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Earle F. Zeigler

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Publisher:  Trafford ISBN-10:  AWayOutofEthicalConfusion Type: 


Copyright:  2004


This book helps a person to solve ethical decision making in the developing post-modern world.

Section One has provided a background for the remainder of the book by discussing the North American situation in the postmodern age. Then, in

Section Two, there is an explanation of the “ethical gap” that exists insofar as people’s understanding of ethical decision-making in relation to society’s values and norms.

Following this, in Section Three, I will explain how we are called upon daily for ethical opinions and/or decisions about personal, or professional, or environmental (social) problems. In this connection I believe that a person’s ethical involvement should be an implicit/experiential approach that typically move daily from one to the other of the three categories mentioned (e.g., personal). At this point, mostly in chart form, I offer a quick look at six of the major ethical routes or approaches extant as offered by the discipline of philosophy. These “guides,” if followed carefully--that is, one or the other--lead to solutions to many of the problems that prevail in today’s confusing Western-world scenario. Interestingly, and disturbingly, however, one would be hard pressed to find a friend or colleague who consciously has chosen or understands one or another of these approaches to ethical decision-making. I have observed that most books of this nature recommend what amounts to one specific philosophical, religious, or common-sense source. In this regard I believe fervently that the reader must ultimately make his or her own personal decision about which approach to follow--if any! However, if or when it does happen, I hope it will be one that is determined by the individual when the “age of reason” is achieved (let us say, after age 13).

I decided therefore to offer an “easy-entry” approach in Section Four, a three-step one that can be used safely before a person makes a final decision as to which ethical decision-making approach to follow as more experience and maturation occurs during life. Admittedly, many may never proceed beyond this initial (three-step) stage--if they get this far! Incidentally, this three-step approach recommended can also be checked or vetted to a degree by seeking to “equate” it with a jurisprudential (law-court) analysis of the ethical decision to be made. And, fortunately, most of us hear or see or read about law-court trials daily and understand the process quite well.

In Section Five, after brief explanations of each type of dilemma faced, respectively, when confronted with personal, or professional, or social/environmental problems daily, I offer two examples of each using the three-step approach to resolve such decision-making problems. I then decided also that I had a basic responsibility to make my own position on ethical decision-making known clearly. In the turbulent 1960s most students demanded this as a right--that is, something that their instructor owed to them. Today I personally believe that has been called “scientific ethics” offers the best hope for the entire world in the 21st century. (This is one of the positions discussed briefly earlier in decision-making approach IV on p. 38.)

So, in Section VI, I explain why I have personally accepted this approach for use immediately after I have carried out the initial three-step scanning of the situation at hand. (I must explain, however, that definitive scientific evidence about this or that problem is often not readily available when needed.)

Lastly, in Section VII, I suggest an approach to “looking to the future,” a future about which we should all be very concerned. In addition to being worried about simply the presence of human life on Earth, I am worried about the status of individual freedom in our lives. I say this being reminded of Muller’s concept of the “tragic sense” of life. We need to improve the planet Earth in so many ways.

Today’s world is incredibly complicated. This is why it is vital that we search for better approaches to living--“flow experiences”--that will "improve its quality and lead to more joyful and fruitful involvement."

In the process "the growth and liberation of the self" should be combined " with that of society as a whole" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993, p. 5).
Some people include flow experiences in their life patterns, and thereby improve their quality of life. If some can do this, many more people should have this opportunity (i.e., the freedom to do so) in the future.

Before this can happen, doubters must be convinced of the possibility and desirability of adding such experiences to their lives. This leads to the perennial question in education: What knowledge, competencies, character, and personality traits should we educate for in the years ahead?

Such choices are necessarily based on the values and norms of the culture in which people live. Values are the major social forces that help to determine the direction a culture will take at any given moment. Such values as social values, educational values, scientific values, artistic values, etc. make up the highest level of the social system in a culture. These values represent the "ideal general character" (e.g., social-structured facilitation of individual achievement, equality of opportunity).

Remember that overall culture in itself also serves a “pattern-maintenance function” as a society confronts the ongoing functional problems it faces.
Further, the values people hold have a direct relationship to how the nature of the human being is conceived. A number of attempts have been made to define human nature on a rough historical time scale.

For example, the human has been conceived in five different ways in historical progression as (1) a rational animal, (2) a spiritual being, (3) a receptacle of knowledge, (4) a mind that can be trained by exercise, and (5) a problem- solving organism (Morris, 1956). Likewise, Berelson and Steiner (1964) traced six behavioral-science images of man and woman throughout recorded history. These were identified chronologically as the (1) a philosophical image, (2) a Christian image, (3) a political image, (4) an economic image, (5) a psychoanalytic image, and (6) a behavioral- science image.

Whatever one decides about his or her basic nature (e.g., problem-solving organism with a behavioral science image), a mature person will eventually decide what constitutes "the good life." This is why education for “value determination” is so basic in the educational process.

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