Ethics 09 - Moral Rationality

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Moral rationality requires consistency, which includes following the golden rule. But moral rationality also requires other elements, like knowledge and imagination. We now need to sketch the whole picture.

These questions are about Chapter 9 of Harry Gensler's Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge: 1998 and 2011).

Consistency and information

We're rational in our moral judgments to the extent that we're consistent, informed, imaginative, and a few more things.
    1. To be consistent includes satisfying things like ends-means consistency, conscientiousness, impartiality, the golden rule, and the formula of universal law.

    2. To be informed is to know the situation (circumstances, alternatives, consequences, and so on); alternative moral views (including arguments for or against them); and ourselves (including how we developed our feelings and moral beliefs).

Imagination and a few more things

    3. To be imaginative is to have a vivid and accurate awareness of the situation of another (or of our own situation at a future point of time) and what it would be like to be in that situation. This differs from just knowing facts. It also involves an appreciation of what these facts mean to people's lives.

    4. The "few more things" cover, for example, feeling free to think for ourselves (instead of just conforming), having feelings of concern for ourselves and for others, and dialoging with others.

Rationality conditions and desires

These rationality conditions (which describe how we ought ideally to form our moral beliefs) grow out of our consistency requirements. For example, since we demand that others try to be informed when they deliberate about how to act toward us, we will, if consistent, demand this of ourselves too. So we'll hold the general principle that people ought to be informed when making moral judgments.

These same rationality conditions also apply to desires. Irrational desires have flaws like inconsistency, ignorance, or lack of imagination. Accordingly, racist desires are irrational if they're based on social conditioning and would diminish if we broadened our knowledge and experience.

GR and racism

Our GR attack on racist actions has four steps:
    1. Make sure that the racist has a clear understanding of the facts.
    2. Have him imagine himself, vividly and accurately, in the place of his victims.
    3. If needed, rationalize his desires (about how he'd be treated if he were in their place).
    4. See if he treats his victims only as he's willing to be treated in the same situation.
The racist will likely fail the GR test.

Teaching moral rationality

Helping children to be more rational in their moral thinking is an important part of moral education. It's especially important to teach these six commandments of rational moral thinking:
    * Make informed decisions.
    * Be consistent in your beliefs.
    * Live in harmony with your moral beliefs.
    * Make similar evaluations about similar actions.
    * Put yourself in the other person's place.
    * Treat others as you want to be treated.
Adults can teach these by personal example and by promoting the corresponding skills and attitudes in children.

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This set has 21 problems.