Some Prompts for Everyday Ethics Reflection

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Everyday Ethics Writing

The assumption behind "everyday ethics" prompts is that it is useful to introspect (and with others) to see how we operate in everyday ethical situations. Sometimes we can uncover some of the rules we follow automatically or by habit. Other times, we can notice how much of a difference context matters. Formulating principles based on our behavior might also lead us to be critical of our own principles. As you get further into the course, you should notice that you have new resources for thinking about the normal ethical issues that arise in your personal life.

  • Describe a situation in which you decided to trust someone and you were right (or wrong) to do so. What made you decide to trust the person? Try to identify specific behaviors. Alternately, describe things you would do if you were trying to get someone to trust you. What are the characteristic behaviors and statements of trust worthy people?
  • In two paragraphs, address the following questions: Have you ever declined a favor or benefit from someone because you were not sure you would want to reciprocate? Why is it hard to accept a benefit when you have no intention of reciprocating? In paragraph 2, give an example of a situation in which you would decline and an example in which you would not decline, the benefit.
  • Assuming it is sometimes ok to gossip about people (roughly, talk about them or listen to others talk about them in ways you would not want them to hear), why is it sometimes not ok?
  • Have you ever been in the company of people telling a racist or sexist jokes? Have you sometimes not said anything and regretted it or sometimes said something and regretted it? Why is it hard to respond to this kind of conduct "in the moment." In paragraph 2, choose one of the following examples and present some suggestions about how you might you might address them if they came up in a social situation. Give examples that do not involve calling the person a racist or sexist. When, if ever, might it be morally necessary, in your view, that identify a statement as racist or sexist?
  • Everyone agrees that honesty is an important virtue, but no one thinks honesty requires you to tell everyone the truth all the time. How do you decide when to tell the truth or say what you're thinking? What makes it morally acceptable to avoid disclosing something or to decide that someone doesn't have a right to an answer. Your answer should present one or more principles that you are implicitly following for deciding what honesty really requires of you. Try to articulate these principles in your answer and briefly justify them. (To prepare for this assignment you might want to listen to this "This American Life" podcast: Need to Know Basis. But you probably don't need to refer to it and you cannot assume that others have heard it.