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Chapter 12. Developing as an Ethical Reasoner

One of the most significant obstacles to fair-mindedness is the human tendency to reason in a self-serving or self-deluded manner. This tendency is increased by the extent to which people are confused about the nature of ethical concepts and principles. In understanding ethical reasoning, the following foundations are essential:

  1. Ethical principles are not a matter of subjective preference.

  2. All reasonable people are obligated to respect clear-cut ethical concepts and principles.

  3. To reason well through ethical issues, we must know how to apply ethical concepts and principles reasonably to those issues.

  4. Ethical concepts and principles should be distinguished from the norms and taboos of society and peer group, religious teachings, political ideologies, and the law.

  5. The most significant barriers to sound ethical reasoning are the egocentrism and socio-centrism of human beings.

First we will seek to clarify the problem that ethics poses in human life: what ethics is, what its basis is, what it is commonly confused with, what its pitfalls are, and how it is to be understood.

Following that discussion, we emphasize three essential components in sound ethical reasoning: 1) the principles upon which ethics are grounded; 2) the counterfeits to avoid; and 3) the pathology of the human mind.

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