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To what extent should our actions be guided by our theories in ethics and elsewhere?

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Introduction

"Moral wisdom seems to be as little connected to knowledge of ethical theory as playing good tennis is to knowledge of physics" (Emrys Westacott). To what extent should our actions be guided by our theories in ethics and elsewhere? What is the underlying relationship between theory and life? Should theories really be used to guide our choices, our actions? I believe that theories do and should, to a certain extent, guide our actions for the basic reason that overtime they are proven to lead to improved outcomes. However, we should follow only the theories that have been proven to accurately reflect what is really happening in the world. Theories become vulnerable when they try to explain the complexities of universal phenomena far beyond our understanding. It is then that we should not rely on theories; but should allow such things as our instinct and common sense, which are conditioned through cultural factors and experiences, to direct us toward right action. First I would like to discuss the important role ethical theories play in guiding our moral behavior. Generally, ethical theories are used to govern nations to ensure orderliness and equality in society. ...read more.

Middle

She missed class intentionally in order to let a friend take photos of the test. This particular girl has had a long history of cheating; and since most students in the class value academic integrity and honesty, they felt their trust had been breached. According to Kantian ethics, cheating is morally wrong, a violation of principle and duty, thus both the cheater and helper would have to be punished. Everybody told me to report to the principal, but it was a difficult decision to make because I knew I had to expose the person who helped her take the picture. According to Utilitarian ethics, the right thing to do was to tell the principal, because it would most certainly stop her acts of cheating; thus everyone would benefit. However, telling on a friend was difficult. Our friendship would be threatened; and the person who helped her would feel disappointed in me for telling on him. However, I couldn't let my emotions take control in this situation. Clearly it would be fair and reasonable for everyone including myself to report the cheating. In the end I did so. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is why economists use the phrase ceteris paribus, meaning 'if all the other variables are held constant,' a relationship between two variables can then be anticipated. However, when taking into account all that is happening in the economy at once, the reality is far too complex to be explained by any central theory. Low interest rates will have to be raised, since soon enough not enough money will be available for loans that drive the economy. Because economic activities are constantly changing, it is difficult to develop any one theory that can explain all that is happening at any given time. This is why macroeconomic goals such as low unemployment and price stability come into conflict with each other. It can't be denied that human beings attempt to understand the universe by explaining it with theories. The theories that have proven to accurately describe natural phenomena provide a basic guideline to direct our actions. To the extent that the theory is unambiguous, we can follow it. However, most theories collapse when they attempt to explain a reality that is too complex. This is where we as human beings must "go it alone," using our experiences and a bit of common sense to make it through the day. ...read more.

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