sociopath. Quite a dangerous creature he was. Here is the story of his brother, David, who faced a moral dilemma about whether or not to turn his brother, the murderer, in. The topic of moral dilemmas is a most interesting and evocative one, so strap in.

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