Week 2: Narratives
Narratives such as folk stories and those mentioned in various religious texts are instrumental in teaching moral values and often influence our decision making. Indeed, some specific elements of the concept of moral reasoning and decision making are best learned or transferred through narratives since they are not a common occurrence in our day-to-day life experiences. Whether or not we encounter the situations mentioned in these narratives in real life, the teachings and values from these narratives can remain deeply imprinted in our long-term memory.
Moral reasoning begins to develop from childhood through to adulthood where, individually, we model the behaviors of others to solve existing dilemmas. When faced with a dilemma that requires a rational solution, we must frame the solution based on both personal and the existing social context. Thus the moral decision-making process in this situation borrows from well-developed tactics as well as the available information from similar previous situations. As such, the decision maker relates the current situation to narrations of past experiences and draws inferences from them (Dehghami, Sachdeva & Forbus, 2015). Therefore, both fictional and non-fictional narratives can be applied to make concrete decisions in real life.
A narrative that I learned in my childhood years and which impacted my life was a short story that taught me that it is impossible to please everyone. In this short story, a man and his son while heading to the market with their donkey faced opposing views from different people. The father and son lost their donkey while trying to please everyone they met who challenged them to change how they moved. By trying to please everyone, the father ended up pleasing no one and lost his donkey in the process. Applying this narrative in all aspects of my life, I have grown up knowing that if I try to please everyone, I will end up pleasing no one and I will be the one at a loss.
Based on the moral lesson and how the above short story has impacted my life, I acknowledge the effect of the short story and its ability to influence my behavior. Extensively, the aforementioned short story presents an experience that has a connection to my life. Ideally, the short story provides me with an ideal solution on how I should handle varying opinions as well as how I should live with other people.
Week 3: Moral Relativism
In ethics, relativism is considered to be a philosophical position that implies that no morality is better than the other thus they are all equally good. As such, all moral positions, all political movements, all religious systems, and other related perspectives are all truths that are considered to be relative to the individual (Gueye, 2015). Moral relativism, therefore, asserts that there exists no absolute universal moral law that applies to all people, in all places, and for all time. On the other hand, Multiculturalism stresses on the protection of freedom, the right of difference, the respect for diversity as well as peaceful cohabitation.
In the past few decades, multiculturalism has been propagated mainly through highly relativistic principles and arguments. Many critics argue that multiculturalism is more than just a celebration of differences and that true multiculturalism should not be relativistic but should preferably be articulated based on the "the universal demand of the human person" (Gueye, 2015). Following this, the "blind tolerance" ought to be replaced with a "measured and solid sense of responsibility," equal cultural worthiness and qualitative cultural assessment (Gueye, 2015). Many philosophers also argue that the criterion underpinning multiculturalism and assessment of cultural differences should entail compatibility with justice, human rights as well as human dignity. In Canada, for example, the adoption of multiculturalism in the early 1970s was not just a change in government policies but rather a symbolic recognition and appreciation of cultural diversity. Those behind the adoption of multiculturalism in Canada believed that it would preserve and promote the cultural freedom of every Canadian citizen and also to recognize the cultural contributions of all "ethnic groups to the Canadian society." Even so, it is often argued that excessive tolerance of different cultures in a multicultural society is harmful in some situations.
From my perspective, multiculturalism can be the answer to diversity. The concept of multiculturalism should not just define how to treat new cultures in a society, but also specify the rules and regulations under which the new groups ought to enter the society. Also, no culture can claim to be perfect, and all cultures have their strengths and weaknesses exhibited in their moral blind spots as well as their institutionalized injustice (Gueye, 2015). Thus cultures that accept customs such as cannibalism, slavery, child sacrifice, and racism must be open to reasonable scrutiny. Unfortunately, relativism is becoming increasingly pervasive in almost all cultures today. Multicultural societies are increasingly rejecting the idea that there exists a right or wrong. Such instances are particularly evident in many judicial systems that are increasingly finding it difficult to punish criminals. It is also apparent in the entertainment media which is deliberately pushing the envelope of indecency and immorality around the world. Things that were once considered wrong are now promoted and accepted in multicultural societies under the realm of moral relativism. In my view, a society can neither survive nor flourish in an environment that lacks a common foundation of absolutes and truth. Any society is set to crumble or to be fragmented in an environment that accepts everyone to do what is right in their own eyes. Such a society would practically encourage egoism.
If relativism holds to be true, it is, therefore, not possible to provide for society values or to even sustain a community covenant. For example, it would be difficult to live in trust and commitment in a society that regards behavior as arbitrary. Equally, it would be difficult to resolve conflicts in a community without a standard that cuts across individual choices and interests. Just like a family unit, society is bound to collapse if it lacks ethical parameters or ethical guidelines. Thus, in my view, relativism can, in fact, encourage human beings to justify their darkest actions or motives.
Week 4: Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is one of the most well-known and influential ethical theory in the modern world. By definition, utilitarianism is an ethical philosophy that holds that the morally ethical decision is one that will produce the "greatest good for the greatest number." In many cases, utilitarianism requires individuals to not only consider their pleasures but that of everyone too. The doctrine of this philosophy dictates that an action can only be morally right if its consequences result to the happiness of the greatest number of people in a society (J. Hammond, 2014). Consequently, actions that lead to pain and unhappiness are wrong and bad.
Moral dilemmas and concerns are a common occurrence in the workplace. In many instances, the intense pressure within the business world forces leaders or business owners to make drastic and extreme decisions that may lead to ethical dilemmas. In such cases, business owners or even employees may choose a course of action that could be considered as the most beneficial for everyone involved. While this applies to many businesses and can have a positive influence, the business owners must accurately calculate all factors that will determine the results (J. Hammond, 2014). Thus a clear line ought to be made between lust for profit and utilitarian ethics when deciding the most appropriate course of action. Following this, the leadership of a company must provide ethical justifications for the actions taken on tough business decisions that are likely to have a substantial effect on their employees.
However, applying utilitarianism in the business world is often inadequate, and other considerations must be made. By considering the "law of unintended consequences," we can argue that the application of utilitarianism in business equates to making an informed guess about the consequences of a particular course of action. And because utilitarianism presumes that what is pleasurable is justifiably good to the greatest number, it often raises concerns as to whether what is pleasurable to one person is also pleasurable to another person (Chonko, 2013). As such, a utilitarian should consider more than just happiness as the only consequence that matters when solving ethical dilemmas in business.
In my view, other factors such as fairness, justice, and basic human rights are paramount and must be put into consideration when making tough business decisions that are likely to have ethical consequences. In other instances, a utilitarian decision can be beneficial to the majority at the expense of the minority. Therefore, utilitarianism must consider the effect that a particular decision might have on the minority (Chonko, 2013). From my perspective, profits in any business should not outweigh human life or moral values. For instance, the Ford Pinto was sold despite having significant design flaws in some of its key components. In this case, the engineers of the companies failed to create safety modifications even after evaluating the potential danger of the Ford Pinto to the consumers. In other words, the company chose what was more profitable to them at the expense of human life. In the end, their decision amounted to an incorrect application of utilitarianism in business.
Chonko, L. (2013). Ethical Theories. Dsef.org. Retrieved 14 April 2018, from http://www.dsef.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/EthicalTheories.pdf
Dehghami, M., Sachdeva, S., & Forbus, K. (2015). The Role of Cultural Narratives in Moral Decision Making. Retrieved 13 April 2018, from https://www.academia.edu/209469/The_Role_of_Cultural_Narratives_in_Moral_Decision_Making
Gueye, C. (2015). Does Multiculturalism Need a Relativistic Basis?. Cejsh.icm.edu.pl. Retrieved 13 April 2018, from http://cejsh.icm.edu.pl/cejsh/element/bwmeta1.element.desklight-03075dec-fece-4b19-aac7-0f4a243a24cc/c/Cheikh_Mbacke_Gueye_Does_multiculturalism_need_a_relativistic_basis.pdfJ.
Hammond, P. (2014). Consequentialist Decision Theory and Utilitarian Ethics. Web.stanford.edu. Retrieved 14 April 2018, from https://web.stanford.edu/~hammond/SienaLect.pdf
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