A Question of Ethics: An Inductive Exercise - MHS

A Question of Ethics: An
Inductive Exercise
Mr. Joshi
Please look at the PP notes handout
and respond to the first question.
Which of the following are ethical
questions? Why?
1-What’s the best route to take to go from
Manchester, CT to Providence, RI if I want to
make the best time?
2-Is it ever OK to kill another human being?
3-Should I study for my exam tomorrow or play
another hour on my PS3?
4-What happens after I die?
5-Is is alright to frame a guilty person?
6-Is it better for a society if everyone drove on the
right or left side of the road?
7-If you found a ring of invisibility (my precious),
what would you do?
“If only there were evil people somewhere
insidiously committing evil deeds and it were
necessary only to separate them from the rest of
us and destroy them. But the line that dividing
good and evil cuts through the heart of every
human being.”
-Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
– Thanks to Drs. Richard and Linda Elder
So, a question is one of ethics if it
deals with issues of being…
“kind, open-minded, impartial, truthful, honest,
compassionate, considerate, and honorable”
AND avoiding being…
“selfish, greedy, egotistical, callous, deceitful,
hypocritical, disingenuous, prejudiced, bigoted,
spiteful, vindictive, cruel, brutal, and oppressive.”
– Thanks to Drs. Richard and Linda Elder
How do these differ from ethics?
• Social Conventions
• Laws
• Religious Beliefs
– Thanks to Drs. Richard and Linda Elder
OK, here we go…take out a piece of
paper and number it 1 to 10.
Leave 3 lines in between each.
• We’ll now look at ten different ethical
questions, using our working definition. Your
task will be to give your personal ethical
response, and then write one other response
that someone else might give to this question.
1. Should I recycle my own paper that I
use in school?
2. Should I eat meat?
3. Should the U.S. government help
refugees fleeing Syria with aid?
4. Imagine that you ran a stop sign and
were given a ticket. After the officer left,
you noticed on the ticket that the wrong
intersection was written down, one where
there is no stop sign. Do you pay it?
5. I was wronged by another person
(snitched on falsely), should I take it
upon myself to make things right by
using violence?
6. You are a coin collector and on a trip
to a local flea market, you spot a rare
coin selling for $10. You figure it is
worth at least $500. Do you tell the
vendor of its real value?
7. You go to IndoChinastan to build a
new factory for your company. The
local politician there hints that you
need to bribe him for you get your
permit to build. You inform your boss
and he/she tells you to do what it
takes to get the job done. Do you pay
the bribe?
The final three scenarios are a bit
more descriptive…
• Thanks very much to Mr. Robert Cooper,
former social studies teacher here at MHS for
these scenarios.
8. It is a balmy spring day in Manchester. You and four other
friends decide to enjoy the unexpected Spring thaw by having a
picnic on Case Mountain. As you are walking through the winding
pathways on the mountain your group suddenly stumbles upon
the wreckage of a small, twin engine airplane, partially buried
among the underbrush. The state of the wreckage indicates that
the plane has been for a considerable amount of time. Indeed,
there has not been any news mentioned about a lost or crashed
plane. Curiosity compels your group to inspect the plane. Inside
the cockpit is the badly decomposed body of what was probably
the pilot. Also, within the wreckage, is a very large duffel bag.
There is no form of identification to be found. Upon inspection of
the duffel bag, your intrepid group discovers bundles of $100 bills,
neatly stacked and wrapped - four million dollars in all!!! You
guess it to be drug money. What good fortune! Do you hand the
money in to the police?
9. Saturday is the day that you have been waiting for. The week was long and
tedious, full of schoolwork, your job, and a host of family obligations. Now it is
time to hit the mall for some serious shopping. Your closest friend stops by
and together you leave for the mall. As this is the weekend, the mall is full of
people and strollers. There is energy in the air! You enter an exclusive clothing
store with your best friend. After a casual stroll around the store, your
attention is directed to a collection of leather coats on a rack. A salesperson
offers assistance, but you politely refuse. Your best friend soon approaches
you and whispers into your ear for you to move a bit closer to the dressing
room entrance. As you approach the dressing room, you notice out of the
corner of you eye that your best friend is attempting to stuff a coat into a
backpack! Your friend whispers to you to meet her/him at the record store,
and then leaves. As your friend approaches the door, the alarm suddenly
sounds! Your friend bolts from the store and is quickly lost in the crowd. The
security guard and the salesperson angrily collar you and lead you into the
mall’s police station. You passionately try to tell them that you did not steal
anything and have not committed a crime, but they are not listening. They
inform you that unless you give them the name of the person that stole the
coat, you will be charged with being an accessory to larceny and other criminal
charges. Do you give them the name of your friend?
10. Today is your first day at your new job, as a salesperson at a fashionable
clothing store. You are dressed well, feeling good, and happy to have this job
in this economy. Today is the day that your manager has agreed to train you to
work on the floor. Your supervisor begins informing you of your duties and
obligations. She tells you that you should be courteous as you ask if they need
any assistance. The supervisor then tells you that you are to closely watch
certain people if they enter the store. The supervisor tells you that certain
“particular” groups are well known to be threats to steal and are not to be
trusted. If someone from this group enters the store, you are to discreetly
follow them to make sure they do not steal anything. The people you are
asked to pay close attention to and to monitor are those described as looking
“ghetto.” You feel that this is unfair and a form of discrimination, as these
particular customers have yet to commit a crime. You were raised by your
parents to be tolerant and open minded. You are told that you will be closely
watched to see that you are abiding by this policy. Two racial minorities then
enter the store who you think your supervisor would think of as “ghetto”. You
know both from your classes at the high school. You know them to be honest
and fine students. Your manager tells you to follow them closely and report on
their actions. Do you follow them and report their actions to the manager?
Now, turn to a partner and compare
your responses to the questions.
• Where did you agree and disagree?
• Was it clear why your partner would respond
the way they did?
• Did talking to your partner change your view
on any question?
Please take no more than 15 minutes…
1. Should I recycle my own paper that
you use in school?
A - No, what I recycle doesn’t make a difference
in the global scheme.
B - No, if no one else is doing it, why should I?
C – No, the energy used in transporting the
paper to my home, to the curb, and to the
recycling center is more than what is saved.
D – Yes, doing so would set an example for
others to follow and would make a difference.
E- Yes, it is the right thing to do – it is my
personal responsibility to do whatever I can.
2. Should I eat meat?
A - Yes, without a doubt – humans need animal
protein to survive.
B – Yes, it is hard to eat a diet in modern
American society without eating meat.
C – No, because it is treated with hormones and
preservatives, it is unhealthy to do so.
D – No, eating meat causes pain to beings who
can feel pain. The meat industry exploits
animals in industrial farms.
E – No, it is always wrong to eat the flesh of
another living animal.
3. Should the U.S. government help
refugees fleeing Syria with aid?
A - No, we have enough people to help in our own
country without looking for others to help.
B – No, once you begin to help some people, the
U.S. would have to help all needy people
worldwide on principle.
C – Yes, the aid would be limited in time and
D – Yes, we kept Assad in power by buying his oil for
forty years, we are at least partly responsible for
this mess.
E – Yes, all people have equal rights to life and
liberty – we are all global citizens.
4. Imagine that you ran a stop sign and were given a ticket.
After the officer left, you noticed on the ticket that the wrong
intersection was written down, one where there is no stop
sign. Do you pay it?
A-Yes, you did the crime, you pay the fine.
B-Yes, it wouldn’t stand up in court to not pay it.
C-No, it would increase your insurance
payments and cost you a few hundred dollars
D-No, it was the police officer’s fault, not yours.
E – No, let it go to court, there is a good chance
the officer will be too busy to appear.
5. I was wronged by another person (snitched on falsely),
should I take it upon myself to make things right by using
A-No, it is always wrong to use violence on anyone,
B- No, you might get caught and make the situation worse
for yourself.
C- No, you’ll cause that person or others to find you later
and it will escalate.
D- No, they just didn’t get caught in the lie, sometimes
the system fails and we have to accept it.
D- Yes, since they were unethical toward me by falsely
“snitching”, I am allowed to be unethical toward them.
E- Yes, it is a matter of personal honor.
6. Should you tell the flea market person the
real value of the rare coin?
A- Yes, buying it for $10 is taking advantage of
the seller.
B – Yes, you’ll make a new friend.
C- Yes, maybe you’ll find out from the seller that
it isn’t the coin you’re thinking about.
D – No, it isn’t your fault he/she doesn’t know
the true value. You should buy it for $10.
Knowledge is power.
7. You go to IndoChinastania to build a new factory for your company.
The local politician there hints that you need to bribe him for you get
your permit to build. You inform your boss and he/she tells you to do
what it takes to get the job done. Do you pay the bribe?
A – Yes, you do as you’re told to do by your boss , it is
his/her responsibility.
B – Yes, this is what is accepted in that culture so
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
C – Yes, because if you don’t do this, you might be
D – No, giving in to the bribe would only make that
official want to ask for more and more money down
the line.
E – No, bribery is wrong anywhere, anytime, for any
8. Airplane scenario – Do you turn in
the money to the police?
A – Yes, it isn’t yours.
B – Yes, the police might be looking for it for an
investigation and you don’t want to get into
C – Yes, you hope there might be a reward.
D – No, whoever was involved with this crash
might find out who turned in the money and
want to “talk” to you about what else you
E – Are you dumb? Take the money and run.
9. At the mall, do you name names?
A – No, friendship means being loyal.
B – No, you might lose many friends if you
turned them in after word got out.
C – Yes, they left you in the lurch so you owe
them no loyalty.
D – Yes, your friend is a minor, this won’t impact
his/her record when they turn 18.
E – Your friend stole, they deserve to get caught.
10. Profiling Job – Do you do as you’re
A – No, this is racist and wrong.
B – No, you don’t think this is a good use of your
C – Yes, you need the job.
D – Yes, it is the manager’s right to run the store
as they wish.
Based on this exercise, we can say that
ethical reasoning is…
• Complicated – there are many possible reasonable
responses to any ethical situation.
• Important – how we answer these kinds of questions
for ourselves as individuals and as a society determines
the kind of life and society we have. Ethics has
• Useful – If you want to know how you see the world,
examining ethical questions is a great way to do so.
• Contextual – The response any one person has in a
situation is dependent on their context, their
upbringing (culture), their maturity, their material
wealth, their having thought about it beforehand, and
so on.
• Ever Present – Ethical situations come up literally
hundreds of times a day.
Kinds of Ethical Reasoning
– Would I get caught? Stand up in court?
– Does it violate some moral principle or personal code?
(Think morality, Golden Rule, principles of secular
humanism, human rights, etc.)
– Does my action (or inaction) impact the bigger problem?
– Is it worth the time/money/resources (something
– What does my family or group’s tradition say?