Ruggerio Text - Chapter Two Thinking Critically about ethical issues

Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues

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Ruggiero: Thinking Critically About Ethical lssues' Seventh Edition l. The Context2. The Role of the Majority View Companies, 2008 CHAPTER TWO T HE R OLE OF THE M AJORITY V IEW Is the basis for deciding moral values the majority view? In other words, if the majority of the citizens of our country should decide that a particular action is right, would that very decision make the action right? We live in an age when statistics confront us at every turn. From the moment we arise, authoritative voices bombard us with percentages. "Sixty-seven point two percent of the American public support the President’s tax program." "Seven out of ten doctors recommend No-Ouch tablets." "My group had 9o percent less underarm odor." In addition, tabloid television shows solicit our opinion on the issues of the day. "To vote YES , dial 1-9oo- 555-2345. To vote NO , dial 1-9oo-555- 5678." Should patients be able to sue their health maintenance organizations? Is the estate tax unfair? Do rich nations have an obligation to assist poor nations? Tomorrow we’ll learn how many people voted, and the official tally of their votes will be presented in the manner of sports scores-and we’ll be tempted to believe that whichever side got the higher percentage won the contest. Given a steady diet of such data, we may begin to believe that the majority view is the wisest, most informed view. But what, after all, is the "majority"? Nothing more than 51 percent or more of the individuals in a group. Although the conversion of a bunch of individual views into a statistic can create the impression of authoritativeness and wisdom, those qualities do not always result. There is no magic in majorities. If we were to examine a particular majority and compare their individual thinking on a particular issue, what would we find? First, we would find that actual knowledge of the issue varied widely among the individuals. Some would be well informed about all details. Others would be completely uninformed yet unaware of their ignorance. Between these extremes would be the largest group of individuals: those partly informed and partly ignorant, in some ways perceptive but in other ways confused or mistaken. Second, we would find significant variations in the degree and quality of consideration given the facts. Some individuals would have read or listened to the views of authorities, sorted out irrelevancies, appraised each authority’s position in light of available evidence, and weighed all possible interpretations of the facts. Others would have taken the ultimate shortcut and forgone all inquiry on the assumption that their intuition is infallible. A large middle group would have made some inquiry, but it would have been
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less than exhaustive and sometimes less than adequate. Finally, we would find wide differences in the quality of judgment of the issue. Some would have judged quite objectively, avoiding preconceived notions and prejudices and being critical of all views, including those to which they were naturally
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Ruggerio Text - Chapter Two Thinking Critically about ethical issues

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