The ethics of vicious examples in ethics

There’s an provocative essay on this UCSD-affiliated blog about the rather extreme and violent examples used frequently in ethics classes, and whether they might be doing more harm than good. The discussion following the essay is very good and interesting.

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One thought on “The ethics of vicious examples in ethics

  1. Brian Berkey

    Hey Vince,

    So the example of the 50 people and the boat was actually mine, and I found your comment here after myself commenting on the post that’s linked to above, in which the author disparages the use of examples such as mine in moral philosophy.

    It’s interesting that you ask about business ethics, since I’m currently teaching for a class in business ethics, and attempting to introduce my students to the world of philosophical ethics. In my experience there’s not all that much difference in the character of the discussions of practical ethical issues between classes of business students and classes of philosophy students. Once I get the business students accustomed to thinking about issues from an ethical perspective (rather than a purely economic perspective), they’re able to engage in ethical reasoning just like my philosophy students.

    Of course this doesn’t mean that they won’t go out and make purely selfish decisions once they’ve landed their six figure jobs after graduation. In fact, many of them probably will. But then, again, so will a lot of the philosophy students.

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