Perspectives on Ethics
Reaction Paper on A Practical Companion to Ethics
This is the Reaction Paper on the textbook A Practical Companion to Ethics by Anthony Weston. In this paper I will discuss my reaction to the textbook A Practical Companion to Ethics, by Anthony Weston. As there are five chapters in the book, I will cover the text in five sections, one section per chapter.
The first chapter of the text is entitled “Getting Started.” This chapter discusses the basic tenets of ethics and introduces us to the terminology we need to know in order to discuss it. The chapter starts out with a discussion of what Ethics actually is. To do this, it also states what Ethics is not. Ethics is not morals. It is, however the study of morals as well as an analytical thought process that allows us to develop our morals and values as well as to coherently defend them in a discussion. Toward this end, the text asks us to change our attitude and our actions in several ways. First, it asks us to think about situations instead of just responding based on our feelings. It asks us to not rationalize, but to use valid logic to think about or morals and values. Finally, it asks us to think critically about our own morals and values instead of just thinking of them as being set in stone.
The second chapter of the text is entitled “Thinking for Yourself.” This is a philosophy that I wholeheartedly agree with. The text makes the point that we cannot fail to make decisions. I believe this is correct. Even deciding not to make a decision or follow the crowd is a decision. The chapter discusses the appeals to authority that each of us makes those to social norms, those to authority and those to God. The text goes into the most depth about appeals to God. I believe this is a good example and one that most people can identify with. Even those who do not believe in God are effected by other’s beliefs in a higher power. For example, the recent case of the Judge who was suspended for failing to remove a monument with the 10 commandments from government property. For him, this was a case of religious persecution. For an atheist, however, it may have been a case of being able to live their live without the influence of another’s religion. Even if we choose to follow the rules of God or society, this is a choice. It does not negate us of our personal ethical responsibility.
The third chapter of the text is entitled “Creative Problem-Solving in Ethics.” This chapter deals with ways to find new options to solve ethical problems using creativity. The part on expanding options uses many of the methods that I have learned in my Project Management training such as brainstorming and free association. I was most interested in the part on reframing the problem. Looking for opportunities in problems is not a new idea, but it is an often forgotten one. Thinking preventatively also seems to be a new trend. More and more businesses are looking at preventing problems instead of dealing with them as they are solved. For instance, companies such as Motorola have introduced 6-sigma training to prevent product flaws. These flaws would normally either cost the company money to fix, or cost them customer goodwill if they refused to fix them. The moral dilemma is almost completely eliminated when the company puts processes in place to make sure their products are 99.99997% defect free. With luck and training, maybe many of today’s ethical problems can be eliminated through creativity.
The forth chapter of the text is entitled “Don’t Polarize — Connect.” This chapter discusses the tendency to make moral dilemmas into black and white, two sided constructs. This makes it easier for us to choose and make our point of view seem right and the other point of view wrong. The text suggests that we use strategies to integrate our values with those of others. For instance, if our values are very different from those of another we can often find a compromise that will work for both. We can examine different values to find ways in which they are compatible instead of seeing them as being completely divisive. We can also work from the common ground of shared values. For example, people who are for and against gun control both value safety. They just believe in different ways to get it.
The fifth chapter of the text is entitled “Ethics with a Heart.” This chapter discusses the tendency for people to be closed-hearted. This is taken to mean that one sees others as less important or not as completely human as oneself. It is easy to be closed off when you spend much of the time being self-centered. It is not as easy when you constantly think about others and the way in which you affect them. One of the strategies in the text was to be mindful. Being fully in the moment and aware of your actions can help you to treat others in ways in which we would like to be treated. In other words, it helps us to treat them like human beings.
I liked this text book very much. It was short, concise and filled with interesting examples and parables. The issues and controversies discussed such as racism, sexism, homosexuality, and ecological responsibility were current and applicable to today’s society. It not only showed us what ethics was, but how to study ethics, how to learn from those who disagree with us, and to get along with them. Finally, it taught us strategies for being a better person through ethical thinking. I believe it was an excellent book for an introduction to Social Ethics.