Doing Good and Avoiding Evil
Ethics is of primary concern in many fields at present; as scandals multiply in business, government, and the health care professions, the public demand for attention to ethical matters increases. Inevitably, the language and forms of reasoning of ethics are becoming part of the business community's culture and the professional's stock in trade. We simply have to know this material. The tradition holds that the best way to acquire a working knowledge of ethics is through good university courses on theoretical and special ethics. But it is not the only way. Some very good teachers (and some very frustrated students) have argued that the best way to learn ethics is through stories--the "case method," as Harvard Law School dubbed it in the last century. Through extended study of cases, of increasing complexity, the students can become sensitized to the ethical dimensions of situations in the real world, the world they are about to enter, and the knowledge so gained is much more likely to be applied in actual dilemmas than the theoretical knowledge of the traditional philosophy classroom. For those that agree with that argument, among which I count myself, another problem arises: how to introduce a common terminology for the discussion of those cases without extended coverage of the theories in which that terminology originated. This small book addresses itself to that problem. The text portion of the book (about 50% of its volume) covers all the major vocabulary of the field of ethics, introduces and distinguishes among the patterns of moral reasoning, and launches the students into the discussion of real problems. The supplementary case studies, the other 50% of the book, provide enough material to test understanding without preempting any other case material the instructor may want to introduce.
The undergraduate classroom is not the only locale contemplated for use of this text. Often corporations and professional associations decide that more knowledge of ethics would benefit their officers or executives. When it is impossible to take time off for university courses in ethics, short workshops may be substituted. For such occasions, this book contains enough of the basics of ethics to get along in practice, without for one minute claiming to supplant a good university course on the subject.
For those of scholarly bent, the absence of footnotes may be distressing. The references at the end include the works referred to in the text. By all means read them when you get time. I have no intention of ignoring the immense, and inspiring, literature of ethics, from Socrates to the present day; but given the very limited nature of this project, I thought that the text would flow more smoothly without notes and numbers.
Lisa H. Newton, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2002, Hale Chair. All rights reserved.
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