Understanding Moral Decisions – Part 1

If you are like myself, you must often ask yourself, “Why don’t people see things the way that I do?” or “What drives people to do what they do, which is very different from the way that I would do it?”  Philosophy can help us answer these questions.  Unfortunately, the world of philosophy is a forgotten discipline, having been de-emphasized in our educational system during the past several decades.  And, those that are in the philosophical world are too concerned with their own dense language and terms to provide much guidance and understanding to the rest of us.

I would rather go to the dentist that wade through the philosophical literature – past and present.  In fact, it is sad that to understand many philosophical books an introductory book must be read first to better explain what you are about to read!  As I tell my kids, the world of finance, which I know well, is simple to understand if you can get through all the buzzwords and terms; there are only a few concept that drive most financial decisions (e.g., present value, future value, cash flow, risk).

For those that do not want to live morally correct lives, there are many ways of deceit, lies, murder, theft, etc. that can be used to try and get ahead, or at least cope with life.  For those that are searching for the morally correct approach to life, fortunately there are only three philosophical approaches as to how we should lead our lives.  Let me try to explain these three theories of moral philosophy (or how we should conduct ourselves) as simply as possible: my explanations will be somewhat over-simplified, but that is what is needed to do get the point across.

What drives each of us to do what we do morally (or the decisions that we make) can be broken down into three broad theories:  1) Consequentialism, 2) Deontology, and 3) Virtue Ethics.  Each of these three approaches is very different from the other two.  Each approach has its own philosophers (ancient and modern) as supporters of the theory.

To be continued in my next post.

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