How To Make Moral And Ethical Decisions - A Guide by Norman W. Wilson

EXTRACT FOR
How To Make Moral And Ethical Decisions - A Guide

(Norman W. Wilson)


PREFACE

How to Make Moral and Ethical Decisions will not make you a more ethical person. You are either ethical or you are not. It is the intent of this text, however, to provide you opportunities to practice making ethical decisions based on standard ethical traditions. While it is necessary to recognize that no single theory provides all the answers to your moral questions, it is equally important that you recognize that each has important truths to contribute to your moral decision-making processes. It is to that end that I direct the focus of this book. Not provided is a history of ethical systems.
Explored are several of the major Western and Eastern ethical systems, which raise questions about moral behavior. You are to arrive at your own answers based on those theories. The text material provides multiple case studies as a backdrop for your practice in making moral decisions. Contemporary issues such as rape, abortion, child sexual molestation, assisted suicide, environmental concerns, medical issues, and sexual preference all come into play as a moral dilemma.
Raised for your consideration are many provocative questions: Is it ever right to lie? Does a woman have the right to her dead husbandís sperm? Does that donated sperm make that child legitimate or illegitimate? Should you stop the suffering of another by helping her or him to die? If you do, are you a murderer? Should you keep your word, always? Is there such a thing as universal morality? Where do morals come from? Finally, the ultimate question; after all, why be moral?
The traditional theories of Consequentialism and non-Consequentialism, as well as the contemporary theories of objectivism, humanitarian ethics, and idealist ethics, are basic to your understanding of moral dilemma. Because moral decision-making does not take place in isolation the presentations of theories are in a setting of application, consequently, the ďInteractivesĒ require individual participation. Ethics is a participatory experience.
I am most grateful to my many students who have so graciously allowed me to experiment on them in the design of the material for this text. Their insights have been most helpful and inspiring.

Norman W. Wilson, Ph.D.
2021


CHAPTER ONE
GETTING STARTED

Do you feel you always get into trouble because you make the wrong decision? Could it be that you simply do not know the processes involved in making good moral and ethical decisions? Decisions of any kind require an understanding of certain fundamental or basic information. Do you go out and buy a car without first knowing something about it? Do you marry someone without first knowing something about that individual? Do you play a sport without learning the rules of the game? Of course, you donít! Then why do you think you can make ethical and moral decisions without knowing something about ethics and morality? Oh, sure, you know the Commandment "Thou shall not steal" but taking home an extra note pad from the office where you work isnít stealing, is it? Nor is taking a sample or two from the open bins of candy at the grocery store, right? And itís certainly okay to taste a couple of the grapes even if you are not buying them? Wrong! It is not acceptable ethically or morally to take that which is not yours no matter its material value.
The significance of material value came home to me several years ago while I was teaching in the public sector. In a freshman English class, we were discussing William Saroyanís short story, "The Parsley Garden" in which a little boy stole a ten-cent hammer. My students thought making him work all day to pay for it was not right because the hammer wasnít worth at least five dollars. In their minds, he had not stolen anything of real value. It had no significant intrinsic value; therefore, it was not wrong. Like the woman who samples the candy in the open bins at the grocery store or pinches a couple of grapes, these young people didnít know the process in making a moral judgment. You may feel that since the hammer, candy, or grapes werenít worth very much there isnít a problem. Besides, the store can well afford a few free samples. "Big deal!" you say. Not so fast with that rationalization for inappropriate behavior.
In this chapter, I will discuss where morals come from, why you should be moral, and present some of the views on ethical behavior held by several philosophers. Also, there will be opportunities for you to practice your moral decision-making based on what these philosophers have had to say.
Where do morals come from? Arenít they just a set of rules that tell you not to do certain things? Donít rules change and doesnít it all come down to what the situation really is, anyway? Let me begin with a mild probe into your memories. Go back to your early childhood. In those memories, is there a conversation similar to this one?

Mother: "Let Sally play with one of your toys. Itís not nice to be selfish."
Child: "Why?"
Mother: "Because I said so!"

If so, it was at that point that you began to learn it was a right behavior to share with others. Second, you also began to learn there is an authority you did not question. This demonstrates just one of the many moral lessons you learned from your parent(s) and or other family members. Gradually, the religious convictions and beliefs of your family group provided further moral lessons in right behavior. In the Christian religion for example, "The Ten Commandments" offer rules of behavior. "Love your neighbor as yourself," and "Do to others as you would have them do to you: are examples of two prominent Christian commands of behavior. The society, culture, or subculture in which you live provides you with moral edicts. Issues of equal rights and the treatment of minorities derive their base in social customs and traditions.

Influences on your moral and ethical beliefs:

Parents and Family
Religion
Society
Peers

Certainly, your peers influence and help shape your moral choices and actions. Even a simple statement as "everybodyís going" may have right and wrong choice implications.

An issue may become a moral issue if the choices and actions you take affect any of these:

The well being of other human beings
Your own person
The well-being of animal and plant life.

Finally, the laws under which you live form a significant base for your behavior. It is wrong to take another human beingís life. Exceptions are justifiable homicide and war.1 Even here, not everyone agrees. Some oppose the legal execution of convicted criminals. Others believe war is wrong and refuse to participate in any military activity. Are there other origins for morality? Some modern writers suggest that literature, film, and television influence, and help shape moral behavior. Can you think of a literary piece, a film, or a television program that has had a profound effect on what you believe? Do programs such a "Sesame Street" or "Beavis and Butthead" tend to present moral values? Some critics think so. What do you think? If such programs do present a moral influence should they. Is this an ethical issue itself? What about the admissions by the federal government that it helped finance certain television shows that were anti-drug or anti-smoking?
What makes an issue a moral issue? Your choices and actions that affect the well-being of others may make an issue a moral one. If those actions and choices produce a negative effect on another human being then you have a moral or ethical issue. However, what if what you did creates a problem for another and you didnít mean it to be that way or that what you did, created a problem for another and you didnít know your actions would produce that negative consequence? Are you still responsible for that immoral or unethical act? Why canít you just do your own thing? Is the slogan "If it feels good, do it" morally acceptable? These are perplexing questions, to say the least. One of the early lessons you learned from your parent(s) or other family members was that if you treated others morally they, in turn, treated you morally. Letís continue the previous conversation between a mother and her daughter.

Child: "Why do I have to share my toys? Theyíre mine."
Mother: If you donít let Sally play with some of your toys she may not let you play with any of her toys."

You were taught that sharing was good. It was good because it might result in something favorable for you. This leads me to a second reason for being moral and itís closely allied with the first. You treat others poorly, they will not be cooperative, and you may not gain what you want. You are better able to get what you want when you help others get what they want. If you are a Christian, you are familiar with their "Do to others, as you would have them do to you." The final reason for being moral and ethical is that it is ultimately self-defeating if you are not. The fact that it is useful summarizes the bottom line in terms of moral behavior. Of the five branches of philosophy, ethics is the one that deals specifically with how human beings treat each other. The remaining four branches are Metaphysics (the study of existence, reality), Epistemology (the study of knowledge), Aesthetics (the study of the principles of beauty), and Politics (the study of those behaviors in the area of the cultural situation). I should mention at this point that all religious systems are ethical and philosophical but not all ethical and philosophical systems are religious. The words ethics and morals are interchangeable. Some may not agree with this particular designation and may indicate a separate distinction between business ethics, for example, and morality. I address this later.
The notion that one behaves in a certain way because it may be useful may not set well with some of you. However, the very idea of usefulness brings me to one of the profound thinkers of the eighteenth century, David Hume.


DAVID HUME (1711-1776)

Hume, a Scottish philosopher, and historian had a profound effect on moral thought. He left Edinburgh University at the age of fifteen to begin an intensive independent study. From this came his complete philosophy, A Treatise of Human Nature, published when he was twenty-eight years old. His other works include Philosophical Essays Concerning the Human Understanding, and An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

Hume is a transitional figureĖa bridge between the common-sense school of morality and utilitarianism. Yet, what he proposes should not be considered a "moral theory" that prescribes a set of acceptable behaviors. Instead, he presents you with a scientific description. He noted that human beings make moral judgments all of the time. His question is how do human beings learn to make moral judgments, that is, how do they determine that something is good or bad? I have already alluded to one answer to that question; however, Hume offers a somewhat different point of view in answering his own questions especially "How did morality arise?" For Hume, moral judgments are in your sentiments, specifically in sentiments of approbation, that is, feelings of approval. He states that you can feel a distinction between passions of anger and moral approval or disapproval. Moral approval occurs when you see an action as good and moral; disapproval occurs when you view an action as bad or immoral. Hume believed that moral judgments are not the result of some abstract or rational interpretation or proof. In support of his position, Hume offers the following arguments:
All moral judgments are temporally preceded and conjoined by a sentiment of approval. Hume is simply saying that when you see something as being good, you feel good about it before you actually say it is good.
One always finds a sentiment of approval upon perceiving good actions, disapproval upon perceiving bad actions. The distinctive character of this feeling of approval or disapproval is that it is aroused only by and in human beings.
Moral judgments cannot be based on rational deliberations. Here Hume is telling you that your personal feelings are projected upon whomever or whatever you approve or disapprove.
Hume makes important distinctions between judgments of fact and judgments of value. Judgments of fact, like judgments concerning the relations of ideas, can be true or false. However, judgments of taste and morals cannot.2 Humeís position on morality may be divided into three headings, which serve as a summary.

Reason alone cannot decide moral questions
Moral sentiment decides moral questions
Moral sentiment is actuated only by what is either pleasant or useful

Humeís theory applies to all moral judgments, but there is an important distinction between "natural virtues" and what he calls "artificial virtues." Beneficence and generosity are natural virtues whereas justice is an artificial virtue. He further suggests that if there was enough of everything to go around for everybody and if there were less greed and envy, there would be no need for justice. Since, however, the real world is not this way, society needs to develop rules that each human being should observe. Justice is such a rule and is, therefore, an artificial virtue. Look at it this way. There are natural leathers from animals (natural virtues) and manufactured leathers (artificial virtues). Both have their value and are important.
According to Hume, moral decisions sometimes produce actions and sometimes prevent actions. Finally, Hume leaves you with this bit of wisdom. He says that moral behavior is not an onerous dutyĖit is the best part of life. That is so because morality is its own reward. It is naturally pleasant to be moral.
How then, do you evaluate moral issues? Do you base the evaluation on sentiment? You make judgments as to whether something or someone is good or bad. You evaluate actions as bad, right, or wrong. What happens in these evaluative modes of experiencing? Examine the following scenario.
You are out for an evening walk. As you, pass an apartment building, you notice that the glass sliding doors of the ground-floor apartment are open. A man, dressed in dark clothing and a mask, is sneaking into the main room. There you see a young woman, apparently asleep, on a couch. The man pulls a knife, places it against her throat as she awakens.
Would you judge this man as bad? Most of you would agree that he is bad and should be caught and punished. If you feel this way, you have made a moral judgment based on an individualís actions. Do you ever judge a person as good or bad based on appearances? What if this scenario is actually a staged scene for a film for a crime prevention-training program? You would have felt silly if you had barged in and found it to be a movie set.
Appearances can be deceiving. Basing your moral judgments on appearances may lead to poor or wrong conclusions and ultimately poor decisions. Generally, however, most moral evaluations are based on an individualís actions. To know whether someone is good or bad you first must know what actions are morally acceptable or required or are unacceptable. It is now appropriate that you consider the kinds of actions. Examine this list of actions and decide which you feel are immoral.

1. Tom slips his little brother
two joints of marijuana.
2. Sarah copies her friendís proposal for a new ad campaign and submits it as her own.
3. John told his girlfriend he had to work late and couldnít keep his date with her when actuality had a date with another woman.
4. Jean sold the young man a six-pack of beer, knowing he was not of legal age.
5. Even though he was in the office, Alex told his secretary to say he was out of town when Mr. Jones called.

Making moral judgments about the above situations involves making judgments about actions. When moral judgments about kinds of actions are made moral, principles are involved. In the first example, it is wrong for Tom to give marijuana to his little brother. The moral principle involved may be stated as "giving illegal drugs to children is wrong."
The following may seem somewhat confusing; nevertheless, the point is a very important one in understanding the concept of moral judgment. If you say, it is wrong for Tom to give marijuana to his little bother you have made a moral judgment. To claim that it is wrong to give illegal drugs to children is a moral principle rather than a moral judgment. It is the principle that you use to make your moral judgments about certain types of actions. The moral issue raises the question; the moral principle answers it. Using my first example, the situation may be set up in this way.

Moral Issue: Should one give marijuana to children? (The question)
Moral Principle: One should not give illegal drugs to children. (The answer)

INTERACTIVE ONE
Directions:
Using the two statements above, write the moral issue and the moral principle for each. Check your statements with those provided at the end of the chapter.

1Most states provide laws governing what constitutes justifiable homicide. An abused spouse, who kills her abuser in self-defense, depending on the situation, serves as an example.
2 Hume goes on to say that, judgments of fact, as judgments concerning relations of ideas, are inactive; that is, they can never, by themselves, produce or prevent any action. On the other hand, judgments of value can do so. Reason, supplies the motive; it tells you to seek what you desire.

How To Make Moral And Ethical Decisions - A Guide by Norman W. Wilson

EXTRACT FOR
How To Make Moral And Ethical Decisions - A Guide

(Norman W. Wilson)


PREFACE

How to Make Moral and Ethical Decisions will not make you a more ethical person. You are either ethical or you are not. It is the intent of this text, however, to provide you opportunities to practice making ethical decisions based on standard ethical traditions. While it is necessary to recognize that no single theory provides all the answers to your moral questions, it is equally important that you recognize that each has important truths to contribute to your moral decision-making processes. It is to that end that I direct the focus of this book. Not provided is a history of ethical systems.
Explored are several of the major Western and Eastern ethical systems, which raise questions about moral behavior. You are to arrive at your own answers based on those theories. The text material provides multiple case studies as a backdrop for your practice in making moral decisions. Contemporary issues such as rape, abortion, child sexual molestation, assisted suicide, environmental concerns, medical issues, and sexual preference all come into play as a moral dilemma.
Raised for your consideration are many provocative questions: Is it ever right to lie? Does a woman have the right to her dead husbandís sperm? Does that donated sperm make that child legitimate or illegitimate? Should you stop the suffering of another by helping her or him to die? If you do, are you a murderer? Should you keep your word, always? Is there such a thing as universal morality? Where do morals come from? Finally, the ultimate question; after all, why be moral?
The traditional theories of Consequentialism and non-Consequentialism, as well as the contemporary theories of objectivism, humanitarian ethics, and idealist ethics, are basic to your understanding of moral dilemma. Because moral decision-making does not take place in isolation the presentations of theories are in a setting of application, consequently, the ďInteractivesĒ require individual participation. Ethics is a participatory experience.
I am most grateful to my many students who have so graciously allowed me to experiment on them in the design of the material for this text. Their insights have been most helpful and inspiring.

Norman W. Wilson, Ph.D.
2021


CHAPTER ONE
GETTING STARTED

Do you feel you always get into trouble because you make the wrong decision? Could it be that you simply do not know the processes involved in making good moral and ethical decisions? Decisions of any kind require an understanding of certain fundamental or basic information. Do you go out and buy a car without first knowing something about it? Do you marry someone without first knowing something about that individual? Do you play a sport without learning the rules of the game? Of course, you donít! Then why do you think you can make ethical and moral decisions without knowing something about ethics and morality? Oh, sure, you know the Commandment "Thou shall not steal" but taking home an extra note pad from the office where you work isnít stealing, is it? Nor is taking a sample or two from the open bins of candy at the grocery store, right? And itís certainly okay to taste a couple of the grapes even if you are not buying them? Wrong! It is not acceptable ethically or morally to take that which is not yours no matter its material value.
The significance of material value came home to me several years ago while I was teaching in the public sector. In a freshman English class, we were discussing William Saroyanís short story, "The Parsley Garden" in which a little boy stole a ten-cent hammer. My students thought making him work all day to pay for it was not right because the hammer wasnít worth at least five dollars. In their minds, he had not stolen anything of real value. It had no significant intrinsic value; therefore, it was not wrong. Like the woman who samples the candy in the open bins at the grocery store or pinches a couple of grapes, these young people didnít know the process in making a moral judgment. You may feel that since the hammer, candy, or grapes werenít worth very much there isnít a problem. Besides, the store can well afford a few free samples. "Big deal!" you say. Not so fast with that rationalization for inappropriate behavior.
In this chapter, I will discuss where morals come from, why you should be moral, and present some of the views on ethical behavior held by several philosophers. Also, there will be opportunities for you to practice your moral decision-making based on what these philosophers have had to say.
Where do morals come from? Arenít they just a set of rules that tell you not to do certain things? Donít rules change and doesnít it all come down to what the situation really is, anyway? Let me begin with a mild probe into your memories. Go back to your early childhood. In those memories, is there a conversation similar to this one?

Mother: "Let Sally play with one of your toys. Itís not nice to be selfish."
Child: "Why?"
Mother: "Because I said so!"

If so, it was at that point that you began to learn it was a right behavior to share with others. Second, you also began to learn there is an authority you did not question. This demonstrates just one of the many moral lessons you learned from your parent(s) and or other family members. Gradually, the religious convictions and beliefs of your family group provided further moral lessons in right behavior. In the Christian religion for example, "The Ten Commandments" offer rules of behavior. "Love your neighbor as yourself," and "Do to others as you would have them do to you: are examples of two prominent Christian commands of behavior. The society, culture, or subculture in which you live provides you with moral edicts. Issues of equal rights and the treatment of minorities derive their base in social customs and traditions.

Influences on your moral and ethical beliefs:

Parents and Family
Religion
Society
Peers

Certainly, your peers influence and help shape your moral choices and actions. Even a simple statement as "everybodyís going" may have right and wrong choice implications.

An issue may become a moral issue if the choices and actions you take affect any of these:

The well being of other human beings
Your own person
The well-being of animal and plant life.

Finally, the laws under which you live form a significant base for your behavior. It is wrong to take another human beingís life. Exceptions are justifiable homicide and war.1 Even here, not everyone agrees. Some oppose the legal execution of convicted criminals. Others believe war is wrong and refuse to participate in any military activity. Are there other origins for morality? Some modern writers suggest that literature, film, and television influence, and help shape moral behavior. Can you think of a literary piece, a film, or a television program that has had a profound effect on what you believe? Do programs such a "Sesame Street" or "Beavis and Butthead" tend to present moral values? Some critics think so. What do you think? If such programs do present a moral influence should they. Is this an ethical issue itself? What about the admissions by the federal government that it helped finance certain television shows that were anti-drug or anti-smoking?
What makes an issue a moral issue? Your choices and actions that affect the well-being of others may make an issue a moral one. If those actions and choices produce a negative effect on another human being then you have a moral or ethical issue. However, what if what you did creates a problem for another and you didnít mean it to be that way or that what you did, created a problem for another and you didnít know your actions would produce that negative consequence? Are you still responsible for that immoral or unethical act? Why canít you just do your own thing? Is the slogan "If it feels good, do it" morally acceptable? These are perplexing questions, to say the least. One of the early lessons you learned from your parent(s) or other family members was that if you treated others morally they, in turn, treated you morally. Letís continue the previous conversation between a mother and her daughter.

Child: "Why do I have to share my toys? Theyíre mine."
Mother: If you donít let Sally play with some of your toys she may not let you play with any of her toys."

You were taught that sharing was good. It was good because it might result in something favorable for you. This leads me to a second reason for being moral and itís closely allied with the first. You treat others poorly, they will not be cooperative, and you may not gain what you want. You are better able to get what you want when you help others get what they want. If you are a Christian, you are familiar with their "Do to others, as you would have them do to you." The final reason for being moral and ethical is that it is ultimately self-defeating if you are not. The fact that it is useful summarizes the bottom line in terms of moral behavior. Of the five branches of philosophy, ethics is the one that deals specifically with how human beings treat each other. The remaining four branches are Metaphysics (the study of existence, reality), Epistemology (the study of knowledge), Aesthetics (the study of the principles of beauty), and Politics (the study of those behaviors in the area of the cultural situation). I should mention at this point that all religious systems are ethical and philosophical but not all ethical and philosophical systems are religious. The words ethics and morals are interchangeable. Some may not agree with this particular designation and may indicate a separate distinction between business ethics, for example, and morality. I address this later.
The notion that one behaves in a certain way because it may be useful may not set well with some of you. However, the very idea of usefulness brings me to one of the profound thinkers of the eighteenth century, David Hume.


DAVID HUME (1711-1776)

Hume, a Scottish philosopher, and historian had a profound effect on moral thought. He left Edinburgh University at the age of fifteen to begin an intensive independent study. From this came his complete philosophy, A Treatise of Human Nature, published when he was twenty-eight years old. His other works include Philosophical Essays Concerning the Human Understanding, and An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

Hume is a transitional figureĖa bridge between the common-sense school of morality and utilitarianism. Yet, what he proposes should not be considered a "moral theory" that prescribes a set of acceptable behaviors. Instead, he presents you with a scientific description. He noted that human beings make moral judgments all of the time. His question is how do human beings learn to make moral judgments, that is, how do they determine that something is good or bad? I have already alluded to one answer to that question; however, Hume offers a somewhat different point of view in answering his own questions especially "How did morality arise?" For Hume, moral judgments are in your sentiments, specifically in sentiments of approbation, that is, feelings of approval. He states that you can feel a distinction between passions of anger and moral approval or disapproval. Moral approval occurs when you see an action as good and moral; disapproval occurs when you view an action as bad or immoral. Hume believed that moral judgments are not the result of some abstract or rational interpretation or proof. In support of his position, Hume offers the following arguments:
All moral judgments are temporally preceded and conjoined by a sentiment of approval. Hume is simply saying that when you see something as being good, you feel good about it before you actually say it is good.
One always finds a sentiment of approval upon perceiving good actions, disapproval upon perceiving bad actions. The distinctive character of this feeling of approval or disapproval is that it is aroused only by and in human beings.
Moral judgments cannot be based on rational deliberations. Here Hume is telling you that your personal feelings are projected upon whomever or whatever you approve or disapprove.
Hume makes important distinctions between judgments of fact and judgments of value. Judgments of fact, like judgments concerning the relations of ideas, can be true or false. However, judgments of taste and morals cannot.2 Humeís position on morality may be divided into three headings, which serve as a summary.

Reason alone cannot decide moral questions
Moral sentiment decides moral questions
Moral sentiment is actuated only by what is either pleasant or useful

Humeís theory applies to all moral judgments, but there is an important distinction between "natural virtues" and what he calls "artificial virtues." Beneficence and generosity are natural virtues whereas justice is an artificial virtue. He further suggests that if there was enough of everything to go around for everybody and if there were less greed and envy, there would be no need for justice. Since, however, the real world is not this way, society needs to develop rules that each human being should observe. Justice is such a rule and is, therefore, an artificial virtue. Look at it this way. There are natural leathers from animals (natural virtues) and manufactured leathers (artificial virtues). Both have their value and are important.
According to Hume, moral decisions sometimes produce actions and sometimes prevent actions. Finally, Hume leaves you with this bit of wisdom. He says that moral behavior is not an onerous dutyĖit is the best part of life. That is so because morality is its own reward. It is naturally pleasant to be moral.
How then, do you evaluate moral issues? Do you base the evaluation on sentiment? You make judgments as to whether something or someone is good or bad. You evaluate actions as bad, right, or wrong. What happens in these evaluative modes of experiencing? Examine the following scenario.
You are out for an evening walk. As you, pass an apartment building, you notice that the glass sliding doors of the ground-floor apartment are open. A man, dressed in dark clothing and a mask, is sneaking into the main room. There you see a young woman, apparently asleep, on a couch. The man pulls a knife, places it against her throat as she awakens.
Would you judge this man as bad? Most of you would agree that he is bad and should be caught and punished. If you feel this way, you have made a moral judgment based on an individualís actions. Do you ever judge a person as good or bad based on appearances? What if this scenario is actually a staged scene for a film for a crime prevention-training program? You would have felt silly if you had barged in and found it to be a movie set.
Appearances can be deceiving. Basing your moral judgments on appearances may lead to poor or wrong conclusions and ultimately poor decisions. Generally, however, most moral evaluations are based on an individualís actions. To know whether someone is good or bad you first must know what actions are morally acceptable or required or are unacceptable. It is now appropriate that you consider the kinds of actions. Examine this list of actions and decide which you feel are immoral.

1. Tom slips his little brother
two joints of marijuana.
2. Sarah copies her friendís proposal for a new ad campaign and submits it as her own.
3. John told his girlfriend he had to work late and couldnít keep his date with her when actuality had a date with another woman.
4. Jean sold the young man a six-pack of beer, knowing he was not of legal age.
5. Even though he was in the office, Alex told his secretary to say he was out of town when Mr. Jones called.

Making moral judgments about the above situations involves making judgments about actions. When moral judgments about kinds of actions are made moral, principles are involved. In the first example, it is wrong for Tom to give marijuana to his little brother. The moral principle involved may be stated as "giving illegal drugs to children is wrong."
The following may seem somewhat confusing; nevertheless, the point is a very important one in understanding the concept of moral judgment. If you say, it is wrong for Tom to give marijuana to his little bother you have made a moral judgment. To claim that it is wrong to give illegal drugs to children is a moral principle rather than a moral judgment. It is the principle that you use to make your moral judgments about certain types of actions. The moral issue raises the question; the moral principle answers it. Using my first example, the situation may be set up in this way.

Moral Issue: Should one give marijuana to children? (The question)
Moral Principle: One should not give illegal drugs to children. (The answer)

INTERACTIVE ONE
Directions:
Using the two statements above, write the moral issue and the moral principle for each. Check your statements with those provided at the end of the chapter.

1Most states provide laws governing what constitutes justifiable homicide. An abused spouse, who kills her abuser in self-defense, depending on the situation, serves as an example.
2 Hume goes on to say that, judgments of fact, as judgments concerning relations of ideas, are inactive; that is, they can never, by themselves, produce or prevent any action. On the other hand, judgments of value can do so. Reason, supplies the motive; it tells you to seek what you desire.

EXTRACT FOR
How To Make Moral And Ethical Decisions - A Guide

(Norman W. Wilson)


PREFACE

How to Make Moral and Ethical Decisions will not make you a more ethical person. You are either ethical or you are not. It is the intent of this text, however, to provide you opportunities to practice making ethical decisions based on standard ethical traditions. While it is necessary to recognize that no single theory provides all the answers to your moral questions, it is equally important that you recognize that each has important truths to contribute to your moral decision-making processes. It is to that end that I direct the focus of this book. Not provided is a history of ethical systems.
Explored are several of the major Western and Eastern ethical systems, which raise questions about moral behavior. You are to arrive at your own answers based on those theories. The text material provides multiple case studies as a backdrop for your practice in making moral decisions. Contemporary issues such as rape, abortion, child sexual molestation, assisted suicide, environmental concerns, medical issues, and sexual preference all come into play as a moral dilemma.
Raised for your consideration are many provocative questions: Is it ever right to lie? Does a woman have the right to her dead husbandís sperm? Does that donated sperm make that child legitimate or illegitimate? Should you stop the suffering of another by helping her or him to die? If you do, are you a murderer? Should you keep your word, always? Is there such a thing as universal morality? Where do morals come from? Finally, the ultimate question; after all, why be moral?
The traditional theories of Consequentialism and non-Consequentialism, as well as the contemporary theories of objectivism, humanitarian ethics, and idealist ethics, are basic to your understanding of moral dilemma. Because moral decision-making does not take place in isolation the presentations of theories are in a setting of application, consequently, the ďInteractivesĒ require individual participation. Ethics is a participatory experience.
I am most grateful to my many students who have so graciously allowed me to experiment on them in the design of the material for this text. Their insights have been most helpful and inspiring.

Norman W. Wilson, Ph.D.
2021


CHAPTER ONE
GETTING STARTED

Do you feel you always get into trouble because you make the wrong decision? Could it be that you simply do not know the processes involved in making good moral and ethical decisions? Decisions of any kind require an understanding of certain fundamental or basic information. Do you go out and buy a car without first knowing something about it? Do you marry someone without first knowing something about that individual? Do you play a sport without learning the rules of the game? Of course, you donít! Then why do you think you can make ethical and moral decisions without knowing something about ethics and morality? Oh, sure, you know the Commandment "Thou shall not steal" but taking home an extra note pad from the office where you work isnít stealing, is it? Nor is taking a sample or two from the open bins of candy at the grocery store, right? And itís certainly okay to taste a couple of the grapes even if you are not buying them? Wrong! It is not acceptable ethically or morally to take that which is not yours no matter its material value.
The significance of material value came home to me several years ago while I was teaching in the public sector. In a freshman English class, we were discussing William Saroyanís short story, "The Parsley Garden" in which a little boy stole a ten-cent hammer. My students thought making him work all day to pay for it was not right because the hammer wasnít worth at least five dollars. In their minds, he had not stolen anything of real value. It had no significant intrinsic value; therefore, it was not wrong. Like the woman who samples the candy in the open bins at the grocery store or pinches a couple of grapes, these young people didnít know the process in making a moral judgment. You may feel that since the hammer, candy, or grapes werenít worth very much there isnít a problem. Besides, the store can well afford a few free samples. "Big deal!" you say. Not so fast with that rationalization for inappropriate behavior.
In this chapter, I will discuss where morals come from, why you should be moral, and present some of the views on ethical behavior held by several philosophers. Also, there will be opportunities for you to practice your moral decision-making based on what these philosophers have had to say.
Where do morals come from? Arenít they just a set of rules that tell you not to do certain things? Donít rules change and doesnít it all come down to what the situation really is, anyway? Let me begin with a mild probe into your memories. Go back to your early childhood. In those memories, is there a conversation similar to this one?

Mother: "Let Sally play with one of your toys. Itís not nice to be selfish."
Child: "Why?"
Mother: "Because I said so!"

If so, it was at that point that you began to learn it was a right behavior to share with others. Second, you also began to learn there is an authority you did not question. This demonstrates just one of the many moral lessons you learned from your parent(s) and or other family members. Gradually, the religious convictions and beliefs of your family group provided further moral lessons in right behavior. In the Christian religion for example, "The Ten Commandments" offer rules of behavior. "Love your neighbor as yourself," and "Do to others as you would have them do to you: are examples of two prominent Christian commands of behavior. The society, culture, or subculture in which you live provides you with moral edicts. Issues of equal rights and the treatment of minorities derive their base in social customs and traditions.

Influences on your moral and ethical beliefs:

Parents and Family
Religion
Society
Peers

Certainly, your peers influence and help shape your moral choices and actions. Even a simple statement as "everybodyís going" may have right and wrong choice implications.

An issue may become a moral issue if the choices and actions you take affect any of these:

The well being of other human beings
Your own person
The well-being of animal and plant life.

Finally, the laws under which you live form a significant base for your behavior. It is wrong to take another human beingís life. Exceptions are justifiable homicide and war.1 Even here, not everyone agrees. Some oppose the legal execution of convicted criminals. Others believe war is wrong and refuse to participate in any military activity. Are there other origins for morality? Some modern writers suggest that literature, film, and television influence, and help shape moral behavior. Can you think of a literary piece, a film, or a television program that has had a profound effect on what you believe? Do programs such a "Sesame Street" or "Beavis and Butthead" tend to present moral values? Some critics think so. What do you think? If such programs do present a moral influence should they. Is this an ethical issue itself? What about the admissions by the federal government that it helped finance certain television shows that were anti-drug or anti-smoking?
What makes an issue a moral issue? Your choices and actions that affect the well-being of others may make an issue a moral one. If those actions and choices produce a negative effect on another human being then you have a moral or ethical issue. However, what if what you did creates a problem for another and you didnít mean it to be that way or that what you did, created a problem for another and you didnít know your actions would produce that negative consequence? Are you still responsible for that immoral or unethical act? Why canít you just do your own thing? Is the slogan "If it feels good, do it" morally acceptable? These are perplexing questions, to say the least. One of the early lessons you learned from your parent(s) or other family members was that if you treated others morally they, in turn, treated you morally. Letís continue the previous conversation between a mother and her daughter.

Child: "Why do I have to share my toys? Theyíre mine."
Mother: If you donít let Sally play with some of your toys she may not let you play with any of her toys."

You were taught that sharing was good. It was good because it might result in something favorable for you. This leads me to a second reason for being moral and itís closely allied with the first. You treat others poorly, they will not be cooperative, and you may not gain what you want. You are better able to get what you want when you help others get what they want. If you are a Christian, you are familiar with their "Do to others, as you would have them do to you." The final reason for being moral and ethical is that it is ultimately self-defeating if you are not. The fact that it is useful summarizes the bottom line in terms of moral behavior. Of the five branches of philosophy, ethics is the one that deals specifically with how human beings treat each other. The remaining four branches are Metaphysics (the study of existence, reality), Epistemology (the study of knowledge), Aesthetics (the study of the principles of beauty), and Politics (the study of those behaviors in the area of the cultural situation). I should mention at this point that all religious systems are ethical and philosophical but not all ethical and philosophical systems are religious. The words ethics and morals are interchangeable. Some may not agree with this particular designation and may indicate a separate distinction between business ethics, for example, and morality. I address this later.
The notion that one behaves in a certain way because it may be useful may not set well with some of you. However, the very idea of usefulness brings me to one of the profound thinkers of the eighteenth century, David Hume.


DAVID HUME (1711-1776)

Hume, a Scottish philosopher, and historian had a profound effect on moral thought. He left Edinburgh University at the age of fifteen to begin an intensive independent study. From this came his complete philosophy, A Treatise of Human Nature, published when he was twenty-eight years old. His other works include Philosophical Essays Concerning the Human Understanding, and An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

Hume is a transitional figureĖa bridge between the common-sense school of morality and utilitarianism. Yet, what he proposes should not be considered a "moral theory" that prescribes a set of acceptable behaviors. Instead, he presents you with a scientific description. He noted that human beings make moral judgments all of the time. His question is how do human beings learn to make moral judgments, that is, how do they determine that something is good or bad? I have already alluded to one answer to that question; however, Hume offers a somewhat different point of view in answering his own questions especially "How did morality arise?" For Hume, moral judgments are in your sentiments, specifically in sentiments of approbation, that is, feelings of approval. He states that you can feel a distinction between passions of anger and moral approval or disapproval. Moral approval occurs when you see an action as good and moral; disapproval occurs when you view an action as bad or immoral. Hume believed that moral judgments are not the result of some abstract or rational interpretation or proof. In support of his position, Hume offers the following arguments:
All moral judgments are temporally preceded and conjoined by a sentiment of approval. Hume is simply saying that when you see something as being good, you feel good about it before you actually say it is good.
One always finds a sentiment of approval upon perceiving good actions, disapproval upon perceiving bad actions. The distinctive character of this feeling of approval or disapproval is that it is aroused only by and in human beings.
Moral judgments cannot be based on rational deliberations. Here Hume is telling you that your personal feelings are projected upon whomever or whatever you approve or disapprove.
Hume makes important distinctions between judgments of fact and judgments of value. Judgments of fact, like judgments concerning the relations of ideas, can be true or false. However, judgments of taste and morals cannot.2 Humeís position on morality may be divided into three headings, which serve as a summary.

Reason alone cannot decide moral questions
Moral sentiment decides moral questions
Moral sentiment is actuated only by what is either pleasant or useful

Humeís theory applies to all moral judgments, but there is an important distinction between "natural virtues" and what he calls "artificial virtues." Beneficence and generosity are natural virtues whereas justice is an artificial virtue. He further suggests that if there was enough of everything to go around for everybody and if there were less greed and envy, there would be no need for justice. Since, however, the real world is not this way, society needs to develop rules that each human being should observe. Justice is such a rule and is, therefore, an artificial virtue. Look at it this way. There are natural leathers from animals (natural virtues) and manufactured leathers (artificial virtues). Both have their value and are important.
According to Hume, moral decisions sometimes produce actions and sometimes prevent actions. Finally, Hume leaves you with this bit of wisdom. He says that moral behavior is not an onerous dutyĖit is the best part of life. That is so because morality is its own reward. It is naturally pleasant to be moral.
How then, do you evaluate moral issues? Do you base the evaluation on sentiment? You make judgments as to whether something or someone is good or bad. You evaluate actions as bad, right, or wrong. What happens in these evaluative modes of experiencing? Examine the following scenario.
You are out for an evening walk. As you, pass an apartment building, you notice that the glass sliding doors of the ground-floor apartment are open. A man, dressed in dark clothing and a mask, is sneaking into the main room. There you see a young woman, apparently asleep, on a couch. The man pulls a knife, places it against her throat as she awakens.
Would you judge this man as bad? Most of you would agree that he is bad and should be caught and punished. If you feel this way, you have made a moral judgment based on an individualís actions. Do you ever judge a person as good or bad based on appearances? What if this scenario is actually a staged scene for a film for a crime prevention-training program? You would have felt silly if you had barged in and found it to be a movie set.
Appearances can be deceiving. Basing your moral judgments on appearances may lead to poor or wrong conclusions and ultimately poor decisions. Generally, however, most moral evaluations are based on an individualís actions. To know whether someone is good or bad you first must know what actions are morally acceptable or required or are unacceptable. It is now appropriate that you consider the kinds of actions. Examine this list of actions and decide which you feel are immoral.

1. Tom slips his little brother
two joints of marijuana.
2. Sarah copies her friendís proposal for a new ad campaign and submits it as her own.
3. John told his girlfriend he had to work late and couldnít keep his date with her when actuality had a date with another woman.
4. Jean sold the young man a six-pack of beer, knowing he was not of legal age.
5. Even though he was in the office, Alex told his secretary to say he was out of town when Mr. Jones called.

Making moral judgments about the above situations involves making judgments about actions. When moral judgments about kinds of actions are made moral, principles are involved. In the first example, it is wrong for Tom to give marijuana to his little brother. The moral principle involved may be stated as "giving illegal drugs to children is wrong."
The following may seem somewhat confusing; nevertheless, the point is a very important one in understanding the concept of moral judgment. If you say, it is wrong for Tom to give marijuana to his little bother you have made a moral judgment. To claim that it is wrong to give illegal drugs to children is a moral principle rather than a moral judgment. It is the principle that you use to make your moral judgments about certain types of actions. The moral issue raises the question; the moral principle answers it. Using my first example, the situation may be set up in this way.

Moral Issue: Should one give marijuana to children? (The question)
Moral Principle: One should not give illegal drugs to children. (The answer)

INTERACTIVE ONE
Directions:
Using the two statements above, write the moral issue and the moral principle for each. Check your statements with those provided at the end of the chapter.

1Most states provide laws governing what constitutes justifiable homicide. An abused spouse, who kills her abuser in self-defense, depending on the situation, serves as an example.
2 Hume goes on to say that, judgments of fact, as judgments concerning relations of ideas, are inactive; that is, they can never, by themselves, produce or prevent any action. On the other hand, judgments of value can do so. Reason, supplies the motive; it tells you to seek what you desire.