Student Position Paper -- Sample One
What Stage of Kohlberg's Moral Development do I feel I am in?
First and foremost, I firmly believe that people are individuals.
Although there are generalizations that can be made about psychological
motivations and moral behavior, most people are far too complex
to put into specific "boxes". This course was introduced
by saying that it may make some people feel uncomfortable or question
what they thought they knew. Putting people into "moral development
boxes" is the kind of "scientific approach" to
morality does make me uncomfortable. This is not a science with
physical laws and indisputable truths. Kohlberg's views are, at
best, only framework that can be used to study ethics or morality.
I have found that, while the text is certainly interesting and
greatly enhances my ability to see why people do what they do,
the authors tend to overestimate their ability to categorize everyone's
moral development within a defined box, or even group of boxes.
When Kohlberg postulated a "Seventh Stage", he acknowledged that there were gaps or holes in his theory that failed to take into account views of morality that don't fit within the first six stages. Although the text goes on to say that he later revised this view "in order to admit a separate path of religious development alongside that of moral development", nothing further is presented on this topic.
I believe that his dilemma on this issue is also, to some extent, a dilemma on my part. None of the six stages fully take into account deep religious convictions that tend to create some degree of conflict with all six stages.
Although I obviously have an aversion to being boxed in, the primary stage of moral development that I feel closest to is Kohlberg's 6th stage. I reject outright the premise that "what is legal is ethical" (Stage Four) and feel we have a very serious moral obligation to disobey the law when the law is immoral. While I believe that most moral dilemmas can be resolved by reasoning the "greatest good for the greatest number" (secondary Stage Five), I also believe utilitarianism alone will allow morality to drift in the wind without an anchor to anything of real substance. Utilitarianism, by it's nature, implies that what is right today may be wrong tomorrow and vice versa. If we use this alone, we allow (event tempt) ourselves into reasoning mortality into what we want, or would like, it to be. I do not believe that human beings have, or ever will have, sufficient intelligence or understanding of morality to reason out what is right, without help and guidance from the One who does. We have been given some, but not all, of the basic direction. The Ten Commandments clearly give us a foundation to keep morality from drifting in the wind. I perceive this and other moral imperatives (defined in the bible) to also mean that there are certain principles like human dignity, and respect for individual life that supercede any logical reasoning of morality. I further believe that the end can not be used to justify the means when these principles are violated. "Love thy neighbor as thyself' could be construed to be a stage six mentality, but it really goes far beyond a simple expression of equity, justice, or universalizability. It says to me that there is a yet higher stage of morality, perhaps one that none of us would ever be able to understand, yet one that we must aspire too.
What Basic School of Ethics Do I Follow?
Again, I can't help but feel a bit limited by the framework
of Consequentialism and Deontologism. The author's attempt to
simplify and categorize morality in a logical manner does, however,
serve to help sort out and think through our own moral reasoning
processes, regardless of whether it defines a real fit for our
I believe that consequences alone can not, and should not, be used to determine morality. In effect, that means that I reject premise of pure Consequentialism. On the other hand, I do acknowledge that consequences should be a factor in determining morality, which implies that I also don't follow pure Deontologism.
The formal school of ethics (as defined by the authors) that is closest to what I believe is a form of mixed Deontologism. I would define its primary premise as "the means are always at least as important as the end". The experience of 51 years in this world has taught me that, way too often, the "means tends to become the end". I believe that there are moral duties and obligations that are basic and can not be reduced to an obligation to bring about the best consequences. An example of this would be determining if torturing an individual to extract information that might save hundreds of innocent lives is morally acceptable. My construal of ethics would dictate that this basic human right could not be violated, even though people may die as a result. Only after the primary moral imperatives have been satisfied should the consequences be considered.
My predisposition to emphasize the means over the end might be indicative of what the authors call rule deontology. However, I also believe that there are many interrelated moral imperatives that define one central core objective. The authors would probably call this pluralistic rule deontology. In this view of morality, responsibility for the consequences of a moral decision are oftentimes passed on to a higher power, trusting that there is a higher purpose that may or not be understood.
This trust in a higher power has an effect on how responsibility for consequences is perceived. As is almost always the case, something good comes from something bad. Often times the good that results is far greater than the bad. Depending on your priority of value, it may seem that the perceived bad consequence of a moral decision actually end up being good in the long run. Again, trust in a higher power tends to create confusion when trying to apply the author's framework with respect to evaluation of consequences. A person using this form of moral reasoning recognizes that we rarely, if ever, really know whether the consequences of an action will be good or bad for individuals, groups or society as a whole. They believe that most of the time determination of "the greater good" is purely subjective, and often arbitrary. When faced with a moral dilemma, they would first apply their understanding of the guiding principles (moral imperatives), develop their opinion of the greater good, consider their understanding of the consequences, and then reason a resolution that would strive for equality, justice, and universalizability.. But, they would not really expect to achieve it because they believe that true equality and justice will only be achievable in the next world.
To What Extent does My Moral Reasoning Meet the Textbook Criteria?
With respect to the textbook definition of consistency, I see no reason that application of this sequence of moral decision methodologies would be inconsistent. It could be applied in all situations without variance. Whether personal behavior is in harmony with personal beliefs, will always be a challenge for human beings, regardless of what moral reasoning they subscribe to. For me the fact that I am vehemently opposed to abortion is somewhat inconsistent with my milder opposition to war in general. Of course if I believed the war had no morally redeeming value, I would feel much stronger opposition. The fact that there is a variance in moral indignation between two moral questions that both violate a moral imperative, indicated that there is some inconsistency in my application.
From a more traditional sense there are ways that the proposed moral reasoning can be considered inconsistent. Because it may be difficult (not impossible) to always know what the true guiding principles are, there can be inconsistency between individuals using the same form of moral reasoning. However, within any individuals own understanding, its application should be consistent. As justification for this perspective I submit my belief that learning what these guiding principles are is our main purpose for being on this earth. It takes most people a lifetime of pain, joy, suffering, loss, happiness, mistakes, and thoughtful prayer to learn the only lesson we really need to know. To me this is what moral development is. I think that Kohlberg , himself, realized this when he abandon his "seventh stage" in favor of "a separate path of religious development alongside that of moral development".
With the assumption that the primary guiding principles are known by the individual making the decision, the application of this belief is feasible. However, one could question the feasibility of actually knowing, beyond doubt, what these principles are or should be. For this methodology it will be necessary for the person to know, or at least believe they know, what the guiding principles are, if it is to be considered feasible.
On the other hand, I could also question the feasibility of knowing "the greatest good for the greatest number" criteria (used above), since it relies on a subjective judgement of "the greatest good" and "the greatest number" begs the question "of who".
In the textbook sense, not all of this sequence of moral decision methodologies relies on reason. Evaluation of the "consequences", determining the "greater good" and defining who makes up "the greater number" requires reason beyond merely reflection on tradition or custom. Determining what the guiding principles are requires a considerable amount of faith and trust, but nonetheless, still requires a meditative reasoning of our primary purpose.
By the nature of the way this methodology is developed, it is inherently universal and reversible. It would apply under all circumstances. I feel strongly enough about this methodology that I would be willing to accept being treated the same way. If my life was in danger and it could be saved by the torturing of another human being, I would still feel bound to follow my conscience and moral reasoning.
A Recent Example
While entertaining guests one night, I was having a discussion
with a good friend's wife about how difficult it is to be dedicated
to a full time career, be a full time parent, and work on an advanced
degree. We were both working on an MBA from different institutions
at the time. The conversation inevitably included how difficult
it is to find the time to write the volumes of papers required
by some of the classes. When she discovered that I had already
completed two of these classes (and received an A in both), she
tactfully asked if she could get copies of the work I had done
for "reference". From the way the way the question was
phrased, it was obvious to me that she really intended to turn
in my papers as her own. Although tempted by a moral desire to
help others in need, I quickly concluded that this was just not
right. I decided to play on her sense of fair play and said, "
I'm sure you wouldn't want to cheat". She realized that pushing
it further would have become embarrassing and backed off on the
From the perspective of my secondary stage five (the greatest good for the greatest number), you could make a case that sharing my work would benefit her, her family, and her employer by giving her more time to dedicate to each. The only potential harm would be to her, in that she would not be getting the education that she was paying for. She seemed to be aware of this and willing to make that decision. I could certainly not take the position that it would harm me. Using utilitarian reasoning one could conclude that this was a morally acceptable plan, under the circumstances.
From the perspective of my primary stage six (universal moral principles), it could not be justified. There is an inherent injustice here, in that giving her access to my work would put the other students (competing for a grade) at a disadvantage. Not only would this not be fair to them, but if it resulted in helping her get a higher grade, she would receive an unearned advantage when competing later for a position in the business world. This would violate the premise of distribution of society's benefits "to each by his merit".
The form of moral reasoning that I subscribe to and outlined previously, is based on the primary premise that "the means are at least as important as the end". In this case, I concluded that the means do not justify the end. This reasoning does not rely strictly on the rules governing the situation (rule deontology), but on guiding principles that demand fairness and justice (pluralistic rule deontology). For this situation I rejected " if its legal, its ethical" argument and "the greatest good for the greatest number" reasoning, because it did not first pass the test of my understanding of guiding principles.
Since there were no unresolved conflicts within the sequential decision process, I believe the methodology used to solve this moral dilemma is consistent with respect to my stated beliefs. My decision demonstrates a behavior consistent with those beliefs.
The fact that the issue was actually resolved consistent with my stated beliefs demonstrates that the "ought" is justified with the "can". This indicates that the process is feasible for resolving moral issues, at least for this situation.
The process did require a reasoning of how to apply guiding principles to this situation. Since I am not aware of an overriding principle that says "thou shall not cheat", it was necessary to reasonably apply principles of fairness, justice, and equity to resolve the dilemma.
As a student, I do not think that plagiarism could pass the test of reversibility. I certainly would not want other students to hand in "perfect papers" taken from others. I doubt that the person in my example would think it would be fair to her if the other students to turned in plagiarized work.
Student Position Paper -- Sample Two
The purpose of this paper is to perform a self-evaluation on my system of morality using Kohlberg's stages of moral development and by identifying the basic school of ethics that I follow. As long as I can remember, I have always maintained moral principles to guide my life and my conduct. I have continuously improved to be a wiser and more moral person. At times, I have had to defend my ethical principles but I have not had to defend or describe my entire system of morality. Until now, I have not systematically interrelated my ethical principles to describe "my system" onto a document and I can state that my system has been bettered because of it.
II. A Review and Critique of Kohlberg's Six Stages.
Before declaring my primary stage of moral development, I think it is important to review Kohlberg's six stages of moral development and provide some novice but applicable criticism. Kohlberg's six stages are (French & Granrose, 6-7):
1. Obedience & Punishment Stage
2. Individualism & Reciprocity Stage
3. Interpersonal Conformity Stage
4. Law & Order Stage
5. Social Contract Stage
6. Universal Ethical Principles Stage
There exists criticism that there should be a seventh stage for moral development beyond stage six but I would suggest that there should be a stage between stage five and stage six. I believe that stage six is actually too general and could be halved. A basic definition of stage six is that "moral decisions are not based simply on what is best for everybody. They are based instead on principles that are chosen freely by the agent, but that the agent would be willing for everyone to live by as well . . . if the greatest good for the greatest number could be obtained in some situation by violating these principles, the person at Stage Six would not approve of their violation" (French & Granrose, 7).
At first glance, the moral properties of this stage seem saintly but a person at this stage of development that obtains a following should assume a responsibility for willing others to use their system of morality. Example: in many Christian factions, it is believed that in order to be more like Christ, one must suppress bodily needs and desires such as sex. Though there are those, such as Paul of Tarsus who wrote many of the books that consist of the New Testament in the Holy Bible, that are able to do this, there are also many examples in today's headlines where priests were unable to control their sexual desires. So, are those that are sexually abused by clergy a necessary price for having a lofty moral principle?
Here is another hypothetical example. Suppose a drug has been invented that could save many lives but the developer of the drug is either not willing to the share the secret or has set so high a price that many cannot afford the drug and thousands die daily. A stage six person is willing for the drug developer to follow his or her ethical principles, i.e. benevolence and the Ten Commandments, but does not require the drug developer to do so. If the theft of the drug led to the discovery of its properties and resulted in the saving of lives but violated the stage six person's value of "Thou shalt not steal" then the stage six person would not approve of the theft.
The purpose of the prior paragraphs was to illustrate my concern with the "universal" aspect of Kohlberg's definition of stage six. The term "universal" would suggest a world where everything is black and white and that after careful consideration of your moral system that the answer to every situation will be apparent. But the world is gray and there are times when making a decision, we have to choose from a list composed only of bad alternatives.
Here is another hypothetical example. Suppose you are captain in the U.S. Army in a war situation and your commander has ordered that you and your company rescue an American prisoner from a highly fortified enemy position at all costs. Your commander informs you that the prisoner knows vital national secrets and must be recovered before he breaks down and gives highly sensitive information to the enemy and must be taken alive. But you have other intelligence that informs you that the American taken prisoner is the son of a prominent U.S. Senator. You believe in the concept of, "Leave no man behind" but you also know that you can lose all 120 soldiers in your company in the attempt to free the prisoner. You calculate the odds and determine that there is a 100% chance that you will lose sixty of your men, a 75% chance that you will lose 90 soldiers and a 50% chance that all of the soldiers under your command will die in the rescue attempt. If you are stage six person and your moral principle is to obey superiors' orders no matter what, and your prioritization of principles places the obeying of the order higher than the welfare of your soldiers, then you will obviously make the rescue attempt. If you are a stage one person you will also make the rescue attempt in fear of punishment instead of not violating a personal moral principle. A stage five person who employs the "the greatest good" concept may simply use a sniper to kill the American prisoner. In this manner you are able to save national secrets and you have limited the loss of life to one person. Who has better morals in this situation, the stage five or the stage six person? A stage six person can explain that the obeying of orders is so critical to maintaining rule in the ranks that any example of disobeying direct orders undermines the ability of the military. A stage five person can agree, but would be willing to sacrifice his or her principle and military career because he or she believes that his or her duty to the soldiers under his or her command in this event is stronger than that of the duty to the superior who is obviously politically motivated.
Stage five moral development states "there are moral values or rights that are independent of or that occur prior to the actual laws that might be adapted by society" and "An appeal to the greatest good for the greatest number" (French & Granrose, 6). Whereas a stage four person would rely strictly on the law to govern a situation, a stage five person can recognize the inadequacy of the law and choose a method that better benefits society. A stage five person can be comfortable in making "exceptions" because they provide better benefits that the general rule. But these are not necessarily exceptions as they may be a list of alternatives if the person does not have prioritizations in their moral system. In Kohlberg's moral hierarchy, the stage five person will have to evolve into a "no exception" stage. Under stage six, "there can be exceptions to codified rules" and allows "no exceptions to self-chosen principles other than that caused by prioritizing principles which are in conflict" (French & Granrose, 131). Does this definition mean that a stage six is allowed to reprioritize principles in a given situation? If so, how does that effect his or her system or prevent against abuse.
It is the arrogance of the "self-chosen principles" and the concreteness of "prioritizing principles" that is of concern to me. The stage six person is driven by equity and impartiality to societal well-being and is concerned more by the long-term results than the short-term results of a situation. I do not believe that any one person is really infallible and should be left alone to his or her self-chosen morals. I believe that we should answer to a higher power but then again that would also be of our choosing. But this is all probably evidence of my need for further moral development. I don't even know if there has ever been a stage six person involved in a war and the above example fails. Maybe the actions of a stage six person would prevent him or her from being involved in situations as those posed above.
How would you evaluate a person's moral development if that person meets all the criteria of stage five and much of the criteria of stage six. I believe that there are many people that meet the "societal contract" of stage five and are willing to have everyone use their self-selected principles but in some circumstances will need to violate their "self-codified" principles or reprioritize them (not for use in a given situation but as the result of learning and improving the system) or have not fully developed their moral principles. Basically, what I am stating is that stage six should be split into two stages. The remaining stage six would incorporate those who have morally developed beyond such monist views such as the consequentialism view of "the greatest good for the greatest number, have established some basic universal principles that they are willing to let others follow but have not developed a complete set of universal principles that becomes their governing system of equity, impartiality and societal well-being. The new stage seven will be reserved for those that have developed a complete set of universal principles.
III. My Primary Stage of Moral Development.
My primary stage of moral development is stage five. Though I have developed some ethical principles that I am willing for others to follow, I have not developed a universal set. I have a set of thirteen principles, that I will detail later, but I not believe they are as of yet, universal.
Two months ago, my family and I were presented with some serious challenges. First, my two and half year old son was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. The disorder is so rare that it occurs in less than 3000 kids in the U.S. a year and the cause is unknown. The initial stay in the hospital lasted five days and the bills were extremely high. My son's hospitalization occurred just four days after we committed $4000 to retain a lawyer because the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services wrongfully denied my wife's application to become a permanent resident. A colleague at work who is on the company's Employee Emergency Fund Committee informed me that my situation qualified for a $2000 disbursement from the fund. My colleague also informed me that though she would be unable to vote, she was sure that my application would be approved. All I needed to do to receive the money was apply. I thanked her for bringing the fund to my attention but I declined the offer. I can think of more serious situations than my own, such as a death in the family or an event that prevented one from working, that would be more deserving than my own.
As the events in August occurred right after I had taken a vacation and I haven't been with the firm very long, I didn't have many vacation days left to use for our crises in August. My supervisor informed that there were employees willing to donate their vacation days for my use. I thanked her but again I declined. It was not only legal but also acceptable that I accept the $2,000 and the additional days of vacation. A stage four person would most likely have accepted the $2,000 and possibly the vacation days. But in my moral judgment and reasoning, I did not believe that my situation was worthy, even though others believed otherwise. I also do not think that these were the actions of a stage six person because I do not follow a universal set of principles. I employ a basic set of ethical principles with no one principle more important than the other.
Another example reinforcing stage five as my primary stage are events that occurred just prior to arriving in Duluth and the months afterward. Before coming to Duluth I worked in Macedonia in support U.S. forces in Kosovo. After being there close to three years, the rebel fighting in Kosovo spilled over into Macedonia. The streets were filled with soldiers, many shops were closed, there was a city wide curfew and there were check points all over the city and between cities verifying IDs and searching people and cars. My family and I had been making plans to leave in a few months but recent events demanded that we flee the war immediately. The next day after the war ignited in Macedonia we were on a plane headed to the U.S.A.
We chose Duluth as we both have friends here and one of our friends let us use his attic until we were able to move out onto our own. For seven months I looked for a job and for seven months we lived in the attic. It was not until I obtained my current job that we were able to buy a house and set up on our own. It would have been legal to file for unemployment compensation and for food stamps. Doing so would have made things easier for us financially. The reason I didn't file is because we had money. We did not have very much and we used it all during those seven months. Many people look upon money from the government as "free" money and have no problems in taking money from the government. When I see money from the government I see taxes and the people and the firms that pay those taxes. Just because it was legal for me to receive unemployment compensation does not mean it was right that I ask the citizens of Minnesota to support me even though I had some money. Even before I met a Duluthian or a Minnesotan, I had established a social contract.
IV. My Secondary Stage of Moral Development.
My secondary stage of moral development is stage four, the "law and order" stage. For me, this is not as much as a secondary stage as it is my back-up stage. If I am unable to respond to an ethical situation in the fifth stage, then I can rely on the foundation of what is legal for guidance. This is especially useful in areas where I have little or no knowledge or experience.
My oldest child will soon turn four. At her preschool I noticed a Minnesota state advertisement posted on the wall stating the state's requirement that all children should attend an Early Childhood Screening session. My initial reaction to reading this sign was this screening is an invasion into my personal life. My wife and I take very good care of our children. They are healthy, happy, social and have exhibited a desire to learn. I understand that there are children that are underprivileged, underdeveloped, or malnourished and that the focus of the screening is to help children. But the mere idea that my child needed to be inspected was still insulting. The fact that we need such screenings is also infuriating. I am not one that can understand why children must suffer, especially in our society. I called the number I jotted down from the poster. The receptionist informed me that my child would undergo basic testing such as motor skills, social development, language skills and physical measurements. It all seemed familiar to tests we have undergone before with either our pediatrician or with a teacher at her school.
When it came time to keep the appointment, my attitude towards keeping the appointment was one of indifference and inconvenience. I had an important project waiting for me at work. I kept the appointment and I did not cancel it due to the near impossibility of predicting a convenient time to keep such an appointment. I did not consider my child not attending a screening session an option because the law requires it. Also, I did not keep the appointment because of some "social contract" as a stage five person would. I simply took my daughter down to the assigned school at the appointed time because the law requires the screening.
V. The School of Ethics That I follow.
Before I announce what I believe to be my school of ethics, I think I should explain why I do not follow the other schools of thought. The standard theories of ethics can be broken down into being either teleological, (consequential) or deontological. "Teleological theories of ethics claim that whether or not an action is morally right or wrong depends completely on the consequences or results of that action" (French & Granrose, 10). Deontological theories "claim that consequences are not the only factor in rightness or wrongness" (French & Granrose, 10). Deontology claims, "that the right is independent of the good. The rightness of an action is not, or not simply, a function of the amount of value produced by it; other factors are relevant. Indeed, it may often be right to produce less good than one could" (McNaughton, 269).
Example. There is a gifted scientist that has a choice. She can choose to spend her life developing a drug that will save the lives of 100,000 people a year or develop a drug that will save 1,000 lives a year. At first glance, it would seem that we would demand that she develop the drug that will save 100,000 lives. What if the first drug would be used to treat a disease that only infects prolific adulterers and the second drug would be used to treat a disease that indiscriminately infects children. A consequentialist may demand that the scientist develop the first drug because it will save more lives and will achieve the greatest good. A deontologist may determine that developing the first drug will help reinforce what he or she believes to be the immoral practice of adultery and lead to the further destruction of family values in this country. In this situation, a deontologist can claim that consequences or value are not the only consideration and may choose to develop the second drug for children instead. In the context that good is attributed to the number of lives saved then this example would serve to show that the right choice can be to save the children even though it is doing less good.
As I believe that consequences alone do not justify an act, I can exclude teleological theories such as Utilitarianism and Ethical Egoism. I am a Christian but I do not claim to be a pure deontologist that follows Divine Command. I am a mixed deontologist but more specific I would claim that I am an Intuitionist that follows a set of principles similar to W.D. Ross's prima facie duties.
VI. W.D. Ross's Prima Facie Duties.
The term "intuitionist" is misleading as it may imply in modern times that intuition plays a part in the theory. The word "intuitionist" was used to refer to key ethical principles as being intuitive or self-evident and these principles were referred to as 'intuitions' (McNaughton, 270). An intuitionist did not arrive at his or her principles through intuition but from reasoning. This section provides an overview of Ross's prima facie duties that he issued in the 1920s (French & Granrose, 12). "Of all the different versions of intuitionism, by far the most systematic and best known account is that of W. D. Ross" (McNaughton, 272). I should add that not only do I follow these duties but that in the next section I will introduce additional duties to these seven that together will comprise the entire list of my duties or principles. I should note that I will use the terms "duties" and "principles" interchangeably.
1. "Duties resting on a previous act of my own.
a. Fidelity - these result from my having made a promise or something like a promise.
b. Reparation - these stem from my having done something wrong so that I am now required to make amends.
2. Duties resting on the previous acts of others; these are duties of Gratitude, which I owe to those who have helped me.
3. Duties to prevent (or overturn) a distribution of benefits and burdens which is not in accordance with the merit of the person concerned; these are the duties of Justice.
4. Duties which rest on the fact there are other people in the world whose condition we could make better; these are duties of Beneficence.
5. Duties which rest on the fact that I could better myself; these are duties of Self-Improvement.
6. Duties of not injuring others; these are duties of Non-Maleficence." (McNaughton, 275)
Continuing with Ross's theory, Ross believed that the first
four duties, fidelity, reparation, gratitude and justice, were
independent of consequences and that the last three duties, beneficence,
self-improvement and non-maleficence as necessarily involving
consequences. I generally agree with Ross but would pose the possibility
that consequences can be related to fidelity.
Example: Suppose you made a promise to your son to take you to a ball game on Friday afternoon. After you made that promise, you told an ailing friend that any time she needed anything to call you. Your friend calls you Friday morning. She tells you that her condition has worsened, that the surgery is to be performed weeks earlier than expected and has asked that you take her to the hospital, and be there when she comes out of the operating room. The operation's schedule conflicts with the baseball game's schedule. In this situation, an unforeseen conflict has occurred and you have no choice but to break a promise. The ethical answer here is obvious, as you will have ample opportunity to treat your son to a baseball game. The purpose of this example is to illustrate that despite your ethical principles, you can encounter conflict and consequences, that your moral reasoning is designed to prevent.
VII. Additional Prima Facie Duties
There are six duties that I would add to Ross's list: integrity, respect, reciprocity, equity, consideration and stewardship.
For me, integrity encompasses many qualities such as honesty, trustworthiness, steadfastness, reliability and forthrightness. Integrity should not be confused with fidelity. Fidelity is a duty that is tied to a previous act. Integrity or the lack of integrity is built from previous acts and is an implied promise to present or future acts with others. If you have a reputation as being unreliable, then that is carried forward to future acts when others or yourself may rely upon you.
Respect is also a separate and key personal principle. Respect differs from integrity in the manner that integrity is not something that you give. Others may become dependent upon your integrity, and integrity is something that you can lose, but it is not something that you can give someone or something. Respect is something that can be given. But respect is more than just a virtue. It is also a basic duty. Respect is a duty involving conduct and incorporates other qualities such as civility, giving the benefit of the doubt, refraining from jumping to conclusions and etc. Respect should also not be confused with beneficence because there are situations where the respect you give can be neutral, as in a common courtesy or in a business setting. Being neutral should also not be confused with maleficence which is not causing harm. The neutral aspect of respect causes neither harm nor good.
I have added reciprocity to my list because I believe that we have a duty to be more than just grateful to someone who has performed an act for our benefit, even when the reciprocal act is not expected or would not be convenient for us to perform or may even require a sacrifice. If someone does us a good turn then we should make our best effort to reciprocate when the opportunity occurs. Reciprocity differs from gratitude in timing. Gratitude is an immediate duty. Reciprocity is a commitment to a future duty that can be unknown. In this manner, an argument can easily be made that reciprocity should be a sub-category of fidelity which covers promises and duties to past acts. In my opinion, reciprocity differs from fidelity in its "implied debt of service". I have a direct promise to my bank to make my mortgage payments on time. That is a duty of fidelity. There are consequences if I do not make those payments. There may or may not be consequences if I do not reciprocate a favor. I simply may not ever get the chance to reciprocate. The mortgage on my house is a fixed amount. When it comes time to pay off the loan, I don't expect the bank to be generous and accept less money on the final payment and the bank does not expect me to pay extra. A reciprocating act is often not equal in value to the first act. It could be have less value or more value for either party. My arguments are probably easily countered but I have determined that reciprocity is such a key principle that its importance merits its placement alongside the other twelve principles.
I have declared equity as a separate principle and I have set it apart from justice because there are situations where an act of equity may be deemed more important than an act that is just. Example: An excellent employee at work has committed a violation, and it is the first time that he or she has done this. You bring the employee into office, you verbally counsel the employee, but you do not document the event because you do not want to put a negative record in his or her employee file. Another employee who has sub-par performance commits the same violation. Justice may demand a written reprimand be given to this employee because he or she has a history of bad behavior. But this is also his or her first offense of this violation. If I had evidence that the sub-par employee's act was intentional and the star employee's act was unintentional, then I would be justified in delivering a harsher consequence to the sub-par employee. If I only had evidence of one employee's intent, then equity would demand that they both receive the same treatment. Again, justice may demand a different punishment, but by combining equity with integrity, I may choose to be equitable instead of 'just'.
Equality is not an issue here as the employees are not equals and equity should not be confused with equality. Equity differs from equality in that equity is "a way of setting minimal limits for all" (French & Granrose, 126) instead of equal total amounts that is the goal of equality (French & Granrose, 124). As many of the measures in our life are subjective and not objective, equity is a principle that can be used to establish minimum levels. These levels may or may not be just, but there are times when we cannot achieve equality that would be considered 'just' because of impracticalities, but we can achieve equity. We may even desire to achieve equity in spite of the ability to achieve equality.
Another example of equity is tipping. Many have established a tipping table that consists of a ten percent base. No matter how superior or poor the service, these people tip a minimum of ten percent. Upon that base ten percent, they will tip fifteen percent for above average service and will tip twenty percent for stellar service. As you can see, using such a table can result in two people receiving the same ten percent tip even though one's service was better than the other's. Is that just? Is it equality? No, but it is equitable.
I have made the act of being considerate (consideration) a separate duty because an act of consideration can be either beneficent or non-maleficent. The act of not leaving a skateboard at the top of the stairs would be considered non-maleficent but the act of parking your car in such a way to allow another person to park can be considered beneficent. Both are considerate acts. But more importantly, I have placed consideration as a separate duty because it implies a possible good act or prevention of a possible bad act. An act of beneficence is a direct act that causes something good for someone. A considerate act, may or may not cause good. The reason for performing the duty of consideration is not to produce a good act that may have its rewards but it is the potential of performing a good act that may not even be rewarded. Consideration is simply being aware of how your actions or inactions may effect others and often requires little or no effort. Consideration accommodates all those little things that can make others' lives easier.
Stewardship covers my duty to physical and abstract resources. It ranges from how much water I use to how much time I use to water the lawn. I do not have a promise, even implied, with others to conserve water. I do not have a promise to others to account for my time. But we do have a duty to others in the future. This is what separates good stewardship from fidelity. Fidelity is a duty to a previous act. Stewardship is a duty to the present and the future. Good stewardship is the efficient and effective use of resources. This does not suggest that spending time watching a football game is the act of a bad steward. We all need downtime. But is the measure of the time watching the football game in conjunction with other duties that determines a bad or good steward. We have an abundance of resources on this planet, some physical and some abstract. It's not that it is necessary to maximize resources, as leaving some resources alone for others to use is an option, but it is the duty of not wasting resources that others can use that is important.
One's work ethic can also be considered a property of stewardship. One can argue that this is a sub-category of fidelity in the fact that you have a promise to finish a task by a certain time or even an implied promise to do your best. If you have a strong work ethic and are able to complete the task at an earlier time, this would be a direct result of good stewardship and not of an indirect promise.
Counter arguments can probably be made that the six duties I have listed above are sub-categories of Ross's original seven. Ross himself thought that he could shorten his original list and include self-improvement and justice as examples of beneficence (McNaughton, 277). I would argue the contrary. I think we need to better define our duties or principles and to separate them to facilitate opportunities for enhanced reasoning and for better practical application. Narrowing the list will create additional layers and possibly confuse the process. For me, the above principals are inherently separate and are equally required to be a part of my moral reasoning process.
VIII. Why I Am an Intuitionist
Though I have now compiled a list of thirteen duties, as shown below, I should point out that this list is not prioritized. In fact, the order of the duties on the list is irrelevant, as I generally do not hold any one principle greater or more important than the others.
These thirteen principles illustrate that I have a pluralistic account of rightness, meaning as opposed to a monist, I believe that a number of distinct principles are directly relevant to determining the right thing to do in any given situation (McNaughton, 269). Each one of my thirteen principles carry an independent weight in determining the right action to choose (McNaughton, 269). As a deontologist, I acknowledge that the right is independent of the good and that "The rightness of an action is not, or not simply, a function of the amount of value produced by it; other factors are relevant. Indeed, it may be often right to produce less good than one could" (McNaughton, 269). The example mentioned earlier of the scientist who has a choice to save the lives of 1,000 children indiscriminately infected or the lives of 100,000 people guilty of gross infidelity. If the scientist decided to save the 1,000 children, in my moral system, I would judge that to be more ethical even though less lives are being saved.
An intuitionist believes in a distinct set of moral principles or duties and that these duties are fundamental or underivative, and "are not grounded in, or derived from, some more general theory" (McNaughton, 269). I agree with this statement as that I believe that my thirteen ethical principles are inherent in our nature as the ability to love, hate, covet, share, protect and destroy. I don't have empirical evidence, but I believe these basic principles to have existed not only before great philosophers as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates but also before recorded history. What could be more fundamental than the sour feeling in your stomach after committing a wrongful deed or the warm feeling you have after performing a good deed? Is the expression "do you feel guilty" just an expression or is it something real?
Critics have attacked the theory of intuitionism on its failure to deliver these four items: (McNaughton, 270-1)
1. That it would reveal some systematic structure in our moral thought.
2. That it would tell us how to deal with moral conflicts, where competing considerations pull us in different directions.
3. It should offer a plausible account of how moral knowledge is possible.
4. A moral theory should say something about why morality matters.
A list of principles provides the basis for systematically weighing each principle to a given situation. We have the ability to be rational and to think for ourselves. The goal of intuitionism is not to provide a book of recipes on how we can be moral and conduct ourselves accordingly. The following statements summarize well the intent of the intuitionists. "Some people hoped moral theory could supply definitive answers to at least some of the many disputed, troubling and puzzling moral problems that face us. Intuitionists are skeptical about the power of abstract moral theory to answer all moral questions. They typically hold, with Aristotle, that we cannot expect more precision in ethics than the subject is capable of" (McNaughton, 271). Those statements hold much truth. There does not exist a single book or collection of books that can solve all of our moral dilemmas but there are many books that can serve as wonderful guides. It is our duty to mentally process data into information and to use our reasoning to determine the best action. If we failed in our effort to determine the right action we should accept the responsibility and not blame a school of thought or a book for the failure. But, it is through these failures that we can learn and better our moral reasoning. An unethical decision does not make one immoral. It's how we respond to the error that is important.
Earlier I stated that not one of the thirteen principles is more important than the others. I have to be honest and state that this is not entirely true. In a general sense, I will admit that there are two principles on the list that I believe in very strongly. These duties are fidelity and integrity. Fidelity covers not only my devotion to my spouse, my children and others but also covers my devotion to God and Jesus Christ. Integrity is a very central part of my being, my personality and the way I live. But I will also admit that these two principles in a given situation can become secondary to another principle. Here is an example.
When playing tennis, If I hit what my opponent thinks is a winner but I saw that the ball clearly landed outside the line, I will inform my opponent that the ball was out and concede the point. But if I am a left fielder in softball and I see a fly ball land and touch a part of the line and the umpire calls it out, I will not volunteer to state that it was a fair ball. If asked, I would tell the truth. In the tennis example, the principle of integrity is apparent. In the softball example it is not. Does this mean that I committed an unethical act while playing softball? Could it mean that other principles on my list have more value in this situation? In this situation, by not informing the umpire of the truth I have not violated my principle of integrity but my duty of fidelity to my teammates supersedes my duty to be forthright in this situation. Justice is not an issue here as it is common knowledge in sports that sometimes calls by the umpire go your way and sometimes they do not.
The developing of a list of principles and weighing these principles in each individual situation is not only a systematic method to discern the right thing to do. The principles also serve as evidence or support that the action chosen is the right one. It is also a system that is flexible enough to resolve conflicts but strong enough to help provide sound moral reasoning. An argument can be made that such a system can lead people to choose the method that they will benefit most from and can further use the system to rationalize their choice. The counter argument is that any moral system can fall prey to abuse.
IX. My Adherence to the Normative Guidelines
Another goal of this paper is to determine the extent that my moral reasoning uses the normative criteria of consistency, feasibility, reasoning and universalizability.
Consistency not only means that my beliefs and principles do not contradict each other but that also my beliefs be in harmony with my subsequent behavior (French & Granrose, 47). My belief system and principles are originally based on the scriptures in the Holy Bible. None of the thirteen principles that I employ contradict my Christian foundation. In the workplace and other secular arenas I keep my religious faith to myself. It is not out of shame that I do this, but due to the fact that in my current workplace it is not appropriate as it would have an adverse effect on my relationship with my colleagues and with others that I conduct business. If there arose an opportunity to bear witness to a willing listener I will be glad to oblige. There are a few situations in my current job where I have done so. But as a general rule, I keep my religion close to my vest. Though based on Christian faith, my moral system has a secular appearance. If I perform an act of non-maleficence, my co-workers will understand that to be a part of my ethic system and not part of a "Thou shall not___".
I do have principles in conflict with my behavior. I believe that smoking cigarettes is unethical, yet I smoke. Smoking violates my principle of fidelity, the implied promise to my children that I will be there for them later. It violates my integrity as I know that I doing something unethical. It violates my principle of non-maleficence as I am causing harm to my body and it violates my principle of stewardship because I should be taking better care of my body. It obviously violates my principle of self-improvement. It violates my self-respect and when I cannot get far enough away from others to smoke it can violate my principle of being considerate to others. It can be stated that the mere sight of someone smoking a cigarette much less the smell or the second hand smoke is inconsiderate. I know that the smell of my breath at times is inconsiderate. This one act violates over half of my principles and yet I continue to smoke.
The thirteen basic principles are consistent with each other. There is not one principle that negates another. In some situations they are interrelated and support each other. Some possible contradictions in my system are avoided because the list is not prioritized. A prioritized list can create inconsistency between one's beliefs and one's behaviors. There are duties in that list that relate to all those that will be affected by my decision. The list guides me through the reasoning process to arrive at the right decision. The list helps me to systematically sift through the gray of situations and it also helps me resolve conflict.
I currently work for a hospital, a non-profit organization, where the focus is providing care and not making a profit. There is an effort to minimize costs and increase revenue but the focus of this effort is to ensure that the hospital will continue as a going concern, not to primarily benefit shareholders. My previous job was with a Fortune 500 company where the focus was entirely on profits and I was encouraged to engage in acts that were contrary to my ethical principles. During the three years that I worked there, I was not able to alleviate my disharmony. I was assisting the firm in price gouging the customer and this violated not only my principle of integrity, but also fidelity, as I believe that we have some duty towards the customer. The only way to achieve consistency between my beliefs and my actions was to leave the firm.
Feasibility as a normative criterion covers what a person can reasonably do under the given circumstances (French & Granrose, 26). Of the four criteria, this is the one most easily employed in my reasoning process. I am well aware of my capabilities and I strive to broaden the limits of what I can reasonably do. If someone seeks my advice, I strive to give that person a solution that he or she is capable of handling. I do not dictate my principles on anyone and I don't expect others to adhere to them.
The third normative criterion, reasoning, also incorporates reflective morality. My moral reasoning process is a culmination of past experiences. I have often reflected how I could have better handled a situation. Though some people may dismiss some of my past unethical acts as a product of youth, I still maintain regret. I have revisited these situations not in an attempt to alleviate my guilt but to learn from that experience so that in a future event I will be better prepared to do the right thing. For me, moral development is an ongoing process, that requires me to question and test my decisions, to discover alternatives, and make improvements. I consider this to be a lifelong pursuit.
The final criterion, universalizability, is probably the one that gives me the most problems. Universalizability "is the claim that taking the moral point of view requires that we be willing to allow others to do the same types of things we consider morally acceptable for ourselves" (French & Granrose, 125). I am willing that others follow the same moral reasoning process that I do but I do not think that it is appropriate for everyone. Every individual is unique with their own belief systems, abilities, and the manner in which they view the world. Simply put, I acknowledge that my moral reasoning process can be inadequate for some people. My moral reasoning process is consistent with my standards and the lifestyle I have chosen.
Universalizability, in the sense that I am willing for others to perform the same acts that I perform is not an issue, with the exception of cigarettes. This is definitely one act that I perform that I do not will others to do. I struggle with my addiction and I am aware of the control this addiction has over me. I know the benefits of quitting. I also know that this act contradicts my moral system. I know that until I conquer the mental and physical addictions of smoking, I am the weaker, physically and morally, for it.
X. A Recent Example of a Moral Dilemma
As stated earlier, while my son was in the hospital we had to obtain a lawyer to handle my wife's immigration problem. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS, formerly known as INS) clearly made a mistake concerning my wife's right to permanent residence status in the United States. We did not make any mistakes on her application and the BCIS had more than the needed evidence to grant her the permanent status. If we did not act, it could eventually lead to deportation proceedings. This is what we wanted to prevent. So, we hired a law firm to work with the BCIS and convince them to correct their mistake. Before hiring the lawyers we had called various BCIS offices and received different answers. I had written letters to congressmen but received no responses.
In the contract with the law firm, we agreed to pay a minimum fee of $4,000 plus expenses. I asked the lawyer to itemize that $4,000. He stated that the $4,000 is designed to cover correcting my wife's status, the issuance of a replacement permanent resident card (a.k.a. green card) and her application for naturalization (citizenship). I also asked the lawyer, in his best judgment, to tell us what he thought the ceiling would be for total expenses. He states that he expected that total cost would range between $4,000 and $5,000. In his worse case scenario he determined that the most we could probably pay for his services and achieve the results desired is $6,000. We also set up a payment schedule with terms of $2,000 payable immediately and $500 a month for four months.
Six weeks after hiring the law firm we received a break. Through a friend of a friend of a Minnesota state legislator we received the audience of someone in a U.S. senator's office. I informed that person of our predicament and that we had hired a lawyer. Within an hour the senator's aide called and informed me that our situation will be resolved within a couple of weeks. I immediately informed the law firm of this new development. We were extremely relieved. While waiting for a response from the BCIS I contemplated how I should ask the law firm not to charge us the full $4,000. We had signed a contract that contained a minimum fee of $4,000 and according to the latest statement the lawyers have only charged us $3,200. I considered asking the lawyer directly to accept a $200 final payment and to release us from the obligation to pay the other $800.
Three weeks after we spoke to the senator's aide, we received a letter from the BCIS acknowledging my wife as a permanent resident of the United States. I immediately informed the law firm of the great news. The next day I receive a statement showing an additional $2,900 in charges for "Revisiting Strategy" and "Preparing Paperwork". My wife and I were simply stunned. At first, we thought that there had to be a mistake. We were wrong. The lawyer had charged us an extra $2,900 for doing work when he should have been on hold.
The state legislator had asked that we keep him informed of events in our case as they occur, including those events with our lawyer. I informed him of the lawyer's bill. He told me that not only should I not pay more than the $3,000 I have already paid but that I should ask for at least a $1,000 to be refunded. He stated that I should send a certified letter stating so and to copy him and the U.S. senator. I thanked him sincerely for his help and told him that I would call him back and let him know what we decided.
This ethical dilemma really tasked my moral reasoning process. But first, I had to overcome my anger before I could start making my decision. The lawyer had clearly exceeded the agreed upon amount of $4,000 with his total bill of $6,100. Not only had he exceeded the amount, he had not delivered any of the items that he promised. Does the fact he delivered nothing warrant an entire or partial refund? Do I have a duty to honor the agreed upon $4,000? Should I pay the lawyer in full? The lawyer clearly engaged in unethical practices and I have some power on my side with the state legislator and the U.S. senator. I have been told by an official source that the right thing to do is not only refuse to beyond the $3,000 but to demand some money back as a refund. Which action did I choose?
I sent a certified letter to the lawyer to close our file and that his services have been terminated. I also included a check in the amount of $1,000, bringing the total amount paid to $4,000. In my letter, I stated that as we had no agreement beyond the $4,000 and that I did not authorize the work he was charging me for beyond that amount that I considered the $1000 check to be a final payment.
Two days later the lawyer and I talked on the phone. He stated that charges on the statement were authentic. He and his staff truly did continue to work on our case. He also stated that the last statement only covered activities through the end of September and there were still additional charges for the first ten days of October. He stated that he was willing to work with me to alleviate the charges and asked me what I thought was a fair amount. I informed him that $4,000 that I paid was my limit. I stayed firm and by the end of the conversation he agreed not to charge me more than $4,000 and to send me an adjusted statement stating so.
XI. The Reasoning Behind the $4,000 Decision
A stage four person would have been tempted to take the state legislator's advice because a challenge to the lawyer's bills would have been legal and knew that he or she had government officials on his or her side. I saw it differently. Though the immigration problem was a government issue, my conflict with the lawyer was not. I believed any help from a state legislator or U.S. senator's office regarding the conflict with my lawyer to be a misuse of their office and hence unethical. Had I decided not to pay beyond the $3,000 and to seek a refund, I would have done so on my own volition using my personal resources. Here is a list of my principles and how they apply to this situation.
1. Fidelity - I have a duty to honor the contract and I have a duty to my family. In regards to the contract, my duty is to pay a minimum of $4,000.
2. Reparation - Not applicable as it concerns making amends for what I have done and not what others have done to me.
3. Gratitude - immaterial.
4. Justice - Would demand that I pay no more than $3,200 for the charges incurred up to the point the U.S. senator's office became involved and the lawyer was informed.
5. Beneficence - not applicable to this situation.
6. Non-Maleficence - This principle works two ways in this situation. The action I choose should not intend to harm the lawyer and it should not be agent to continue to harm and bring grief upon my family.
7. Self-Improvement - This is applicable in the sense that this situation is definitely a learning process but it not one of the leading principles for this situation.
8. Integrity - This principle demands that I pay $4,000. No more and no less.
9. Respect - This is applicable in the sense that I may consider the lawyer to be vermin but I must refrain from employing expletives, making threats and etc. in my communications with him. It is essential to remain calm, be civil and seek resolution.
10. Reciprocity - This is not applicable as to reciprocate would cause harm.
11. Equity - This principle sets a minimum standard and if nothing else reinforces my action to pay $4,000 as keeping promises in a situation is a minimum standard and as $4,000 is the lawyer's minimum fee to take a case. This principle does not state that I should only pay $4,000 but that the minimum I should pay is $4,000. This principle would allow me to pay more,
12. Consideration - Not applicable
13. Stewardship - This is very applicable as I have responsibility to manage our family's money and our time. Paying less than $4,000 would most likely lead to the situation lasting longer, requiring more of time and energy. Paying the $800 for services beyond the $3200 billed just before a senator's involvement may be worth the price of not having this situation drag on for months as we negotiate or may even head to civil court.
Please note that my decision to only pay $4,000 occurred before
I knew that the lawyer would be willing to negotiate. My principles
of integrity, fidelity. equity, and stewardship not only led to
my decision to pay $4,000 but it also provides support and evidence
for that decision. These principles also support my stage five
moral development that I believe that I have a social contract
with all parties involved beyond the extent of the law. My principle
of fidelity states that I have a duty not only to the state legislator
and the U.S. senator's office, but I also have a duty to the citizens
they represent. It would have been legal for me to enlist their
aid in my dealings with the lawyer but for me that is a clear
violation of what they were elected to perform. Their help in
resolving our immigration crisis is not only greatly appreciated
but it is part of the duties they were elected to perform.
Had the lawyer been unwilling to accept only $4,000 then my moral system would demand an entirely new process. If the lawyer was willing to accept $5,000 then I would have to revaluate each principle independently and choose an action separate from the first one. The reevaluation will incorporate how that extra $1,000 is effected by each one of those principles, individually. The reevaluation could result that I still only pay $4,000 but it could also result in a decision not to pay any more than the $3,000 I have already paid and to elevate the situation to a higher authority.
What is consistent about both processes is that each principle is independent evaluated and weighted and that principles do not conflict with each other. In the first process, justice states that I should pay no more than $3,200 and integrity states that I should pay only $4,000. This comparison may seem contradictory but it does not present conflict. Neither one principle influences the other. The aggregate view of all the principles also shows that I should only $4,000. This only shows that justice is not a key principle action in this situation.
The method I have used is feasible and so is the resulting action and I have not violated any of my principles. The lawyer may justly deserve some form of punishment but I acknowledge that I am not necessarily the agent. Any attempt to do so, as to refuse to pay more than $3200 may not be feasible.
Universalizability does apply to my process and my decision. I am willing for anybody to use this system and these principles, including the lawyer. I will not make a claim that this process is perfect or is infallible. I will make the claim that it works for me and creates harmony in my life. By systematically applying each principle to a given situation, I have a much more objective means on deciding an appropriate and ethical action. Through reasoning, I evaluate how each principle relates to a situation, how it should be weighted, and determine how it might be interrelated with the other principles. Through much practice of applying integrity and the other duties to given situations, I usually know without much effort, what action to take. A real strength of this system is that it is applicable to any situation. I do not make decisions based on what is in my best interest. I also do not make decisions based on what I think others think I should do. I base them on my principles and my moral reasoning process.
XII. Redefining Intuitionism.
As stated before, the word intuitionism" is misleading as it implies the use of intuition in its moral reasoning process. There are other terms that can be used that will capture the properties of the self-evident principles. Here are some choices:
A. Axiom - defined as "1. a self-evident truth that requires no proof. 2. a universally accepted principle or rule (Random House, 97).
B. Truism - defined as "1. a self-evident, obvious truth" (Random House, 1431).
C. Maxim - defined as "1. an expression of a general truth or principle" (Random House, 837).
Of the three choices above, I would select "axiomism" as a very good replacement for intuitionism. The term "axiom" embodies the meanings and the spirit that the intuitionists used when they developed the "intuitions". If someone asks which school of ethics that I follow, maybe I should state that I am an Axiomist.
1. Warren A. French & John Granrose, Practical Business Ethics, (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1995), pp. 6, 7, 10, 12, 26, 47, 124-6, & 131.
2. David McNaughton, "Chapter 14: Intuitionism", The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory, edited by Hugh LaFollette. (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2000), pp. 269 - 272, 275 & 277.
3. Robert B. Costello, Editor in Chief, Random House Webster's College Dictionary. (New York: Random House, 1992), pp. 97, 837 & 1431.
1. Download on 10/11/2003 from http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/chap3/chap3h.htm
2. Download on 10/11/2003 from http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg#Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development
3. Downloaded on 10/11/2003 from http://search.eb.com/eb/article?eu=30460&tocid=0&query=deontology&ct=eb
Student Position Paper -- Sample Three
Since the early days of this class, I have been thinking about the stages of moral development and the theories of ethics, and wondering abstractly, which of these most aptly describes me and explains the way I do things. I have wondered how my code of ethics is defined, how I determine right from wrong, and to what degree these definitions and determinations really shape my life's decisions. I still wonder, however, I have learned a great deal about what motivates me ethically, and where that places me in Kolberg's stages of moral development.
What Stage of Kolberg's Moral Development I Feel I am In
Most of my decisions seem to be rooted in the tenet's of Kolberg's Stage 4 of Moral Development; the 'law and order' stage. As I look back upon some of the recent or memorable decisions I've made, it seems that the laws, rules, or regulations by which I am governed supply the framework for most of them. In my daily work, I can think of numerous examples of decisions that I have made that reflect this, on both a professional basis as well as a personal. For example, I work in a college office with a great deal of student and parent contact. I receive numerous calls and emails from parents asking about student record information. At work, I am governed by the federal Family Educational Right Privacy Act (FERPA), which states that I cannot release any student-specific record information to parties other than the student, without the consent of the student. In cases such as this, I always follow the law, nearly to the letter, when talking to parents about their students. Even though the interest of the parents is usually in the best interest of the student, the legislation exists to protect the student, and legally I am obligated to uphold the legislation.
I think this example illustrates my Stage 4 moral development at its best. This is generally how I govern my own actions, and it helps to determine how I decide what is right and wrong. It's how my parents raised me, and it's how I will likely raise my own children someday.
Though I feel that I am primarily at Kolberg's Stage 4, the
decisions I make are not always so black and white, and are not
always based simply upon law and order. In recent years, I have
begun to realize a change in my decision making processes, and
in what I feel is right and wrong, that extends beyond Stage 4.
Perhaps it is as simple as maturity, or maybe it's my deepening
Christian faith, but regardless of the reason, I sometimes find
myself making decisions that are not in keeping with my 'normal'
Stage 4 decision making process. I believe that, in some instances,
laws and regulations can only be used as a guideline. I believe
that in addition to outcomes, impacts, and reasons must also be
considered in deciding whether or not to uphold the law. I think
it's also important to consider how many people would feel such
In recent years, I have made more and more decisions this way, and it has changed the way I think of right and wrong. Although I still feel I am primarily in Stage 4, I think my moral decision making is moving more towards Stage 5.
What Basic School of Ethics I Follow
Because I strongly feel that there are outside circumstances that must be considered when determining what is wrong or right, I find myself in the mixed deontology school of ethics. When making decisions, I generally try to consider elements other than just consequences; I try to consider things such as the reasoning behind the decision, how the decision will affect me, how it will affect others, what sorts of alternatives are available, and whether those alternatives plausible or appropriate.
In reviewing some of my recent ethical decisions, I realize that I tend to follow a variation of Ross' prima fascie duties in determining right from wrong, with an underlying consideration of what is legal, and what will be the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Although I do not evaluate the exact same list of duties outlined by Ross, it seems to me that I do tend to follow the type of methodology outlined by his prima fascie duties.
When in the position to make a decision involving the ethics of right and wrong in a professional capacity, my first consideration is what my obligations are; if I am at work serving students, I think about how my job duties would best be fulfilled. This consideration most closely mirrors the 'Fidelity' duty on Ross' list. I then evaluate whether or not the options I have to choose from are legal. Subsequently, because I serve students, I also give careful measure as to how each option would impact the students, and I try to carefully evaluate the options to determine which one would provide the greatest overall service to the most students. I also consider what I personally feel is morally right; what I feel in my heart to be right or wrong, most of which is based upon the teachings of God. I often put myself in the position of 'What Would Jesus Do' when making these types of decisions, and then I try to follow through with what I think is the greatest good for all parties affected by the decision, and what is the most 'right'.
I evaluate each of these considerations in the order above - I consider the responsibilities dictated by my job first, and the legality of the available options next. Then, I consider the needs of the students and how to provide the best service to the greatest number of students, although this consideration often gets evaluated earlier, to some degree, along with my job duties. I carefully consider the consequences of all of my options as well. The last stop on my decision-making process is my personal feelings of right or wrong; whatever I decide, when it is all said and done, my conscience and soul need to feel that the decision I've chosen is the most 'right'.
In a personal capacity, I tend to make my decisions the same way. Right or wrong is decided based upon an evaluation of obligations and legality, then the consequences/outcomes of each option, and my personal feelings of right or wrong. In a personal capacity, I do evaluate one other element: I always try to think of how I would feel if I was on the receiving end of my decision. In hindsight, it appears that I consider this element mostly in my personal decisions, not those I make in a professional capacity. I am unclear as to why this is.
The Extent to Which My Moral Reasoning Processes Meet the Criteria Mentioned in the Text
The book defines consistency as " two things: first, that the various beliefs and principles a person holds should not contradict each other, and second, that a person's beliefs be in harmony with their subsequent behavior".
In evaluating my moral reasoning processes, I feel that my beliefs do not contradict each other, and that I am generally very consistent in my decision making. I have always viewed the decision making process as something of an individual science, and I strive to apply the same process and reasoning to all of the decisions I make. That is not to say that I don't occasionally feel passionate enough about something that I throw all organized decision making and reasoning to the wind; I have 4 storage bins of unnecessary shoes as testament to this particular weakness in my decision making process.
Overall, I feel that my behavior is generally in line with what I believe. I hold myself to a high moral standard because of the Christian values and beliefs that I have, and while I try not to impose those same beliefs on others, I will willingly engage in a spirited discussion about what I believe is right and wrong, and why, and I try to be a good role model for younger siblings, and the students that I work with. I try to be sure that all of my actions support what I believe, and most of the time, I think they do. I think there are times when my behavior is not in line with my beliefs, and it seems that most of those occasions occur because I evaluate my obligations, professional and legal, ahead of what I personally feel is right or wrong. In a professional capacity, I think there will always be times that we have to make decisions that we don't always agree with. Sometimes those decisions may turn out to be the best choices, and sometimes they may not. Overall, though, as I look back on my recent decisions and behavior, I feel that my beliefs and my decision making behavior are both generally very consistent.
Feasibility is considered the practical guideline of ethical business decisions, and can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Feasibility can include quantitative items such cost, consequences, and staffing, as well as some non-quantitative ways, such as the use of power. When making decisions, I do consider whether or not an option is practical or feasible, however, I mostly evaluate both practicality and feasibility from the cost perspective, taking into consideration direct costs, such as expense and staffing, and indirect costs such as employee morale. Prior to this course, I did not evaluate feasibility in terms of power when making decisions at all. Although this class has given me a thorough primer in the uses and roles of power in ethical decision making, this is still something to which I honestly give very little thought in my decision making processes. This is perhaps a shortcoming that will need some closer attention in the future.
The book explains reasoning in terms of "reasonable forseeability", which states that "if a reasonable person, placed in that situation, would have predicted the outcome as likely". To this extent, I feel that my moral reasoning processes more than adequately meet the reasoning criteria. As part of my decision making process, I make every effort to thoroughly evaluate the possible outcomes of all my decision options, and I feel that most of the time my decisions would meet this definition of "reasonable foreseeability". I try to err on the side of caution when making decisions, particularly those that involve some sort of risk to another party, so some of my decisions may tend to be a bit conservative when viewed by an outside eye.
Universalizability, which stipulates that "we be willing to allow others to do the same types of things we consider morally acceptable for ourselves", is a crucial part of my decision making and moral reasoning processes. In this respect, I feel my decision making and moral reasoning are very strong, perhaps sometimes to the detriment of other components of my moral reasoning, such as feasibility. I was raised Catholic, and have always tried to live my life around the Christian 'Golden Rule'. This is ingrained in many areas of my life, and truly affects many things that I do on a day to day basis, including my moral reasoning processes. Because of my faith and my religious education, I feel that this is an extremely important part of my personal moral reasoning process. I do my best to be sure that this is always a consideration in my moral decisions, and try to be as objective as possible when I think of what I would and would not like to experience if I was on the receiving end of my decisions.
As early as the first day of class, when we received the syllabus, I knew what I would use as my example for this paper. In my brief professional career, I have been in one situation that called upon my ethics and moral reasoning that stands out above all others.
(example omitted for privacy reasons).
This example serves to highlight all areas of my moral reasoning process. First, I refused to follow the orders of my boss, because what he was asking me to do was illegal, as dictated by my NASD and Minnesota insurance licenses. This was an example that came to mind when I was trying to figure out where I fit in Kolberg's stages as well; I feel that it illustrates a straightforward Stage 4 response.
Second, my ethics reasoning said that on all accounts, my boss' request was wrong. Regardless of whether or not it was legal, he was asking me to falsify records, and to lie. My job responsibilities were ultimately to serve clients, and falsifying the records was in no way going to accomplish that task. My job duties did not include any of what was being asked of me.
I also carefully considered all of the options - what the outcomes would be if I did as asked, how it would affect the employee, the employer, and our company, and what the outcomes would be if I did not do as asked. I reasoned that because our company was responsible for the error, we should accept responsibility for cleaning it up. I felt that we should document our error, and make it right with the client. It was financially feasible - our company had errors & omissions insurance designed to help offset the cost of these types of mistakes. This is also the course of action that I felt would provide the greatest good for the most people; it was the intent of the employer to add the employee to his group medical coverage; it simply wasn't done. To lie and falsify records after the fact would save the company money, but at a significant cost to the employee.
When I left the company, the issue was not yet resolved; responsibility was still being bounced around. I did learn later that our company did pay. However, the situation was ethically the worst one I have ever encountered, and although the end result was truthful and 'right', the actions of my boss were inexcusable. In hindsight, I think this is probably one of those situations where my boss' decision to ask me to destroy records was rooted in the need for power, and my decision was based solely on my own processes of moral reasoning and decision making.
This is an instance that kept me awake nights when I was employed
there, and one that I have thought long and hard about many times
since then. I feel that it illustrates all areas of my moral reasoning,
and it helps to clarify my stage of moral development. In conclusion,
I am comfortable with the self-realization that has led me to
learn about my moral development stage and decision making processes,
and have learned from the questions involved in writing this paper.
It's helped me to understand why, had I to do the above situation
over today, I would have done exactly the same thing, and to know
why I am truthfully able to say that I can stand behind that decision
Student Position Paper -- Sample Four
I use the Bible to determine what is morally right and wrong. I believe that the Bible is God's Holy and inspired Word. The ten commandments, the parables taught by Jesus, and the epistles written by the Apostles are some of the items in the Bible that help show me the way God wants me to live. My motivation to live a God-pleasing life is out of thankfulness for the salvation and eternal life Jesus won for me, which has become mine through faith in Him. I also believe that this motivation is not something natural, but is worked in me through the Holy Spirit.
Throughout this paper, I will use different terms to express the basis of my moral system (i.e. God's will, the Bible, God's Word). All of these are merely different terms expressing the same thing.
What Stage of Kohlberg's Moral Development I Feel I am In
Lawrence Kohlberg theorized that there are six stages of moral development that are common to all people. As I assess my own moral development, I am not able to categorize myself into any of these stages. I will briefly explain the reasons why my morality does not fit into Kohlberg's stages.
Stage 1: “Obedience and Punishment”
In stage one, individuals determine what is right or wrong based on what will keep them from receiving punishment (French and Granrose 6). I am not in stage one. My focus in determining what is right and wrong is what God says is right and wrong, regardless of the consequences. My parents gave me the option of attending a private Christian grade school. I chose to attend this school, even though I was sometimes teased by other kids in the neighborhood who attended the public schools.
Stage 2: “Individualism and Reciprocity”
Kohlberg's second stage distinguishes right from wrong based on what will return the greatest amount of good for the individual making the decision (French and Granrose 6). I am not in stage two. I recently purchased a vehicle from a private seller. Before going to the license bureau to transfer the title to me, the seller encouraged me to tell the bureau that I paid a lower price for the vehicle than what I actually did. Had I agreed to the seller's suggestion, I would have paid lower fees. A person in stage two might have done this, but I did not because God does not approve of dishonesty.
Stage 3: “Interpersonal Conformity”
What is right or wrong for a person in stage three is determined by what is expected of you by family, friends, colleagues, reference groups, or other people (French and Granrose 6). I am not in stage three. I have a friend who, according to my moral beliefs, occasionally drinks too much alcohol. The Bible does not forbid alcohol, and therefore I do drink beer. But the Bible does forbid drunkenness. I chose not to attend my friend's New Years Eve party, where I suspected people would be getting drunk. A person in stage three would have likely attended the party and had too much to drink.
Stage 4: “Social System” / “Law-and-Order”
People in stage four use the rules and laws in our social system to determine what is right and wrong (French and Granrose 6). I am not in stage four. As a Christian who uses the Bible to determine what is right and wrong, there are laws that I do not agree with. For example, it is legal to have an abortion in our country. The Bible condemns killing another human being. Therefore, even though abortions are legal, I believe they are wrong. When I evaluated stage four, I was reminded of the Bible passage that states: "We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29 NIV).
Stage 5: “Social Contract”
People in stage five determine what is right and wrong based on what would bring the greatest good for the greatest number of people (French and Granrose 6). My moral beliefs do not fit into stage five. I believe that the teachings of the Bible are good. I believe that the greatest eternal good for a person is realized when that person trusts in Jesus and follows His Word. However, how I can achieve the greatest good for the most people is not how I determine what is right or wrong. Rather, I look to the Bible for direction and guidance.
Stage 6: “Universal Ethical Principles”
Kohlberg's sixth stage of moral development is based on principles (i.e. justice, equality, freedom) chosen freely by the agent (French and Granrose 7). I am not in stage six. Individuals in stage six choose their moral principles. I have not chosen moral principles to follow, rather I look to God and His Word for direction and guidance on what is morally right and wrong. I have not even chosen to follow God's Word, rather it is God who has worked in me the desire to obey His Will (Philippians 2:13 NIV).
The motivation that lies behind Kohlberg's sixth stage and my moral beliefs is different. The reasons a stage six person abides by their chosen principle(s) may vary. Very likely these principles were chosen because of their perceived benefit. My motivation to follow God's Word is out of thankfulness. Through the salvation won by Jesus, I no longer am a slave to sin and law, but I am a slave to righteousness.
I was not able to categorize my moral beliefs into one of Kohlberg's six stages without compromising my beliefs. My moral beliefs, which are based on the Bible, do not seem to fit into Kohlberg's six stage model.
What Basic School of Ethics I Follow
I use God's Word as the basis for determining what is right and what is wrong, regardless of the consequences. Therefore, I would classify my beliefs as pure deontology. More specifically, I would say my beliefs fall under the “Divine Command” theory.
I would also consider my beliefs to be a monistic rule deontology. Some may argue that this philosophy falls under pluralistic rule deontology because the Bible consists of multiple “rules.” I view the “Divine Command” theory as monistic because I view God's will as singular. The teachings contained in the Bible help me learn about God's will.
The Extent to Which My Moral Reasoning Processes Meet the Criteria Mentioned in the Text
God and His Holy will do not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). Of all the things that exist in this world, God's love for us and His Will for us are the only things that will not change. While our opportunities to live for God may change as we age, God's will for our lives will not.
The Bible is also consistent in that it does not contradict itself. Unfortunately, because the world is full of sinners, some people may incorrectly interpret or apply the Bible and claim that the Bible contradicts itself. There may be some teachings in the Bible that are difficult for us to understand, but this is the result of our own limitations and not Biblical contradictions. I believe the Bible is consistent and that it does not contradict itself. The Bible passages below support this conclusion.
Numbers 23:19 : God is not a man, that He should lie.
John 17:17: Your Word is truth.
John 10:35: Jesus answered them, “The Scriptures cannot be broken.”
I believe that this particular school of ethics is very feasible. God has told us how he would have us live in the Bible. The Bible is available in many (if not all) languages across the world. Christians and Christian churches are available to encourage us in our spiritual growth. This theory is even more feasible when one considers that God works in us the desire to follow His Will: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13 NIV). It is also God who gives us the strength to carry out His Will: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV).
Some reasoning may be used in my moral system, but human reasoning can also be dangerous. Reasoning should not be used to justify deviations from the clear teachings of the Bible. Reasoning also should not be substituted for prayer or trust in God (Proverbs 3:5 NIV). During our lives we will encounter adiaphora: things that God neither commands nor forbids. Reasoning may be involved in these situations to determine how best to glorify and serve God. But in these situations reasoning should also be used in conjunction with prayer.
Reasoning can be dangerous because it is easy for us to twist the meaning of God's Word. Sometimes I catch myself using reasoning to justify a certain action that I know is wrong. I misuse reasoning to rationalize my wrong behavior. The devil used reasoning in conjunction with Scripture to tempt Jesus when Jesus was in the dessert (Matthew 4:1-11 NIV).
Universalizability means that we would be willing for other people to do the same things we consider to be good and right (French and Granrose 125). God's will is definitely universalizable. I want to do God's will, and I want other people to follow God's will. If I am trapped in sin or wrong doing, I want people to reach out to me with God's Word.
A Recent Example
My faith and relationship with Jesus is very important to me. I want to live my life in a way that shows I am thankful to my Lord. One way I choose to do this is by attending church regularly, and by being active within the church. I am a member of two church committees, one of which is the Evangelism committee.
Our church tries to reach un-churched individuals within Rochester . Every month my church receives a list of all the people who have moved into the northwest part of Rochester . Individuals from the church call the people on the list to find out if they have a church home. As a member of the Evangelism committee, I have helped with this effort and have made calls to these homes to find out if the residents have a church home.
You may be asking yourself, “What's the moral dilemma?” Personally, I do not appreciate unsolicited phone calls. I also do not relish the opportunity to call people that I do not know. So why would I make unsolicited phone calls when I myself do not like to have my privacy invaded by unsolicited phone calls? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV). “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14 NIV). I make these calls because Jesus has commanded us to share the Good News with others.
Making the phone calls in an attempt to identify people without a church home that we may be able to reach with God's Word is consistent with my belief. Making these calls is also feasible. As far as reasoning, God has told me in His Word that He has sent out all believers to share their faith with others. Do my actions follow the guideline of universalizability, especially since I do not appreciate receiving these unsolicited phone calls? Yes. If I did not know Jesus as my Savior, I would hope that other Christians would be doing all that they could to expose me to God's saving truth.
Individuals who are in one of Kohlberg's six stages may choose to not make the phone calls. Stage one individuals may avoid making the calls to avoid the rude remarks the callers sometimes receive. Stage two individuals may avoid making the calls because they wouldn't personally benefit from the calls, and would benefit more by spending their time doing something else. Stage three individuals may choose not to make the calls because they could call someone they know and lose favor with that individual. A person in stage four may not make the calls if they felt they were breaking the law by disturbing the peace and invading privacy. A person in stage five may not make the calls to avoid interrupting the many people who already belong to a church. Stage six individuals may not make the phone calls because it violates one of their principles.
French, Warren A., and John Granrose. Practical Business Ethics . Upper Saddle River , NJ : Prentice Hall, 1995.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. East Brunswick , NJ : International Bible Study, 1984.
Student Position Paper -- Sample Five
I. What Stage of Kohlberg's Moral Development I Feel I Am In
Lawrence Kohlberg has developed six stages of moral development that he believes that people progress through as they mature in their life (French & Granrose, 5). Kohlberg's theory is that not all people progress through all of the stages, but the progression from one stage to the next is sequential. Kohlberg states the stages as follows (French & Granrose, 6-7):
Kohlberg's stages of moral development attempt to classify people into groups of ways in which people make decisions. I feel as though people make decisions in all of Kohlberg's stages on a regular basis, switching back and forth between them. I find that sometimes I make decisions with fear of punishment weighing heavily on my decisions, while other times, I tend to look at the greatest good for the greatest number. I think that one cannot be completely classified into one of Kohlberg's stages of moral development at any particular time in one's life. These stages can provide insight into the basic framework of people's thinking during their moral decision making process, but I do not believe that they are an absolute structure of development for moral decisions.
While I do not think that I always follow the guidelines and moral reasoning in one particular stage of Kohlberg's moral development framework, I think that most of my ethical decisions in this stage of my life are based on Kohlberg's stage four. Kohlberg's stage four of moral development states that one makes decisions based on “playing one's part in the social system, doing one's duty, obeying the rules (of society)” (French & Granrose, 6). I do not view my action in this stage as only following the laws that have been created for society by the government, but also the social norms that have been set by society. Many of my moral decisions are based on playing my role in society. In making business decisions, I look at my role in the business, and make my decisions within the context of my role. I follow the rules of the company because I am still unfamiliar with the way in which my company operates. Being employed by my company, which is a large and successful company, I tend to believe that the rules of the company and the organization have been implemented because they help make the company successful. Successful does not mean morally correct, but I think that in my early years of working at my employer, the rules that have been created exist because they are right. In addition, most major laws governing society have been created, upheld, and are followed because I believe they are the morally right thing to do.
The stage of Kohlberg's moral development process that I follow secondly is stage 3, the interpersonal conformity stage. I think that when I do not follow the law and order reasoning, I lean toward the decision that will allow the best outcome for those within my reference group. In this stage, I am looking at decisions that affect my family, my company, and my friends. This indicates that I am following restricted teological ethical guidelines when making my decisions. When I do not think that existing social norms apply (or if I do not agree with the social norm that exists), I look at the consequences of my actions affecting those close to the decision. I rationalize this by allowing myself to not think of the social norms, only considering how my decision will affect those people close to me.
I think that I wander between stages 3 and 4 during different situations. While I am at work, I tend to follow Kohlberg's stage 4 of moral reasoning. I think that I do this because I am a fairly new employee, and I trust that the rules, regulations, and norms that were created for work behavior were created for a reason. While I sometimes question the norms, I tend to follow them, and believe that they are morally right, since they are the foundation of the actions of those in my organization. Also, since I am starting to grow into more of a leadership role at work, I am growing into an area in which I do not have much knowledge on how to make decisions. Because of this ambiguity, I tend to follow the rules as being the “right” course of action.
In my personal life, I often follow Kohlberg's stage four of moral reasoning, but many times I digress into stage three. There are certain laws that I don't always agree with, or when laws don't necessarily apply. In these situations, I follow Kohlberg's stage three of moral reasoning. I think that I move to stage three outside of work life, because I am more comfortable with defying the laws when my reference group will benefit from my decisions. In stage three decisions, I generally include myself, my family, my friends, and my girlfriend in making decisions. Normally, I don't attempt to include the consequences to a larger reference group, because I cannot conceive how my decision will impact a larger group, and often I feel as though my decisions will not affect anyone outside of my reference group. This may be a bit naïve, but I generally don't think that my decisions are far and wide reaching.
One might ask “why do you use one method of moral reasoning at work and another outside of work?” I think that I do this because I am still new at my job. In a sense, I am almost afraid of the consequences, but I do not think that the fear is enough to make me a stage one person. I think more than fear is a level of acceptance that what has been implemented at the workplace is morally right. My employer is a large company, and I do not think that the company would prosper if the rules that were created would be morally wrong. I think that as I develop within my role within my company, I may move to another one of Kohlberg's stages that does not simply accept the laws as being morally right.
II. What Basic School of Ethics I Follow
When making decisions, I tend to follow a mixed deontological school of ethics. I have a set of basic rules that I follow, but other times, I will analyze the consequences of my decisions before I make them. There are basic ethical concepts that I adhere to, such as do not purposely attack another person for personal gain, do not steal from others, do not rape another individual, and do not purposely impose harm on others. At other times when I do not have a predetermined ethical standard, I tend to think of the consequences to my actions. Some ethical standards, such as were already mentioned, I follow no matter what the consequences. These are standards that if I decided against, I would have a hard time dealing with myself, knowing that I make an immoral decision. When I do not have this strong conviction toward any one act, I look at the outcomes and consequences of my actions, trying to maximize the positive outcomes and to minimize the negative impacts of my decisions.
I think that each situation and the circumstances surrounding the situation can call for an entirely unique moral decision. I think that I follow a set of moral principals when taking into consideration the situation at hand. In addition, I consider the consequences of my actions, unless I have a moral principal that governs my thought process. For example, if I was faced with a decision of helping a friend obtain a contract with my company even though that merger might be harmful for my company, I would consider both my moral principals and the consequences. My moral principal would state that harming my company for the good of one person (even though he is a friend) is wrong. I would also look at the consequences of this action. If the harm to the company would be very minimal, to the point that it would not pose a long-term harm, or that choosing another person to award the contract to would not be a large increase in benefits to the company, I might be willing to go against my moral principals. On the other hand, if the harm to the company would be very detrimental, or that choosing another person to award the contract to would be a huge advantage, I would be more willing to abide by my moral principal. This example would indicate that I follow a more teological school of ethics. Actually, I think that since I do have some basic rules that I follow in any circumstance, this tends to lean me away from the pure or restricted teological school of ethics. Since I have a combination of ethical thought processes that include following moral principals and considering consequences, I believe that I follow a mixed deontological school of thought processes.
III. The Extent to Which My Moral Reasoning Process Meet the Criteria Mentioned in the Text
I do not think that my moral reasoning process is always consistent from situation to situation. I think that this is because I go between stages three and four of moral reasoning in making decisions. As I stated earlier, I think that different situations can yield completely different decisions. Since sometimes I follow my moral principals, and other times I consider consequences, I do not think that my moral reasoning process is consistent from time to time. I do think that for the most part, my decisions are consistent with my moral beliefs. Very infrequently I make a decision that go against my moral principals. It just happens that often times I do not have moral principals that govern certain situations.
Feasibility is a measure of how realistically one can carry out an ethical decision to solve a conflict. A phrase that sums up feasibility is the fact that “Ought Implies Can” (French & Granrose, 26). This phrase implies that if one should perform an action (the moral decision that was made), that person is able to carry out the action. This fundamental aspect of feasibility is important when making decisions. It does not do any good to come up with a resolution to a conflict that cannot be carried out. I think that my decisions are consistently feasible to be implemented. Since I follow Kohlbeg's stage four of moral reasoning, the laws and norms that I follow were developed and tested. These laws and norms exist because they are feasible to be carried out. Following Kohlberg's stage four of moral reasoning is a conservative approach to being able to carry out the actions that resulted from ethical and moral decisions.
Following Kohlberg's stage four of moral reasoning explicitly would tend to make one not use reasoning in the resolution of conflicts. Following the letter of the law does not lend one to be able to reason one's way through the conflict. When I do not agree with the rules or norms, I tend to follow Kohlberg's stage three of moral reasoning, which is the greatest good for those within my reference group. Earlier, I stated that I believe that each individual situation is different, and that the circumstances surrounding each situation must be evaluated in making decisions. Since I do not always follow stage four, I often resort to my moral principals in making decisions. Therefore, I reason through each individual situation before making decisions. Since I do not think that I am categorized into one of Kohlberg's stages of moral reasoning, that leads me to carefully consider the circumstances surrounding each situation. Reasoning through each situation rather than blindly following norms is the way in which I carry out my moral decision making process.
When I make decisions, one of my basic moral principals that I follow is to not to impose harm onto others, whether that be physical, monetary, or mental harm. Many of my decisions are made with others in mind. Because of this, I think that my moral decision making process is universalizable. I would not have a problem if the situation was reversed and another person was making the same decision as I. Since I have to live with the decisions that I make, I do not believe that the decisions that I make have an intended negative impact on others. Therefore, I think that my moral reasoning process is universalizable in the sense that I would be comfortable if the roles were reversed.
IV. A Recent Example
At work, there is a rule against accepting gifts from outside vendors of something that is valued more than $25. Often times, I work with sales representatives from outside vendors when selecting who will manufacture or supply parts to my company. Recently, a sales representative that I was working with offered to take me to a hockey game, which happened to be very good seats. He offered to take me and two others to Minneapolis for dinner and the hockey game, all of which his company would pay for. This type of a trip could be considered to be a “business meeting”, but I saw it as a way for this sales representative to instill a sense of loyalty and commitment for his company. If I were to accept this venture, I would probably feel a sense of commitment to award his company the next business opportunity that was presented. In my view, the sales representative would be providing me with something over $25 worth of value.
Since this could be considered a gray area with respect to the company rule of accepting anything valued at more than $25, I had to also consider other aspects. I considered what accepting this invitation would mean; a certain level of guilt if I did not award the next business opportunity to his company. Awarding the next business opportunity to his company might or might not be in the best interest of the company. That could not be predicted until the situation presented itself. On the other hand, refusing this trip could be viewed by the salesman as separating me from him, and a negative impact to the working relationship between us, and the potential benefits of the relationships between our companies. In the end, I chose to refuse accepting this trip.
As stated earlier, the company rule is to not accept anything of value over $25. I viewed this as a gift that would violate the company rule. In this sense, I showed my conformance to Kohlberg's stage four of moral development. In addition, I considered accepting this as being morally wrong to the company, since this could possibly negatively affect the company in which I work in the future. I viewed accepting this gift as benefiting no one but myself, and possibly hurting many others. In this regards, I exhibited conformance to Kohlberg's stage five of moral development of the greatest good for the greatest number.
This incident is an example of how I primarily follow Kohlberg's stage four of moral development, but I also consider other aspects other than simply “law and order”. I evaluate the circumstances surrounding the situation, and reasoned through the problem. This situation is an example of how I follow a mixed deontological school of ethics. I have my basic principals of which I follow (follow rules and not harm others), and also how I consider the consequences of my actions (the future relationships and possible negative impacts to my company). Most importantly of all, I am happy with my decision, and I can sleep well, knowing that I made the right moral decision.
French, Warren A & Granrose, John. 1995. Practical Business Ethics. New Jersey . Prentice Hall
Student Position Paper -- Sample Six
Kohlberg's theory of moral development talks about how people move through different stages of development until they get stuck in one stage. However, I contend my behavior reflects examples of all of the six different stages of development. What motivates my behavior seems to be dependent on the situation; some people call it situational ethics. Let me give you some examples of my behavior that reflect the different stages of ethical development. The definitions of the stages that follow have been taken from our textbook, Practical Business Ethics (French & Granrose, 1995).
“Stage One may be referred to the ‘obedience and punishment' stage. The sole criterion of right for the person at this stage of moral development is obedience to the will of those in authority…. The primary motivation for doing what is right is to avoid punishment,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p6). During the basketball season, I drove to and from Minneapolis at least once a week during the December through February timeframe. My obedience to the traffic laws during those trips was due to fear. Fear that if I don't conform to the speed limit, I would get caught and would be punished (i.e., have to pay a fine). In the same way, I use Stage One ethics when I am a basketball official. For example, when a person, be they coach, player or spectator, doesn't appreciate the rightness of my calls and challenges my authority, I will sometimes use the threat of a technical foul as an incentive for them to conform, at least on the surface, to my way of thinking. Therefore in both my fear of punishment and my use of the threat of punishment, I display Stage One ethical development.
“Stage Two may be referred to as the ‘individualism and reciprocity' stage. Here the criterion of right is that of the greatest good for the individual making the decision…includes recognition that to advance one's own good one sometimes must enter into agreements or ‘deals' with others…. Self-interest, however is always the motive…” (French & Granrose, 1995, p6). My sister has three boys and a girl. Occasionally she leaves them in my care. Periodically when I want them to behave in a particular way, I will bribe them with some reward. For example, when I need them to be ready for church on time, I will offer them an incentive, such as going out for dinner, in exchange for being ready. Another example of my use of reward can be seen in a recent vehicle negotiation. I used the reward of a sale to get a better price for my trade-in. I have to admit that most of the deals I make are usually for own my self-interest. These examples show that I also demonstrate Stage Two ethical development.
“Stage Three is called by Kohlberg the ‘interpersonal conformity' stage. The idea here is that what is right will be determined by what is expected of you by people close to you or by people generally… The person at this stage tests his or her attitudes and behavior by such expectations,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p6). I've seen this behavior at work in my latest project. I am concerned about the quality of the product not being up to the standards that we usually produce. However, I'm not going to rock the boat by being the one who says: “We need to delay shipping this product,” unless someone else is also willing to publicly say: “I agree, we should not be shipping.” In my personal interactions with others, I tend to be the one who “goes along” with what the group wants even if it's not something that I particularly wanted to do. In these examples, I display Stage Three ethical development.
“Stage Four may be labeled the ‘social system' or the ‘law-and-order' stage. Morality is seen by persons at this stage as a matter of playing one's part in the social system, of doing one's duty, of obeying the rules… A major motive for persons at this stage of development would be to keep society as a whole…going,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p6). I see examples of this stage of development in my personal life. As a Christian, I believe in following God's will as directed in the Bible and therefore see my behavior as following the rules as defined in the Bible. An example of this is in my desire to follow the directive to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, Revised Standard, p.2537) by telling others about what God has done for them and me. I also see examples of this stage of development in my work life. As a project manager, I find that things work better if everyone follows the same processes and procedures. Therefore Stage Four development is very evident in my life.
“Stage Five is sometimes referred to as the ‘social contract' stage. This stage presupposes a kind of philosophical reflection on morality and a growing independence from the actual or concrete rules or duties recognized in a particular society,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p6). In my life, I've never been completely tied to social acceptance. As a girl, in the 1970s, I bucked the social mores of society and played sports. So at an early age, I learned “the crowd” isn't always right and therefore don't feel bound by societal rules or peer pressure. In my life, evidence of Stage Five activity is not as obvious as the evidence of the other Stages. However, evidence of this stage of thinking is seen when I look at my thoughts on actions that I support on a global level. Recently, al Qaidi has started a campaign of terror in Europe and then promised to stop the campaign if the countries withdrew their military from Iraq . As I evaluated the situation, I used Stage Five reasoning to determine what the response to al Qaidi should be. My criterion for determining what to do is based on determining what would be the greatest good for the greatest number. As such, I recognized that conceding to their demands would only provide terrorists with an effective strategy in the future. And while I regret the increased risk of loss of life in some countries, the overall value of a united front outweighs the potential for harm by any one country or people (the USA included).
“Stage Six…is called the stage of ‘universal ethical principles'. At this stage, moral decisions are not based simply on what is best for everybody. They are based instead on principles that are chosen freely by the agent, but that the agent would be willing for everyone to live by as well,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p7). Having lived overseas, I came to realize that not everyone has the same frame of reference for what is right and wrong. As such, there will never be an all encompassing set of societal rules that everyone could live with, nor due to the multitude of religions, will there ever be one set of religious guidelines that everyone will agree with. While my Christian principles formed the basis for my universal ethical principles, I am not rigid, i.e., I do not insist that everyone must conform to my way of thinking, but I am happy and willing for others to follow these rules.
As I said in the beginning, I believe I practice situational ethics. This is also true when assessing my primary and secondary stages of development. As I look at my life I find the primary and secondary stages I practice differ depending on if I am dealing with situations in my work life or situations in my personal life. Therefore I will provide two primary and two secondary stages; one set for my work life and one set for my personal life.
I believe my primary stage of development for my work life is Stage Four. At IBM I am a project manager. Project management is best performed when following a set of processes. In fact, I have been trained in Project Management processes, initially defined by the Project Management Institute in their Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and then refined by IBM in its World Wide Project Management Methodology (WWPMM). As a certified Project Manager, I try to follow the guidelines set out in these processes because I understand the benefits to the company in quality and productivity if we all follow the same set of guidelines in managing projects.
However, for my personal life, I believe my primary stage of development is Stage Six. First as I mentioned above, I do not see myself completely bound to the conventions of society. Living overseas helped me to see the United States and myself in a different light. I saw how people in other countries viewed the actions taken by my government and I learned that not everything the US did could be viewed as ethically valid. My experience with other cultures helped me to understand that the same action can be seen from two different frameworks, and thus can be seen as good or bad depending on the framework from which it is being viewed. With this understanding, I developed my own sense of right and wrong. My ethical guidelines were formulated from my life experiences and from my cultural framework. While I am willing for others to follow my ethical guidelines, I also realize that not everyone will want to, and I am willing to accept that fact.
I believe my secondary stage of development for my personal and work life is Stage Three. I believe most people want to be liked and I am no exception. While I do not view myself to be bound by society or cultural expectation, I am willing to “go with the crowd” as long as I do not perceive the crowd to be going past one of my absolute principles, i.e., that the action the crowd recommends would violate a sacred principle I hold. For example, I would not challenge a friend or family member if they lied about the age of one of their children to get a cheaper ticket at an amusement park because I liked to be liked and not seen to be difficult. However, I, myself, would not ask for the cheaper ticket if I were purchasing the tickets.
I reject the notion that I base my actions only on the result of consequences to myself, to my social group or to society (i.e., Teleology Ethics). I also reject the notion that I base my actions only on an absolute set of moral rules. Therefore the basic school of ethics that I follow is that of a mixed deontologist. As a member of the Covenant Church , one question we always ask in regards to our decisions is: “Where is it written?” Some people might call this “What would Jesus do (WWJD)?” but to me what it really means is: “What does the Bible tell me God would want me to do in this case?” As an imperfect being, at times I find it difficult to determine the will of God in some circumstances. In fact, I don't think that any one person can claim they know completely the will of God. The Bible backs this up in the verse: “Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly,” (1 Corinthians 13:12 , Living Bible translation, p2929). In times when I am uncertain that I understand God's will, I will weigh the cost or the consequences to determine my actions. This is the reason why I believe I am a mixed deontologist instead of a pure deontologist.
In addition, since God has given me free will, I can chose to follow his will or to go a different way. Even when I know the will of God, I will sometimes base my actions on consequences. An example of this is when I tell white lies to avoid unpleasant circumstances. While God has made it clear that he does not want me to lie, I know that at times I will lie to avoid damaging a relationship. For example, if someone asks me why I haven't visited my sick friend, I might say “My knee surgery has prevented me from getting out much” and I know this would be accepted and my relationship with that person would not be hurt nor will that person be offended that I hadn't visited them. However in my heart I know that I lied, but in these types of situations, rightly or wrongly, I have put a higher weight on my perceived estimation of those consequences.
Determining whether I am a monistic rule or pluralistic rule deontologist is harder. Saying I follow the will of God could be viewed either way. It is similar to the discussion in class about how “Following the 10 commandments” could be seen as either monistic or pluralistic. I tend to think that following the will of God would be more monistic rule deontology. However, as stated above, because I am not perfect and will not always know the will of God, therefore in those times my actions will be determined by consequences, similar to how W. D. Ross's rules of duty are tempered by consequences.
In following section I will analyze the criteria provided in the text as a means of “gauging the acceptability of my moral conclusions,” I'll first use the text to define each of the criteria and than I will evaluate my actions based on those criteria.
Consistency according to the text means “two things: first, that the various beliefs and principles a person holds should not contradict each other, and, second, that a person's beliefs be in harmony with subsequent behavior,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p47). Consistency in my opinion is the hardest of the four criteria to meet. First, it is difficult for anyone to have harmony within a person's own principle beliefs system, and I am no exception. Even the philosopher W.D. Ross acknowledged that there would be conflict between “prima facie duties”. Since I use the Bible as a means of understanding the will of God, it is sometimes difficult to determine what to do, especially considering what seems to be conflicting guidance. For example, the Bible says you should not kill anyone, yet periodically throughout the Bible God tells the Israelites to eliminate another race. I believe I should not kill but yet there are times that I support killing, whether it is in stopping someone from hurting another person or in times of defending national security.
I feel there is such a thing as logical inconsistency and illogical inconsistency. An action that would be seen as an illogical inconsistency is when most people would say the action is inconsistent with the belief, for example a person who opposes abortion because that is killing and then goes out and kills a doctor who perform abortions. This is in contrast to a logical inconsistency where a person has weighed the consequences and feels that the consequences of the action are more consistent with their ethical principles then the consequences of not doing the action. For example, a person who follows God's will would recognize that one of his rules would be “thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13 , King James Translation, p192). However, he might decide that he is able to meet more of his rules, rules such as “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28: 19, Living Bible Translation, p2527) and “feed my lambs”, (John 21:15, Living Bible Translation, p 2761) by being a Chaplin in the Army than by doing anything else. This would be a logical inconsistency.
In regards to the consistency of my actions with my beliefs system, I am a living example of the Biblical saying “No one is good – except God alone,” (Mark 10:18 , New International translation, p2570). Part of the definition of good would include being consistent or “ought implies will”. However, I don't believe anyone could say they are entirely consistent in their beliefs and actions. However, I believe I am fairly consistent in basing my actions on my belief system and when I have conflicting “rules”, I weigh the consequences of the action based on the implications to the overall “set of rules”.
Feasibility according to the text can be defined by the saying “Ought implies Can” or “whether an action is doable, practical and realistic,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p26). The question here is whether my ethical principles are sustainable. On the whole my actions tend to be feasible. While I have said it is not always possible for me to determine the will of God, I will use consequences to determine my course of action. The same is true when ethical rules seem to conflict, again I will use the consequences of the action on my entire set of ethical guidelines to determine the action I should take. The example of the Army Chaplin in the consistency section also applies here.
Reasoning is “focusing on rational thought in resolution of conflict,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p229). In my younger days, I tended more to avoid thinking about ethical conflicts. I believe I did so because I was still in the early stages of my ethical development (i.e. Stage Three) and had not formed enough of my own guidelines for me to reason through ethical dilemmas. In fact, I think the skill and ability to resolve conflict grows in a person as they experience more of life. Age and experience helps us have a more defined set of ethical principles. These principles form the basis for resolving conflict both with inconsistencies in our own ethical guidelines as well as for resolving conflicts with other people's ethical guidelines.
As I've matured, I've started to see that everything is not black and white and that I need to have a process for handling shades of gray. My process for handling conflict consists of determining if the action violates my highest ethical guidelines. If conflict exists within these highest guidelines, I will then weigh the consequences of the action against my composite set of ethical guidelines. For me, the use of these evaluating techniques provides a basis for the reasonability of my ethical guidelines.
Universalizability is “the claim that taking the moral point of view requires that we be willing to allow others to do the same type of things we consider morally acceptable for ourselves,” (French & Granrose, 1995, p125). I am more than willing for people to follow my moral system. My problem is not that I am willing, but I want, and sometimes expect, people to follow my moral point of view. However, my overseas experience helped me to understand that everyone doesn't have to have the same ethical framework as I do. Therefore, everyone will not have the same moral point of view as I do.
Again I have to admit that I am not perfect and at times want to have different rules for me than other people. An example of this is my annoyance at people who when they see the lane ending, pass as many cars as they can before merging, something that I periodically do when in a hurry. But on the whole, since I see my ethical guidelines as being fairly high morally, I am more than willing for others to follow it.
In the life of a 48-year-old, recent is relative, so this example goes back a few years. I will use, as an example, a situation I dealt with when I was living in England, because it was one of the few times I have been confronted with a serious conflict of interest.
Margaret was project manager at a rival company working in their Image Projects Group. She was also my neighbor, a fellow Christian and my best friend in England . We did many things together: going to church, going to movies and even jogging. I, on the other hand, was working on early ship customer programs for IBM. Even though our companies were competitors, never in my mind did I ever think I would be put in a position of a conflict of interest. I just couldn't see our jobs competing since mine involved working with IBM development and existing IBM customers, and hers involved sales to new customers and customer support. We often talked about situations in our businesses. In fact, it was the first time that I ever had someone I considered a mentor and someone I considered a mentee, i.e., we co-mentored each other. I would give her insights into development, and she would give me insights into customer relations and project management.
During one of our periodic runs, she told me about problems she was having getting a quality image program from her company's development team. At that time, she and her team were in the midst of trying to secure a large sale to a customer. This yet to be delivered image program was an integral part of the sale. At the time of our run, I did not know whether or not IBM was a competitor for that customer. I gave her advice on how to handle the negotiations and what additional questions she should ask to get the total picture of when this product could be delivered. During this conversation I got a fairly good understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and problems with this new image product.
Later that week, an IBM sales team approached my management about getting technical support to make a demo to a customer on a system sale involving optical devices. My management asked me to provide that support. I helped set up the system and got to know and like the IBM sales team. During the set up, the IBM sales team and I had many conversations on the bid they were working on. I discovered, to my dismay, that this IBM team was competing for same customer as my friend Margaret. I found myself in the position of having confidential information that could help the IBM team win the business against Margaret's company.
Now I was in what I considered a specific type of ethical dilemma, a conflict of interest. I had information given to me by my friend, though Margaret had not directly told me this information was given in confidence nor had she asked me not to share it with anyone but yet it was confidential information about her company. On the other hand, this information could help my company secure business that would mean more job security for me. So what should I do? Tell the IBM Sales Team or keep my silence?
With my primary business ethic model of Stage Four, I did what was expected and referred to the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines to see what it might tell me. The following is an extract from the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines that related to my situation:
“In the normal course of business, it is not unusual to acquire information about many other organizations, including competitors. Doing so is a normal business activity and is not unethical in itself. In fact, IBM quite properly gathers this kind of information for such purposes as extending credit and evaluating suppliers. The company also collects information on competitors from a variety of legitimate sources to evaluate the relative merits of its own products, services, and marketing methods. This activity is proper and necessary in a competitive system.
There are, however, limits to the ways that information should be acquired and used, especially information about competitors. No company should use improper means to acquire a competitor's trade secrets or other confidential information. Illegal practices such as trespassing, burglary, wiretapping, bribery and stealing are obviously wrong; so is attempting to acquire a competitor's confidential information by hiring the competitor's employees. Improper solicitation of confidential data from a competitor's employees or from IBM clients is wrong. IBM will not tolerate any form of questionable intelligence-gathering.
When working with sensitive information about other companies and individuals, you should use that information in the proper context and make it available only to other IBM employees with a legitimate need to know.”
After reading through this, I decided I had received information through legitimate means during the normal course of business (or life), in other words, I did not secure it through illegal means. The information I had would be beneficial to IBM, and I could give it to people who would have a need to know. So my business ethics said there was nothing that prevented me from passing this information on to my IBM colleagues. However, I still needed to check with my personal ethics before deciding what to do.
As a Stage Six person in my personal life, I have my own set of guidelines of what my action should be. As a rules deontologist, my basic belief system is in doing the will of God. In this case, I did not find clear guidance in the Bible to help me decide which action to take. As a mixed deontologist, I then looked at consequences. If I disclosed the information, I could damage a relationship with a good friend. In this case the consequences of disclosing favored keeping silent.
Since my primary personal and business stages gave me conflicting answers, I evaluated the choice based on my secondary stage, Stage Three. However, in this case my personal and work stages yield a similar split decision. My business colleagues would support my disclosing the information, and my social circle would support my keeping silent. However, in this case, my business colleagues would also not condemn my keeping silent. Also from a consequence perspective, the number of people who would know I had remained silent would be very small, while the number of people who would know I had disclosed the information would be higher.
In making my decision to not disclose this information, I used both my primary and secondary stages of ethical development. In addition, being a mixed rule deontologist was evident in my decision-making process. But how did this decision stack up in terms of “gauging the acceptability of my moral conclusion”?
The first part of the criteria of consistency is whether the principles a person holds contradict one another. Looking at my business ethics, I was not in violation of any IBM rules by not disclosing the information I had. The second part of consistency is whether the behavior is “in harmony with subsequent behavior.” I would rather be a person who favor relationships over work and thus my action is consistent with my behavior.
The second criteria, feasibility, is “Ought implies Can”. Since I did not feel I “ought” I didn't feel I could. Therefore my decision to keep silent is consistent with being feasible.
My thoughts showed a rational process for resolving the conflict between the two “duties”, therefore my moral process meets the third criteria of reasoning.
The last criteria in judging an action is the criteria of universalizability. In this scenario universalizability could be defined as “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In this case, I would hope that things I have shared with others would be kept confidential if the information would cause me harm.
The decision made in this case demonstrated the primary and secondary stages of my ethical development as well as my mixed rule deontologist school of ethics. In addition, the decision was consistent, feasible, reasonable and universalizable.
French, Warren A., & Granrose, John. (1995). Practical Business Ethics. Upper Saddle River , NJ . Prentice Hall.
IBM Business Conduct Guidelines (2004 January), Retrieved from IBM internal web page (IBM guidelines do not all URL to be provided)
The Guideposts Parallel Bible. (1981). Grand Rapids , MN . The Zondervan Corporation.
Student Position Paper -- Sample Seven
I. What Stage of Kolberg's Moral Development I Feel I am In
A. Primary stage (include evidence)
Based on what we have learned in this course thus far, I believe that I operate primarily at a stage 5 level of moral development. I believe that I generally think like a stage 6, but my actions are more consistent with stage 5 and 3. I came to this conclusion partly based on knowing which stages definitely do not apply to me.
I am not a stage one in that I do not make my decisions based on fear of punishment and I do not use fear of punishment to get others to do my bidding. This is especially true in business. I do not fear getting fired or a bad performance review especially if I feel I am doing the right thing. A small example of this would be a decision I made to bypass the rules of my company's facilities team which stated that all office and laboratory changes had to be performed by their team. After a two month delay, I finally got a response from them that rejected my request because of cost. They claimed it would take $2000 to make the change I requested. Knowing that my request would make my team much more productive and being tired of bureaucracy, I decided to do the changes myself. I purchased $110 worth of supplies (including paint which was not allowed to be brought into our office building), hauled them into our building during the middle of the day (which was actually less suspicious), and spent the next couple of evenings finishing the work. Afterwards, I submitted the $110 as a petty cash expense and got my money back. Had I been caught, there is a good chance that I would have been fired. In the end, my team was amazed by the risks that I took for them, but what I did not tell them was that it was really for my own satisfaction.
I am not a stage two. I must emit something that tells other people that I don't deal with exploitive people, because most people do not even approach me with an idea of exploitation. A small example of this occurred when my car was damaged in a parking lot. Of course, the responsible person did not leave a note. So, I went to the body shop to get an estimate and of course, it was below my deductible. The owner of the body shop then proceeded to tell me how I could avoid the deductible completely by telling them my vehicle was damaged in my garage instead of in a parking lot and then he could charge them a higher rate so that he could make more profit. I thanked him for the estimate and said I would call him. Of course, I never did. I can actually tell you the exact event in my life that raised my moral development above stage two. My sister is 3 years older than I, but she has a learning disability. Even when I was 5 and she was 8, I was beyond her in intelligence, education, and in observation skills. So at the tender age of 5, I exploited our differences to cheat her out of a certain type of candy that we both liked: root beer bottle caps. She ended up with all of the crappy coca cola bottle caps instead. To this day, this is the event in my life that haunts me the most. After seeing her disappointment upon eating the first, second, then third coca cola flavored candy as I was ‘enjoying' mine; I could not take it anymore and gave her the rest of my candy. Of course, I gave her my candy in such a way that she did not know that I purposefully cheated her. She still does not know this to this day. I have tears in my eyes as I am writing this.
I am also not a stage four (I will get back to stage three in the next section). In fact, I cannot remember ever being a stage four. I know that Kolberg states that we progress through each stage, but I cannot remember any experiences where I was at this stage of moral development. Perhaps it was because of my father who always complained about people that took laws so literally. The ironic thing is that he is a devout Christian and believes deeply in the laws of the church. I, on the other hand, do not remember ever taking laws or rules literally. My favorite mottos relating to this topic are: laws/rules are just guidelines with a punishment; rules are made to be broken; and every rule has its exceptions. Rules and laws are created by incredibly fallible humans and I do not believe anyone has true authority over my decisions
This brings me to Stage 5 in which I believe my actions are most consistent. I am not sure if greatest good for the greatest number is the best description of my moral process, but I do take universal consequences into account for virtually every action or decision in my life. Fortunately or unfortunately, I feel other people's pain. Also fortunately or unfortunately, I am constantly projecting consequences into the future. Therefore, my actions and decisions are always geared toward minimizing current and future pain. As an example in business, a fairly recent event occurred as I was consulting for a customer. While consulting with them, I discovered that much of the software that had been written by their development team was extremely poor, but I also discovered that part of the reason for this poorly developed code was due to a lack of information from my company. So, instead of focusing on what had happened, I searched for the best possible way to move forward so that both the customer and my company's product came out a winner. Plus, of course, I did not want to look like a bad guy either. So, I developed a strategy in which I focused on solutions and positives instead of blame. I admitted some deficiencies with our offering to acknowledge that we are not perfect but that we do care; I spent a lot of time highlighting the good aspects of their software; and when identifying the portion of the code that was poor, I emphasized that they were doing better than many customers that I had seen. At the end of the day, one of our sales people pulled me aside and said to me that they did not know anyone who could do a better job at calling somebody's baby ugly while making them feel good about it. In the end, we ended up selling additional product to help solve their problems, the customer energetically fixed their code with great results, and I made several friends. So, by minimizing conflict and staying away from blame (thus avoiding pain), everyone gained.
Secondary stage (include evidence)
I have struggled a bit to determine my secondary stage. Based on the little test we took, it said that my second stage was level 3. While I agree that I exude some stage 3 behavior, I believe that I also exude a great deal of stage 6 behavior (or at least thinking).
The difficulty I have with stage 3 is that my thinking is more universal. I rarely favor one group over another. I don't follow one religion. I don't believe in one political party. I don't even favor my own company over another if it is not best for the customer. I had a conversation with a friend recently in which he stated that he believes it is more important to keep the United States safe, secure, and even successful without much consideration for the fate of the rest of the world. He was definitely a citizen of the U.S. first and foremost. In contrast, I told him that I am a citizen of the world first and would not choose our needs over the needs of other countries. I do have one example that shows I do follow stage 3 behavior some times. I was working for a small department of my company in France for a few months and I was assigned to lead a consulting effort with a company out of England . Although it became clear to me early on that our U.S. team had skills that matched their needs better than our French team could, I negotiated the deal such that the French team was responsible for most of the work. I did this for several reasons, but the main reason was to increase the value of the French team in the eyes of our management to help prevent their mission from being ended.
The reason that I believe I exude some stage 6 thinking is because the descriptions of this level given in class match almost exactly with what I generally believe. I believe there is no exact right and wrong; values and principles should be challenged daily; every situation is unique; knowledge should be used to create equity and fairness; we should not only respect the dignity of individual humans, but all life forms (except bumble bees). I do usually obey laws (to create harmony), but will certainly disobey; I would be very happy if all others followed the same moral process as do I (universalizability). A recent example of what I think is stage 6 behavior occurred when I purchased a very small amount of snacks at a hotel sundry shop. The woman at the register was very busy working on financial statements; and in her haste, she gave me $86 in change instead of the $0.86 that I deserved. I was somewhat stunned as she handed the money to me, but I did not hesitate to immediately hand it back to her and point out her mistake. She was obviously relieved. In thinking through the various Kolberg stages, I can only assume that I was following stage 6 reasoning. I had no fear of punishment, I had no thoughts of exploiting the situation, I was not trying to be a good member of a group, the law did not cross my mind at all, and I was not considering the consequences for either myself or the cashier. I just felt that it was not fair for me to keep money that I did not earn.
So, I do believe my thoughts are generally stage 6, but my actions are still mostly stage 5 and sometimes 3. Where I sometimes fail to reach stage 6 is in being completely impartial and when I feel the effort is too great to determine what is just and fair. It is easier for me to weigh the good versus the bad and even easier yet when I can just follow a group to maintain harmony and reduce conflict. If conforming (stage 3) will reduce conflict while not creating serious or long-term harm for myself or others or does not break one of my moral guidelines, then I am all for it. So, my general mode of operation is to be a stage 3 when the impact is small and short-term and I move my way up to stages 5 and 6 when the impact is large and long-term.
II. What Basic School of Ethics I Follow (e.g., teleological, deontological, mixed deontological).
A. Fully explore this issue and provide complete details on which branch of the school you follow (egoism, firmism, act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism, Ross's prima facie duties, act deontologism, Divine command, existentialism, your own system that is not mentioned in the book, etc.).
Many years ago, I came to a realization that it was impossible for me (or for anyone) to have enough knowledge to be certain that any act or decision was absolutely ‘right' or ‘wrong'. For one thing, it seemed obvious to me that trying to interpret the will of a supreme being (i.e. the word of god) was not working very well on this Earth. I am not saying that a supreme being does not exist, but I do not believe it to be possible to perfectly interpret the will of the supreme being. Secondly, I also believe it to be impossible to accurately and fully measure the benefits and costs of a decision or act. To do this, a person would have to be able to accurately determine all beings that are affected by a decision or act and to accurately predict the future of all of these beings.
Part of my belief that interpreting the will of a supreme being is impossible is evidenced by the many different types of religions, thousands of variations of each religion that exist, and the constant disparity in opinion amongst members of the same community church. Along these same lines, it seems somewhat logical to me that most people are just regurgitating religious and traditional rules that were drilled into them as a child (even mild forms of brainwashing in many cases). Had a child born to Christian parents been raised by a Hindu family in India , I believe that the child would almost certainly follow the Hindu religion in their adult life. These observations and assumptions have led me to believe that people are not ‘choosing' their rules based on free will and free choice and that no one is likely to be ‘right'. If someone was right, which one of the 6 billion people on this Earth would it be? In any case, I do not believe it would be me; therefore I have difficulty trusting any of my ‘rules' and I challenge my beliefs often. I also believe that people can and often do misuse ‘higher power' reasoning. People can pass off the responsibility for their actions onto the higher power instead of being accountable to the rest of the world. This is why separation of church and state is generally a good thing in my opinion.
Because of my realization, I believe that it would be impossible to create any rules of morality that could be absolute. However, I do believe that the world as a whole (all of life), society, and I as an individual can benefit from guidelines that can be used as a basis in determining anything from what is ethical to what is common courtesy or good etiquette. Since guidelines are fallible, they should be challenged constantly to determine if they are still believed to be beneficial to the current and future world. In other words, we can learn from the past, but should never be restricted by it. Traditions (religious or cultural) that turn into laws (or strict rules) create a false sense of morality within a society.
Since ‘lack of knowledge' brought me to this realization, I believe that having knowledge is the key to making the best possible judgments and ethical decisions and to be able to competently challenge existing guidelines. Therefore, my number one principal (which is really still just a guideline) is the right to create and share information in the forms of objective knowledge and subjective opinions. I am generally against censorship since it prevents me (and others) from possibly gaining knowledge that will help us make the ‘right' decision for the moment.
So, with all of this as a backdrop, I believe I am a mixed deontologist. However, I do think that I am close to being an act utilitarian type of consequentialist. I generally try to minimize pain and maximize gain. I believe every decision or act is unique. I also agree with the statement that was in the class notes “Nothing is intrinsically wrong”. Any “rules” (do not lie, do not steal) are merely rules of thumb. I generally use them if time constrained and I can't carefully calculate utility. On the flip side, why I believe I am mixed is due to the following:
I do not believe that the end justifies the means. Individual rights and dignity should also be considered.
I believe that the greatest good generally means weighing universal pain versus gain while striving to maintain natural balance, harmony, justice, equity, fairness, and most importantly… individual rights (freedom of choice/expression, life, dignity, etc.).
I believe the greatest number includes animals, plants, and the environment in general.
I believe that pain versus gain cannot be objectively measured ($), so a blend of logic and intuition is required.
I will sometimes rely on the beliefs of a trusted source.
I sometimes create act deontological-like guidelines (as described by Carritt) based around past judgments in the areas of progress, moderation, non-traditional behavior, preventing self-harm (like not smoking), etc
B. If you are a mixed deontologist tell me when/how the principles apply and when/how consequences apply.
I generally use my principles such as: earn what I receive; freedom of choice; freedom of information, etc. as a base for my decisions but not as rules. But I do use some principles like not harming myself with cigarettes, drugs, risky behavior, etc. as rules when I have experienced or seen others experience things that seem to always create long-term pain and no gain. Beyond this, I almost always use consequences.
III. The Extent to Which My Moral Reasoning Processes Meet the Criteria Mentioned in the Text (Be honest and explicit)
A. Consistency-- p. 47
This is one criterion that I fail to meet much of the time. My thoughts generally favor justice, fairness, equity, etc. and other stage 6 characteristics. However, my actions are more consistent with stage 5 – act utilitarianism. I think that this is for two reasons: 1) I like harmony and balance pain and gain seems to fit this need better and 2) I find it easier to ‘measure' pain and gain versus justice and equity. I easily feel others' pain and I project into the future easily. This makes it impossible for me to ignore consequences. I don't mind sharing pain (like taxes) for greater good. I don't mind sacrificing my needs for others' needs if more overall gain achieved.
I also use inevitability and insignificance to drive my moral actions. If I feel that consequences are inevitable or insignificant as compared to universal needs, then I may even fall back to stage 3 behavior. However, my stage 3 behavior is not tied to any particular reference group. I have a reference group of the moment (like the department in France ).
B. Feasibility--p. 25
The feasibility of my moral method lies in its flexibility. I have no hard rules, so I cannot break them. I do not make ethical decisions without significant knowledge or a very strong sense of intuition or a trusted resource.
C. Reasoning–p. 63
Since I do not rely on rules, I am forced to use at least one of the following: reasoning, intuition, or emotion. I am not an emotional person at all, but I do use a mix of logic and intuition. My general decision making flow is the following:
Intuition based on principals -> Logic/Reason -> External Source -> Logic/Reason -> Intuition based on forecasting
The larger the impact of the decision, the more logic and reason I use to make the call.
D. Universalizability–p. 125
I believe in the power of diversity, so it is difficult for me to say that I would like all others to follow my moral process. However, I do believe that it would be best for all to use principles as guidelines and not rules or laws. I do believe that principles should be challenged at every opportunity. I do believe if everyone sought harmony instead of short-term gain, that the world would be a better place. I also believe that having justice, fairness, and equity as common goals would be best. However, I am glad that not everyone has my set of guiding principles. For instance, I could never see myself killing an animal for food or sport (never for sport), but I certainly believe that hunting can help balance certain animal populations (like deer) and I certainly enjoy eating meat such as venison. So, I am glad that other people enjoy hunting if the food and other parts are utilized and the animals are not tortured in any way.
IV. A Recent Example
A. Provide a recent example of a moral dilemma in your life which illustrates all aspects (I, II, and III) of your system of moral reasoning. Caution: do not share with me any illegal acts you engaged in for which you have not been arrested and for which the statue of limitations has not expired.
I have not actually been placed into many situations that really stretched my moral fabric. However, a recent assignment that lasted for about 5 years certainly created stress in this area. As part of this assignment, I was required to log the number of hours that I worked on each customer contract so that we could bill our customers for my effort. This seemed simple enough. However, I was placed into many ethical dilemmas during this time period because of this practice and it eventually led to my departure from the assignment. The first couple of years were pretty smooth. Work was plentiful, so it was easy to get enough billable hours to meet the financial goals of the organization and keep my performance rating high. Things changed after the recession of 2001. Work was scarce and although none of the managers formally told us to stretch the truth when claiming hours, they certainly looked the other way when it began happening. It became especially frustrating for me on one particular project in which I had the lead. I had several people on the team claim 40 hours of work each week on my project even though I knew they could not have possibly spent 40 hours since they were also working on other projects at the same time. I spoke with the manager about this practice and he said that it was a common practice in the industry when the estimates were done as person-weeks of effort. So, it seemed reasonable to him that they were claiming 40 hours per week even though the contract was on a per hour basis. When I indicated that I did not think we could finish the project in the number of hours that were in the contract if we kept up this practice, the manager hinted that the customer would likely be forced to extend the hours approved because they would not be able to finish it on their own. I did not buy into this however since I knew how much more real value we could be giving the customer if we really spent the effort that we said we were going to and I knew that this particular customer was not expecting us to use these ‘common' practices. But I did not think that I would be able to convince anyone that what they were doing was inappropriate since it really was a fairly common practice in the industry. I also believed that the customer would likely do more work with us if we over-achieved their expectations. So, I felt like I was really stuck in the middle.
So, what I decided to do was to try to balance the situation in the best way I could. First of all, to get people off of the 40 hour mindset, I limited the number of hours that each individual person could work on the project (especially those who I thought were doing the most exploitation). My excuse was that I wanted to spread the work around to more people so that more people could experience with the product we were using. I then added a couple of people that were not quite as qualified but that I knew shared my beliefs in how hours should be tracked. I also claimed all of the extra hours that I spent on managing the additional people (and the extra hours tracking) as non-billable in order to keep the total hours to something that was closer to what the customer expected. In the end, we delivered something that was less than what we could have done (due to the less qualified people), but that was more than what the customer would have received had I not stepped in. Each individual got to claim far fewer hours toward their performance goal, but I did get to give two additional people some hours. Unfortunately the customer did not sign any more contracts with us due to economic difficulties they were having and due to the fact that we completed our work within the original contract. During my performance review, I spelled out exactly what I did, why I thought it to be the best way to go, and that I thought we would have definitely received a second contract had the customer not had their own difficulties (our relationship with them was intact). Unfortunately, my manager did not see it this way and pointed to my just below average number of billable hours as reason to give me a just below average performance rating. So, I asked for a transfer and have been much happier since then.
B. Remember to be explicit when showing each of the connections between your example and Parts I, II, and III.
I believe this example really highlights how I think like a stage 6, but act like a stage 5. The situation to me was not just or fair to the customer, to my company, and to myself. Since this particular company was not aware of the ‘common' industry practices, I felt that the situation warranted a different approach. So, I believe these thoughts going through my head were of stage 6 variety. However, my actions appear to be more typical of a stage 5. I tried the make the best of what I considered to be a bad situation by spreading out the pain and the gain in a manner that I felt was equitable for that situation.
I believe this example highlights my mixed deontological (but mostly act utilitarian) style in a couple of ways. First of all, I used my principle that any money received should be earned as the first flag that something unethical might be happening. Secondly, I used the ‘act' part of my moral process to analyze all aspects of the current situation to make a rational decision about whether I really believed it to be unethical. Although my principle first raised it as an issue, I did not use my principle to make the final call. Finally, I used my utilitarian style to create overall harmony and balance in the best way I knew how.
I also believe this example shows how my moral process meets most of the criteria defined in the text. My system is feasible in that it is inherently flexible which allows me to decide or act in an appropriate way to attempt to meet all reasonable goals for all involved in the situation. It is consistent in that I only use my principles as starting points and then apply more logical reasoning beyond that. However, I am somewhat inconsistent in that my head is usually focused on justice and fairness, but my actions lean more toward harmony and compromise. The second step in my process relies on reasoning to make a rational decision.
Finally, my process is certainly universalizable in that I wish that everyone would share my guiding principle that money should be earned and I wish that everyone would look at each situation independently to determine whether fairness, justice, and harmony are being compromised.
Student Position Paper -- Sample Eight
As I started thinking about the position paper, I realized that it was very difficult to really put myself in one category or the other. Kolberg claims that a person is in one stage at a time. I don't agree with Kolberg, because I feel that human beings are very complex and our interactions with each other and with our environment are complicated. Depending on a particular situation, a person may react differently. It is very easy to hold idealistic views and claim to be of a high moral and ethical character, but very difficult to practice those views. It is easy to judge others for their behavior in a particular situation, but until a person is in that situation themselves, they don't understand the moral dilemma and anguish that someone else is going through. The society a person grows up in, the family values that are inculcated in the person, and the religious beliefs that a person holds all contribute to the moral development of a person. However, a person can change their views over time. I feel that it is particularly true for people that move around a lot in their life, and are exposed to different cultures. I grew up in North India and some of the views that I held as a teenager or even as an undergraduate student in India have changed after living in USA for over 10 years. As an example, growing up in India , I was strongly opposed to the concept of arranged marriages. I believed that two people should get to know each other, fall in love and only then get married. Whenever any of my friends would settle for arranged marriages, I would feel that they had no courage to stand up for their rights, that they would live a life of compromise all their lives. Yet, after coming to the USA , I saw many cases where people would co-habit for several years before getting married, and then the marriage would end in divorce in a few years. The husband of one of my friends once said, “Would you buy a car without test driving it first?” Well, he and my friend had dated for 3 years, and lived together for 2 years, and then got married, had a child and 5 years later, are now getting divorced. It made me think, didn't they know enough about each other while they dated and lived together. Didn't they ‘test drive' each other. Then why were they getting a divorce especially when they had a 4 year old child. It made me think that arranged marriages are not so bad after all. The reason is that when two people get married, they don't just marry each other, they marry each others families. In arranged marriages, the families usually come from similar backgrounds, and hence there is not as much conflict. Also, the couple starts with low expectations and grow to love each other and mature in their relationship together. So my view of arranged marriages changed as a result of exposure to other cultures, and growing up and becoming more mature.
I. What Stage of Kolberg's Moral Development I Feel I am In
A. Primary stage
I believe that my primary stage of Moral Development as categorized by Kolberg is that of a stage 6 person. I consider myself a morally upright person, and have some principles that guide me through life. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, and compassion are an integral part of me. I don't believe in exploiting, manipulating or hurting others for personal gain. I don't like to judge others. As long as they are not asking me to do something that I consider unethical, immoral or illegal, I usually don't interfere in other people's affairs. I believe in helping those in need to whatever extent is possible by me. I don't envy those that are better off than me. I don't believe in killing, except perhaps in self defense. I am opposed to hunting, abortion, mercy killing and capital punishment. These principles have been engrained in me by my religion, and by the virtue of my parents, teachers and the society I grew up in. However, stage 6 doesn't encompass the total scope of my moral reasoning. I often find myself making decisions that could be construed as a stage 5.
An incident at work is an example that I operate at stage 6 more often than not. I have been assigned to a high profile project that has several of the IT staff from different teams designated as ‘dedicated staff'. Essentially, what that means is that the dedicated staff is only supposed to work on the assigned project as a priority and their other responsibilities including being on call, during the working hours of a normal work week are to be handled by other team members. For the most part, this scheme works. However, there are times of very little activity on this project because we are sometimes waiting for another team to finish their work before we can continue on with ours. I feel that during such slow times, it is acceptable for us to be working on our other commitments. Due to this belief, when I was on call a few months ago it happened to be a slow period for me. And the other team members were swamped with their assignments, so I decided to carry the on-call pager during the day too and respond to calls since I had the time and didn't want to burden the team unnecessarily. (This could be considered a stage 5 mentality, greatest good for the team).
Now even though the stated rule was that dedicated team members should not take call during the day, I broke the rule as my ethics dictated that I use my time productively, and not sit around surfing the net, while my team members would have to shoulder the burden of my share of the work.
B. Secondary stage
I believe that my secondary stage is that of a stage 4 person. I obey and follow the law of the land. However, I also believe that laws of different countries may not always be just, moral or even practical. I believe that some of the laws that were in place in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime were unjust. Especially their laws against women were cruel, and immoral. I being a Muslim woman found those laws deplorable, as I know that the laws were based on a misinterpretation of the religion. Islam does not sanction violence against women; it in fact encourages Muslim women to be educated and productive members of society. Yet, the Taliban regime had banned women from working, or attending school and even from getting basic healthcare.
I came to the USA as a foreign student. Under immigration rules and regulations, foreign students are only allowed to work 20 hours on campus, and not off campus. Now, 20 hours on campus at minimum wage isn't really enough to make ends meet. I knew of several of my friends that worked illegally in factories off campus at night and on the weekends, and they often encouraged me to join them as I would earn more money and be able to afford more. I however, refused to be involved in any such illegal activity, even though it meant sacrificing a lot of things that normal college kids enjoy because I couldn't afford many of the outings, or sometimes didn't even have enough money for proper food. I would sometimes live on granola bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even though I didn't agree with this law, I obeyed it. I believe that if a person is living in a country legally, and is willing to work, and there is an available job, then that person should be allowed to work. Many other nations allow their foreign students to work off campus. This also helps the students learn the language and culture of the country they are in, and to integrate better with the local society. They also bring a rich cultural exchange for the local community. Hence, I believe that this law is impractical and should be revised.
II. What Basic School of Ethics I Follow
A. I believe I am a mixed deontologist. Most of my decisions are based on the rules that guide my life. I don't always consider the consequences before making decisions. For example, I don't believe in capital punishment because I feel that human beings do not have the right to condemn another human being to death. Part of my conviction is also due to the fact that our legal system is fraught with loopholes, and very often the guilty go free and the innocent people get the death penalty. I have heard of numerous cases, in this country as well as other countries, where someone on death row has actually been proven to be innocent due to either the real killer coming forward (as was the case of a friend in Iran) or some new evidence coming to light as was the case in Chicago last year, where the person had been convicted for murder, and had been in jail for several years and was on death row, but more sophisticated DNA testing proved that he was not the culprit. Now if the execution had been carried out, an innocent life would have been lost, as many have in the past. This conviction holds true even for some of our society's worst socio paths, like Tim McVeigh, serial killers, and terrorists. Even though I consider them depraved and mentally unstable human beings, that deserve no mercy, I still do not believe that they should be killed.
B. Even though, I don't always consider the consequences before making decisions, there are however circumstances where the consequences play a role in my decision making process. As an example, I don't believe in abortion, death penalty or euthanasia as I feel that God is the only supreme power that has the right to decide who lives and who dies. However, if there are serious medical reasons like a woman's life is at risk unless an abortion is carried out, or it is known that the baby will be born with genetic deformities, or a young teenager is pregnant as a result of a brutal rape, then I consider it a justification for doing it. Even then, I usually struggle with the decision, because we also know that medical science is not error free, and there are times that mistakes have happened. As an example, a few years ago, one of my cousin's was pregnant with her third child and she had been told that the baby would be born with severe genetic abnormalities. She and her husband struggled with the decision to abort. Finally, they decided that they will leave it in God's hands, and have faith that God will see them through this difficult period. They decided not to abort the fetus. The child was born absolutely healthy and beautiful and is today a lovely 10 year old girl. So, I don't always trust the ‘experts', and believe that sometimes one has to just have faith in God and ones own self and things work out fine.
Similarly, even though I don't believe in mercy killing, I also don't believe in keeping people alive artificially for years on end, on machines. I don't believe that we should allow Dr. Kevorkian style of mercy killing through lethal injections, because that to me amounts to murder. However, when a person is terminally ill and beyond any cure, or in a vegetative state with no brain function, then we should allow them to die peacefully a natural death, and just make their last days as comfortable as possible.
III. The Extent to Which My Moral Reasoning Processes Meet the Criteria Mentioned in the Text
This is one of the toughest criteria to meet all the time. I believe I am consistent in my moral reasoning as a stage 6 person, most of the time. Being a mixed deontologist, I usually follow the rules that guide my life and sometimes consider the consequences before making a decision. However, there are times when my behavior is inconsistent. For example, I don't believe in killing, yet when it comes to bugs, insects and other such creepy crawlers, I use insecticides and swatters to kill them. Similarly, even though I don't believe in killing God's creatures, I am not a vegetarian, and eat meat with relish. I often question myself for this inconsistency, but it is one of the human weaknesses that I can't overcome.
I am pregnant with our first child. About 6 months ago while nearing the end of the first trimester; I developed a deep venous thrombosis (DVT- a Blood clot) in my shoulder and right arm. It was a very unusual situation, as even the doctors had never seen a case of DVT in the arm especially in early pregnancy. Some of the doctors were recommending doing a catheterization procedure to suck the clot out of my arm. However, this procedure involved intravenous dyes that had radiation risks involved. Even though the doctors assured me that the risk to the baby was minimal, I chose to not do the procedure. I felt that I could not subject the baby to even ‘minimal risk.' Although, this meant that I would have residual swelling in my arm for the rest of my life, I preferred to take that over subjecting another human being to a risk when they had no choice in the matter. Hence, my reasoning was feasible; as I was able to do what I believed was right.
Since I am a mixed deontologist in primarily stage 6 of moral reasoning, I vary between relying on a set of principles to make a decision and considering the consequences. When my husband and I decided to start a family, I decided to stop eating ‘Non-halal' (The Islamic way of slaughtering animals) meat. My reasoning was that as an adult, when I ate non-halal meat, I was consciously making a decision to break a principle of my religion and I would one day be held accountable for my sins. However, the baby in my womb has no choice about what I eat and what I don't eat. I felt that it was the same thing as smoking, drinking alcohol or consuming drugs in pregnancy that is known to cause medical problems in the baby. If I consumed non-halal meat, I believe that I would be corrupting the morality of my baby. Now, when the child grows up and if he wants to eat non-halal meat at that time, that will be his choice, not something I forced on him. This example illustrates that my reasoning was primarily based on a guiding principle of my religion, but I also weighed the consequences to come to a decision.
As I started working on the universalzability section of the paper, I started wondering what my religion says about it. I looked into the Holy Koran and the Hadith
(Compilation of Prophet Mohammad's words and way of life) and found a verse that captures the idea of universalzability in a very simple and short way. The verse says, “No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself" ( Hadith, imam 71-72). I know most of Muslims don't act upon that but that is a guiding principle for universalzability for me. As the matter of fact it's the same principle that is in Christianity- “Treat others as you would like them to treat you" (Luke 6:31) . I believe the idea and basic notion of universalzability is very straightforward to understand but its one of the hardest thing to act on. It's a true test to measure decency in a human being and universalzability brings out the true nature of ones humanity. I wonder how many of us would support wars or sleep peacefully at night if our own children were in harms way, or dying of hunger and sickness. The true implementation of universalzability would certainly reduce most of hypocrisy if not eliminate it completely. This is a criterion that has always been a part of my moral reasoning although I was not consciously aware of it before writing the paper. Whenever I give advice to my family or friends, I always tell them that I am putting myself in ‘their shoes' and then telling them what I would do in that situation. My friends have often told me that they rely on my advice because they know that they will get an honest answer from me, even though sometimes what I have to say is harsh.
IV. A Recent Example
My husband and I recently bought a new mattress and it was due for delivery in 2 weeks. I put an advertisement for the old mattress for $75. When I had not received any calls for a week, I decided to reduce the price to $65. The following week, a couple came to see the mattress, and was ready to buy it and asked if they could pick it up the next day, which was fine with us. As they were leaving, they said, “so its $75 right?” And I immediately said, “Actually, I've reduced it to $65.”
It was after they left that I thought about my response. It was quite obvious that this couple had seen the old advertisement where the price was $75 and not the new reduced price. If I wanted, I could have let them think the price was $75 and not told them the new price. No one would have been the wiser, and even though there were no legal ramifications if I had charged them $75, my code of ethics didn't allow me to do so. In fact, it was not something I even had to think about. In my mind, I had reduced the price, and irrespective of which advertisement the buyer had seen, I was not going to charge them more than that. Now, this was an example of stage 6 behavior because it was my own rules, and ethics that guided me to behave in this manner. There was no law of the land telling me that it was illegal to charge them $10 more. As a mixed deontologist, I just followed what I believed in without regard for the consequences. This example illustrates the consistency of my beliefs because there really wasn't even a moral obligation, because initially, the price had been $75 and that's what the buyers had come prepared to pay. It shows feasibility of my actions since I was able to practice what I believed in. The moral reasoning was based on a guiding principle of honesty and integrity. My actions also met the criterion of universalizability, because if I was the buyer, I would have liked such honesty also.
Student Position Paper -- Sample Nine