Being Good: It’s Harder than You Think

| 5/14/2009 7:25:15 PM

Let’s go out on a limb, but not too far, and assume that most people want to behave ethically. Bringing those ethical intentions to fruition is more difficult than you might anticipate, reports The Chronicle Review (subscription required). “To do good, individuals must go through a series of steps, and unless all of those steps are completed, people are not likely to behave ethically, regardless of the ethics training or moral education they have received,” writes psychologist and educator Robert J. Sternberg.

Sternberg’s steps include stages such as recognizing that there is an event to react to, defining the event as having an ethical dimension, and then deciding that the ethical dimension is significant. From there, it’s a matter of taking responsibility, seeking an ethical solution, and, of course, acting on it. There are pitfalls at every phase: finding a way, for example, to avoid taking responsibility (it’s not really my business), or rationalizing away the significance of unethical conduct (it was only a few dollars).

In other news: The Chronicle Review is part of the splendid Chronicle of Higher Education, a 2009 Utne Independent Press Award nominee for best writing.

Source: The Chronicle Review

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