When confronted with an ethical dilemma, we become aware of our personal values and what we base them on. As critical thinkers, we need to use informed reasoning and critically reflect on our moral code to accurately understand any dilemma in which we find ourselves, and make a well-informed decision.
Review Thinking Activity 9.2, “What Are My Moral Values?” on pages 391-392. Then, respond to three of the twelve questions on page 392. Your response should be 1-2 pages long.
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Thinking Activity 9.2
WHAT ARE MY MORAL VALUES?
You have many values—the guiding principles that you consider to be most important—that you have acquired over the course of your life. Your values deal with every aspect of your experience. The following questions are designed to elicit some of your values. Think carefully about each of the questions, and record your
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What Is Ethics? 373
374 Chapter 9 Thinking Critically About Moral Issues
responses along with the reasons you have adopted that value. In addition, describe several of your moral values that are not addressed in these questions. A sample student response is included below.
• Do we have a moral responsibility toward less fortunate people?
• Is it wrong to divulge a secret that someone has confided in you?
• Should we eat meat? Should we wear animal skins?
• Should we try to keep people alive at all costs, no matter what their physical or mental condition?
• Is it wrong to kill someone in self-defense?
• Should people be given equal opportunities, regardless of race, religion, or gender?
• Is it wrong to ridicule someone, even if you believe it’s in good fun?
• Should you “bend the rules” to advance your career?
• Is it all right to manipulate people into doing what you want if you believe it’s for their own good?
· Is there anything wrong with pornography?
• Should we always try to take other people’s needs into consideration when we act, or should we first make sure that our own needs are taken care of?
• Should we experiment with animals to improve the quality of our lives?
I do believe that we have a moral obligation to those less fortunate than us. Why can a homeless person evoke feelings of compassion in one person and complete disgust in another? Over time, observation, experience, and intuition have formed the cornerstones of my beliefs, morally and intellectually. As a result, compassion and respect for others are moral values that have come to characterize my responses in my dealings with others. As a volunteer in an international relief program in Dehra Dun, India, I was assigned to various hospitals and clinics through different regions of the country. In Delhi, I and the other volunteers were overwhelmed by the immense poverty—thousands of people, poor and deformed, lined the streets—homeless, hungry, and desperate. We learned that over 300 million people in India live in poverty. Compassion, as Buddhists describe it, is the spontaneous reaction of an open heart. Compassion for all sentient beings, acknowledging the suffering and difficulties in the world around us, connects us not only with others but with ourselves.
After you have completed this activity, examine your responses as a whole. Do they express a general, coherent, well-supported value system, or do they seem more like an unrelated collection of beliefs of varying degrees of clarity? This activity is a valuable investment of your time because you are creating a record of beliefs that you can return to and refine as you deepen your understanding of moral values.
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