Human Values Lectures -chapter 1 10 (not in Powerpoint) human values

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Human Values Lectures -chapter 1 – 10 (not in Powerpoint)


Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues 6th Edition

Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

The Need for Ethics

Chapter One

  • Ethics is the study of choices people make regarding right and wrong behavior.

  • We make dozens of choices each day:

  • Go to school or work, or play sick.

  • Use someone else’s work as our own.

  • Tell the truth or lie

  • Obey the speed limit or not.

The Need for Ethics

  • Pay a bill or spend the money.

  • Keep our marriage vows or break them.

  • Meet our children’s emotional need or ignore them.

  • Pet the cat or kick it.

Morals definition

  • Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character.

  • Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior.

  • Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous.

  • Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong.

Moral Standards

  • In most times and places, people acknowledge the existence of an objective moral standard binding on all people regardless of their personal desires and preferences.

  • There has not always been complete agreement on what that standard was.

Moral Standards

  • Over the past several decades, that need has been called into question.

  • It is fashionable today to believe that decisions about right and wrong are purely personal and subjective.

  • This belief is known as moral relativism.

Moral Standards

  • Moral Relativism:

  • According to it, whatever anyone claims to be morally acceptable is morally acceptable, at least for that person.

  • Supposedly, there is only one exception to this rule: Judging other people’s conduct is considered intolerant.

Moral Standards

  • In the 1960’s moral relativists challenged the traditional view that fornication and adultery are immoral.

  • “Only the individual can decide what sexual behavior is right for him or her and the individual’s decision should be respected.”

  • Given the mood of the time and strength of the sex drive, it was not surprising that many people were disposed to accept this view.

Moral Standards

  • Critics raised serious objections, of course.

  • They argued that even the wisest among us are capable of error and self deception, especially where the emotions are involved.

  • They predicted that the idea that everyone creates his or her own sexual morality would spill over into other areas of morality and provide an excuse for everything from petty pilfering, plagiarism, perjury, child molesting, rape, spouse abuse, and murder.

Critics Raise Serious Objections

  • More important for our purposes, critics of relativism warned that “anything goes” thinking would undermine the subject of ethics.

  • “If morality is merely a matter of preference, and no one view is better than any other,” -- “then there is no way to distinguish good from evil or civilized behavior from uncivilized, and any attempt at meaningful discussion of moral issues is futile.”

Moral Standards

  • Evidence that civility has declined and human life has become cheapened can be found any day in the news.

  • Equally significant, many people are so possessed by the “who can say?” mentality that they find it difficult to pass moral judgment even on the most heinous deeds.

Why Do We Need Ethics

  • Many people reason that we don’t need ethics because of our system of laws, when consistently enforced, provide sufficient protection of our rights.

  • In order to assess this idea we must understand who makes laws and how they make them.

Why Do We Need Ethics

  • Who makes them: local, state, and national legislators.

  • How they are made is somewhat more difficult. Legislators must get together to talk about a particular behavior and then vote on whether they want to criminalize it.

  • On what basis do they conclude that one act deserves to be classified criminal and another one doesn’t?

Why Do We Need Ethics

  • What kinds of reasons do they offer to support their views?

  • How can they be sure those reasons are good ones?

  • The fact that 2 or 10 or 500 legislators expressed that personal view would not be sufficient reason to conclude that a law should be passed preventing other people

Why Do We Need Ethics

  • …from committing the act.

  • The only rational basis for a law against sexual harassment is that the act is wrong, and not just for those who think so but for everyone.

  • The proper focus for lawmakers is not on their subjective preferences but on the nature of the actions in question.

Why Do We Need Ethics

  • Why do we need ethics if we have laws?

  • Because law is not possible without ethics.

  • The only way for a law to be enacted or repealed is for one or more people to make a decision about right and wrong.

  • Often laws must be revised.

Ethics Defined

  • Ethics is the study of right and wrong conduct.

  • In the philosophical sense, ethics is a two-sided discipline.

  • Normative ethics – answers specific moral questions, determining what is reasonable and therefore what people should believe. The term normative means setting “norms” or guidelines.)

Ethics Defined

  • The other side of philosophical ethics is; Methaethics – it examines ethical systems to appraise their logical foundations and internal consistency.

  • The focus of ethics is moral situations – that is, those situations in which there is a choice of behavior involving human values (those qualities that are regarded as good and desirable).

Ethics Defined

  • Whether we watch TV at a friend’s house or at our own is not a moral issue. But whether we watch TV at a friend’s house without his or her knowledge and approval is a moral issue.

  • Filling out an application for a job is a morally neutral act. But deciding whether to tell the truth on the application is a moral decision.

Ethics Defined

  • An ethicist observes the choices people make in various moral situations and draws conclusions about those choices.

  • An ethical system is a set of coherent ideas that result from those conclusions and form and overall moral perspective.

  • Ethicists are not lawmakers.

Ethics Defined

  • They merely suggest what ought to be done. If people violate their own or their society’s moral code, no ethics enforcement officer will try to apprehend them – though if their action also violates a law, a law enforcement agency may do so.

  • The idea of varying degrees of responsibility for one’s actions is applied in ethics, too.

Ethics Defined

  • There are no court of ethics.

  • The ethicist nevertheless is interested in the question;

  • “Under what circumstances is a person to be considered culpable (deserving blame)?”

Ethics and Religious Belief

  • Somehow the idea has arisen that ethics and religion are unrelated and incompatible. When religious thinkers discuss ethical issues in political policy, they are thought to be exceeding their reach and perhaps even committing an offense against the principle of separation of church and state.

Ethics and Religious Belief

  • How ironic that such a notion should arise at a time when popular culture no longer values the distinction between informed and uninformed opinion!

  • The notion is without historical basis. In fact an interesting case can be made for ethics having originated in religion.

Ethics and Religious Belief

  • G.K. Chesterton argued as follows:

  • Morality did not begin by one man saying to another, “I will not hit you if you do not hit me”; there is no trace of such a transaction. There is a trace of both men having said, “We must not hit each other in the holy place.” They gained their morality by guarding their religion. They did not cultivate courage. The fought for the shrine, and found they had become courageous. They did not cultivate cleanliness. They purified themselves for the altar, and found that they were clean.

Ethics and Religious Belief

  • Throughout our civilization’s history, religious thinkers have spoken to the larger society on moral issues, and society has generally profited from their guidance.

  • To be productive, ethical discourse must take place on common ground; using understanding and intellectual procedures and judgment criteria that all participants – Christians, Jews, Moslems, atheists, and others – affirm.

Ethics and Religious Belief

  • A focus on faith rather than reason can also prevent us from presenting the most persuasive ethical argument.

  • Some ethical questions cannot be adequately answered by reference to religious beliefs alone.

  • Religious ethics is the examination of moral situations from a particular religious perspective. In it, the religious doctrine is not a substitute for inquiry.

The Need For Ethics

  • Ethics fills and even more basic need in helping up interpret everyday human actions and decide what actions we approve in others and want to emulate ourselves.

  • It is a guide for living honorably.

Preliminary Guidelines

  • The basic problem you will encounter is the tendency to judge issues on the basis of preconception and bias rather than careful analysis.

  • The reasons for prejudging will vary – from traumatic experience to personal preference to simple opinion.

Preliminary Guidelines

  • The alternative to the closed mind is not the empty mind – even is we wished to set aside all our prior conclusions about human behavior and right and wrong we couldn’t.

  • The mind can not be manhandled (manipulated) this way. We can expect a flood of impressions and reactions will rush in on our thoughts when we consider a moral issue.

Preliminary Guidelines

  • It is not the fact of that flood that matters, nor its force. It is what we do to avoid having our judgment swept away by it.

  • Here are some suggestions:

  • Be aware of your first impressions. Note them carefully. Knowing the way your thinking inclines is the first step toward balancing it (if it needs balancing).

Preliminary Guidelines

  • Check to be sure you have all the relevant facts. If you do not have them get them.

  • Consider the various opinions on the issue and the arguments that have been (or could be) used to support them. The position that directly opposes your first impression is often the most helpful one to consider.

Preliminary Guidelines

  • Keep your thinking flexible. Do not feel obligated to your early ideas.

  • Express your judgment precisely and explain the reasoning that underlies it. It is too easy to say something you don’t mean, especially when the issue is both complex and controversial.

Making Discussion Meaningful

  • At its best, discussion deepens understanding and promotes problem solving and decision making.

  • At its worst, it frays nerves, creates animosity, and leaves important issues unresolved.

  • Here are simple guidelines for ensuring that the discussions you engage in will set a good example for those around you.

Making Discussion Meaningful

  • Whenever possible, prepare in advance.

  • Set reasonable expectations.

  • Leave egotism and personal agendas at the door.

  • Contribute but don’t dominate.

  • Avoid distracting speech mannerisms.

  • Listen actively.

  • Judge Ideas responsibly.

  • Resist the urge to shout or interrupt.

Making Discussion Meaningful
Whenever Possible, Prepare in Advance

  • Not every discussion can be prepared for in advance, but many can.

  • In college courses, the assignment schedule provides a reliable indication of what will be discussed in class on a given day.

  • Decide how to expand your knowledge and devote some time doing so.

  • Try to anticipate the different points of view that might be expressed in the discussion and consider the relative merits of each.

Making Discussion Meaningful
Set Reasonable Expectations

  • If you have ever left a discussion disappointed that others hadn’t changed their views or felt offended when someone disagreed with you; you probably expected too much.

  • People seldom change their minds easily or quickly, particularly in the case of long-held convictions.

Making Discussion Meaningful
Leave Egotism and Personal Agendas at the Door

  • To be productive, discussion requires an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility.

Egotism produces disrespectful attitudes toward others notably, “I’m more important than other people,” “My ideas are better than anyone else’s,” and “Rules don’t apply to me.”

Personal agendas can lead to personal attacks and an unwillingness to listen to others’ views.

Making Discussion Meaningful
Contribute But Don’t Dominate

  • Discussions tend to be most productive when everyone contributes ideas.

For this to happen, loquacious (excessive talker) people need to exercise a little restraint, and

More reserved people need to accept responsibility for sharing their thoughts.

Making Discussion Meaningful
Avoid Distracting Speech Mannerisms

  • Such mannerisms include;

Starting one sentence and then abruptly switching to another; mumbling or slurring your words; and punctuating every phrase or clause with audible pauses (“um,” “ah”) or meaningless expressions (“like,” “you know,” “man”). They distract from your message. Aim for clarity, directness, and few expressions.

Making Discussion Meaningful

Listen Actively

6. If the speaker says something you disagree with, you may begin framing a reply.

The best way to maintain your attention is to be alert for such distractions and to resist them. Strive to enter the speaker’s frame of mind, understanding each sentence as it is spoken and connecting it with previous sentences.

Making Discussion Meaningful

Judge Ideas Responsibly

  • Ideas range in quality from profound to ridiculous, helpful to harmful, ennobling to degrading. It is therefore appropriate to pass judgment on them.

Fairness demands that you base your judgment on thoughtful consideration of the overall strengths and weaknesses of the ideas, not on your initial impressions or feelings.

Making Discussion Meaningful

Resist the Urge to Shout or Interrupt

  • No doubt you understand that shouting and interrupting are rude and disrespectful behaviors, but do you realize that in many cases they are also a sign of intellectual insecurity? It’s true.

  • If you really believe your ideas are sound, you will have no need to raise your voice or to silence the other person. Make it your rule to disagree without being disagreeable.




The Role Of The Majority View

Chapter Two

  • What is a majority? Nothing more than 51 percent or more of the individuals in a group.

  • If we were to examine a particular majority and compare their individual thinking on a particular issue, what would we find? First, we would find that actual knowledge of the issue varied widely among the individuals.

The Role Of The Majority View
Chapter Two

Some would be well informed about all details. Others would be completely uninformed, yet unaware of their ignorance.

Some individuals would have read or listened to the views of authorities, sorted out irrelevancies, appraised each authority’s position in light of available evidence, and weighed all possible interpretations of the facts.

Others would have taken the ultimate shortcut and forgone all inquiry on the assumption that their intuition is infallible.

The Role Of The Majority View
Chapter Two

Finally some would have judged quite objectively, avoiding preconceived notions and prejudices, and being critical of all views, including those to which they were naturally disposed. Others would have been ruled by emotion, un-tempered by reason.

For this reason, know that there is no magic in majorities.
The Role of Feelings
Chapter Three

  • As we have seen, it is fashionable to believe that morality is subjective and personal . This means that whatever a person believes to be right or wrong is so for that person.

  • The conclusion that follows from this reasoning is that no one person’s view is preferable to another’s. One person’s sacred ritual may be the next person’s cardinal sin.


  • Two centuries ago French philosoher Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote,

  • “What I feel is right is right, what I feel is wrong is wrong.”

  • The child, in Rousseau’s view, is inherently good;

  • The only corrupting influence is society with it artificial constraints.

How Feelings Came to Be Emphasized

  • “Values Clarification” is a system that asserts that there is no universal, objective moral standard, that the only norm is that each person decides to value

  • It is the job of the educator to encourage students to decide for themselves and to remain completely nonjudgmental of the student’s choices.

Carl Rogers

  • “One of the basic things which I was a long time in realizing, and which I am still learning is that when an activity feels as though is is valuable or worth doing, it is worth doing.

  • Rogers’ goal in therapy was to persuade the client not only to “listen to feelings which he has always denied and repressed,”

Carl Rogers

  • Including feelings that have seemed “terrible” or “abnormal” or “shameful.” but also to affirm those feelings.

  • Rogers was convinced that the therapist should be totally accepting of whatever the client expressed and should show “an outgoing positive feeling without reservations, without evaluations.”

Carl Rogers

  • The “only question that matters” for a healthy person, he maintained, is, “am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me”?

  • Pleasing others or meeting external, objective standards of behavior – such as the moral code of one’s society or religion – have no role in Rogers’ process.

Carl Rogers

  • Rogers’ impact on American thought, and on Western thought in general, has been profound.

  • Together with his associate, William Coulson, Rogers developed and successfully implemented a plan to promote his value-free, nonjudgmental, nondirective approach in the teaching of both psychological

Carl Rogers

  • … counseling and ethics.

  • Coulson later renounced the approach, claiming that it ruined lives and harmed society.

  • Subsequently, two generations of psychologists, guidance counselors, student personnel staff in colleges, social workers, and even members of the clergy were trained in his method

Carl Rogers

  • And proceeded in good faith to counsel millions of people to follow their feelings.

  • The idea has been most enthusiastically embraced by the entertainment industry, which has made it a central theme of movies and television programs.


  • In the space of a few decades feelings have become the dominate ethical standard.

  • In recent years a number of psychologists have addressed this error.

  • William J. Doherty, a therapist and professor of psychology, argues that “it is time for psychotherapists to stop trying to talk people out of their moral sense

William J. Doherty

  • “I don’t believe that all moral beliefs are created equal. The moral consensus of the world’s major religions around the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have others do unto you

  • – is a far better guide to moral living than the reflexive morality of self-interest in mainstream American society.”

Are Feelings Reliable?

  • Can feelings be trusted to guide human behavior?

  • …some feelings, desires, and preferences are admirable and therefore make excellent guides.

  • Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and countless other caring people the world over, are moved by love of neighbor to make the world a little better.

Are Feelings Reliable…

  • Honesty, demands acknowledgment of the other aspect of feelings.

  • When Hilter exterminated more than six million Jews and Staling massacred 30 million Russian peasants, they were following their feelings.

  • In this case, Rousseau’s and Rogers’ idea to be unreasonable.

ABetter Guide Is Needed

  • When we are thinking clearly and being honest with ourselves, we realize that there is a potential in each of us for noble actions of high purpose and honor;

  • But there is also a potential for great mischief and wickedness.

Subjective Behavior

  • “Whatever the person prefers to do is right to do” is hollow. Good sense suggest that the right action may be at odds with the individual’s preference.

  • Ironically, morality by feelings completely ignores other people’s feelings.

Subjective Behavior….

  • To say that we should be free to do as we wish without regard for others is to say that others should be free to do as they wish without regard for us.

  • If such a rule were followed, the result would be social chaos.

  • Since our feelings, desires, and preferences can be either beneficial or harmful, noble or ignoble, praiseworthy

Subjective Behavior…..

  • Or damnable, and since they can be either in harmony or in conflict with other people’s feelings, desires, and preferences, they are obviously not accurate criteria for analysis of moral issues or trustworthy guidelines to action.

  • Feelings, desires, and preferences need to be evaluated and judged.

Feelings, Desires, & Preferences…

  • They need to be measured against some impartial standard that will reveal their quality.

  • To make them the basis of our moral decisions is to ignore those needs and to accept them uncritically as the measure of their own worth.


The Role of Conscience
The Role of Conscience
Chapter Four

  • The term conscience is so common and often so carelessly used, that for many people it has little meaning.

  • Precisely what is a conscience?

  • Does everybody have one or are some people born without one?

  • Are all consciences “created equal”?

  • Are our consciences influenced by the attitudes and values of our culture?

The Role of Conscience….

  • Can we do anything to develop our consciences, or are they fixed and unchangeable?

  • These important issues must be considered before we can decide whether conscience is a reliable moral guide.

The Role of Conscience….

  • Philosophers have disagreed in their definitions of conscience.

  • Some have defined it as the voice of God speaking directly to the individual soul.

  • The problem with this definition is that in cases where conscience does not inform a person that an act is wrong (or mis-informs the person),

The Role of Conscience….

  • …the implications is that God has failed that person. Such an idea is unacceptable to religious people.

  • Others have defined conscience as a mirror of custom, a mere reflection of what our culture has taught us.

  • This definition also creates problems: It leaves unexplained those cases in which conscience directs us to defy custom.

The Role of Conscience…

  • Still others have argued that conscience is a special sense, a moral sense, that is innate in human beings.

  • This may come closest to being a workable definition, but it also poses difficulties that must not be overlooked. The term sense usually suggests developed faculties associated with organs; sight, hearing, etc.

The Role of Conscience….

  • Conscience cannot be that kind of sense… we are not talking of any physical condition.

  • Conscience may be defined as the faculty by which we determine that we are guilty of a moral offense.

Conscience and Shame

  • We know our conscience has judged us harshly when we feel a sense of shame

  • Shame:”the painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonouring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one’s own conduct or circumstances…”

  • …an emotion totally without redeeming value that is responsible for a broad

Conscience and Shame….

  • …range of psychological disorders, including depression, addiction, sexual dysfunction, and emotional problems linked to gender, age, and race…

  • Think back to a time in childhood when you felt ashamed of something you said or did, such as being disrespectful to a parent or a teacher…

Conscience and Shame….

  • If your shame prompted you to apologize, or at least to do the person a kindness to make up for the wrong, your self-respect was restored.

  • Feeling bad about yourself was a necessary step toward feeling good about yourself again.

Individual Differences

  • …the intensity of conscience differs from person to person.

  • Some people are very sensitive to the effects of their actions, acutely aware when they have done wrong.

  • Others are relatively insensitive, unconscious of their offenses, free from feelings of remorse.

Individual Differences

  • Some see right and wrong as applying to only a limited number of matters…

  • Still others were at one time morally sensitive, but have succeeded in neutralizing the promptings of conscience.

Individual Differences….

The Shapers of Conscience

  • Many people have the vague notion that their consciences are solely a product of their own intellectual efforts, without outside influence.

  • The thought that one’s life is and has always been completely under one’s control is very reassuring. In any case, the notion is wrong.

The Shapers of Conscience….

  • Conscience is shaped by two forces that are essentially outside our control – Natural endowment and social conditioning. – and one that is, in some measure, within our control – moral choice.

  • The specific attibutes of our conscience including its sensitivity to moral issues and the degree of its influence on our behavior…

Natural Endowment

  • A person’s basic temperament and level and kind of intelligence are largely “in the genes.”

  • Both temperament and intelligence play a considerable role in shaping the total personality.

  • The person with practical intelligence and the person with philosophic intelligence will not have the same potential for ethical analysis or the same potential for perceptiveness in moral issues.

Social Conditioning….

  • Conditioning is the most neglected shaper of conscience. is in many ways the most important.

  • Conditioning may be defined as the myriad effects of our environment; the people, places, institutions, ideas and values we are exposed to as we grow and develop.

Social Conditioning….

  • We are conditioned first by our early social and religious training from parents.

  • This influence may be partly conscious and partly unconscious on their part, and indirect as well as direct.

  • It is so pervasive that all our later attitudes-political, economic, sociological, psychological, theological –in some way bear its imprint.

Social Conditioning….

  • If children are brought up in an ethnocentric (favoring one’s own ethnic group) environment, that is one in which the group (race, nationality, culture, or special value system) believes it is superior to others

  • … will tend to be less tolerant than other people.

Social Conditioning…..

  • If they cannot identify with a group, they must oppose it.

  • In addition, they will tend to need an “out group,” some outsiders whom they can blame for real and imagined wrongs.

  • This makes it difficult or impossible for them to identify with humanity as a whole or to achieve undistorted understanding of others.

Social Conditioning…..

  • We are also conditioned by our encounters with brothers, sisters, relatives, friends.

  • We imitate others’ strategies for justifying questionable behavior.

  • We are conditioned by our experiences in grade school, by our widening circle of acquaintances, and perhaps by our beginning contact with institutional religion.

Social Conditioning….

  • All these situations...that affects un in dramatic, though subconscious, ways. Though memory may cloud, experience remains indelible (not capable of being removed).

  • We are then conditioned by our contact with people, places, and ideas through books, radio, newspapers, magazines, tapes and CDs (music) and especially television programming.

Social Conditioning….

  • What we see and hear makes an impact on our attitudes and values, sometimes blatantly, sometimes subtly (hardly noticeable).

  • Situation comedies instruct us as to what may appropriately be laughed at and or ridiculed. Soap operas and dramatic programs train our enotions to respond favorably or unfavorably to different behaviors.

Social Conditioning

  • Commercials tell us what possession and living styles will make up happy and are desirable.

  • As the entertainment and communications media have grown more numerous and more sophisticated, the number of individuals and groups involved in social conditioning has multiplied, and their messages are often at odds with home and church and school.

A Balanced View of Conscience

  • The conscience is not an infallible moral guide.

  • Conscience is the most important single guide to right and wrong and individual can have.

  • …when circumstances demand an immediate moral choice, we should follow our conscience.


Comparing Cultures
Chapter Five

  • Before continuing our search for a dependable standard of ethical judgment, it will be useful to consider the issue of whether moral judgments are ever appropriate outside one’s own culture.

  • Contemporary scholarly discussion of cultures and subcultures is significantly affected by the social movement known as multiculturism.

Comparing Cultures….

  • Among the central tenets of this movement are that every race or ethnic group has its own values and characteristic behaviors, that no group’s values are any better or worse than any other’s and that criticism of another culture’s ideas and actions is wrong.

Comparing Cultures….

  • Cultures differ in their ideas about right and wrong, and the differences are not always slight.

  • Sex before marriage has been generally viewed as immoral in the West.

  • Yet in some island cultures, it is encouraged.

Interpreting the Differences

  • Cultural relativity, derives from observation of cultural differences and two important realizations:

  • 1) that a culture’s values, rituals, and customs reflect its geography, history, and socioeconomic circumstances and

  • 2) that hasty or facile comparison of other cultures with one’s own culture tends to thwart scholarly analysis and produce shallow or erroneous conclusions.

Interpreting the Differences….

  • In themselves these realizations are truisms (undoubted or self-evident truths); no reasonable person would deny that a people’s experience influences its beliefs and behaviors or that careful, objective thinking is preferable to careless, biased thinking.

Interpreting the Differences…

The question?

  • Is it possible for a custom or habit within a culture to be long-standing and completely consistent with other behaviors of the group – yet at the same time be immoral?

  • Remember, the differing values among cultures with consideration of similarities.

The Similarity or Values

  • Christianity is not unique in affirming the importance of keeping a pure and honest mind; early Buddhism (Dhammapada), begins with these words:

The Similarity or Values…

The Similarity or Values

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