Two Questions to Ask Before Making Decisions, Ethically Speaking

We live in an age where many don’t believe there are any universal values or ethics.  Influenced by our times, most believe that morality is relative,  that what happens in one time or country does not translate into other times and places.   Thus, for example, one culture may not care for the sick or old while another may spend extensive resources to do so.  One country may sanction abortion, another outlaw it.   And we do this in the name of tolerance, believing no country nor religion as a monopoly on truth.

Respecting differences is a valid moral attitude, but if all ethics are equal, then one can not speak out against what seem some more universal values, like the care of children rather than their exploitation, the rights of women to control their own lives and not have them dictated by the state, the importance of seeking peaceful resolution to conflicts.

At a personal, practice level, we make ethical decisions all the time, many times without taking time to think about the moral course of action.  Some use reason, many use emotional rationales for decisions.  And most of us really make decisions by the seat of our pants because we find ourselves in situations that seem beyond our control.

If you have even a moment to think about a decision before throwing yourself into action, I suggest there are two questions that you might ask yourself to provide clarity and perhaps wisdom:

1.  What if everyone did that (what you are thinking of doing)?

2.  How would you feel if someone did that to you?

If you answer that everyone would benefit if they did what you are thinking about doing and if you would feel good about the decision yourself, you probably are on a morally fulfilling action.Image


Filed under John C. Morgan, Philosophy and Ethics

3 responses to “Two Questions to Ask Before Making Decisions, Ethically Speaking

  1. Poncho1950

    i.e., Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you … Rabbi Hillel

  2. The so-called “Golden Rule” is almost universal in world traditions, stated in quite different ways, but all implying the same truth–treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. The two questions in what I wrote are ways to understand this truth–e.g., how would you feel if someone did that to uou? And what if everyone did that? The “problem” with the Golden Rule is that it assumes everyone is healthy and wises well for themselves. But what if they are persons who want to harm themselves? Does this mean everyone should do likewise? Alas, there are limits, even to the Golden Rule.

  3. Howard C Morgan

    I have a new mantra from a trip to Istanbul in ancient arabic which summarize my desire to live the best life I can “BE TOLERANT”. It’s a painted leaf by a calligrapher that now lives in our living room as a daily reminder.

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