Teaching Moral Reasoning as a Thinking process.

Research shows that a greater willingness to show our opinions on the phones we use than on the personal data that is collected on individuals. This reluctance is terrifying that we have so little framework to guide our moral decisions. It is felt that it is because many are not exposed to any type of moral reasoning study or how to think. Unfortunately, we are taught what to think in most education institutions rather than how to think.

How are we to know the truth as to what is moral and ethical? What system do we use? Is it deontology, following the rules, or the consequential decisions, of the greater good? How do we know what is so or truth as we do with math? We always know when 2 + 2=4 is right, the equation is right about the abstract form of 2 no matter what substance/form you are talking about, 2 apples and 2 oranges will always make 4 pieces of fruit no matter what fruit is substituted.  Two eyes, 2 ears always make 4 body parts. All manifestations of reality can participate in the truth or absolute existence of the number 2. But in moral decisions where is the Truth? How do we decide what is moral and ethical? Is our decision because it feels good, what our parents, or school taught us? How do we decide what is ethical and moral?

Plato’s idea of morality as a mathematical decision, is not doable as Aristotle pointed out. His idea is to abstract for most of us to embrace.  Utilitarian choices see moral decision as correct when the majority opinion overrides what would seem to be an intrinsic right. Utilitarian moral reasoning goes amuck when it overrides the integrity and autonomy of a person.

There are actions that are intrinsically wrong, like lying and torturing innocent children. Kant paraphrase, said, “we should use our reasoning to figure out our rules that guide our conduct and then it is our duty to follow those rules.” Most evil and bad ideas are not created because a person wants to do bad or be evil, but because they do not think. They do not look for what is intrinsically right as Kant suggested but put the responsibility of the decision onto others, or systems that allow us NOT to think about the decision we are making.

Think back to the last time you had to make a decision, how did you make, what system did you use. Find a friend and explain to them how you made your decision. If you are into technology and base your decisions on a more logarithm way of thinking, talk to someone from the humanities. In your decision making it is the humane aspect that will lead you to intrinsic truth. Intrinsic Truth is irrefutable just as math and can be axiomatic, or that which is so, no matter where you contemplate it.

Teaching  a Thinking process.

The beginnings: At birth, it is known, we are not a blank slate we already have a foundation of personal and society basis of a ethical foundation. These innate knowing are; 1) Not to harm, and to care for young of species. This is apparent in both humans and other species; 2) Fairness and reciprocity, (the Golden Rule, present throughout our world); 3) In group loyalty, a baby knows its species, and looks to its group, caregivers, for leads on social behavior; 4) authority and respect, the baby knows that to look at those in charge. The following is out of love; (5 Chasity, is defined as a kind of innocence over ones’ physical form. A baby strives to attain this virtue through the control of their body. This is also reflective of purity and sanctuary of the body, what it eats etc. We often see Chasity in babies as will.

No matter what society you come from east or west these same fundamentals exists. We start out with an intrinsic sense.  We go from a fundamental stage of focusing on self and survival to an accumulative understanding of social responsibility. Progress does not always happen. There are many reasons, intellectual disability, perhaps an inability to read social cues or a perspective inability. In many cases the environment we grow up in does not present the circumstances for moral development. In most schools we are given facts and tested on facts and our grasp of facts rather than our ability to comprehend and think.

Other ideas effect our ethical and moral behavior. If our circumstances are such that we are well taken care of a child we are free to develop an understanding of morality toward others, the environment, and society as a whole. If our childhood is spent in an atmosphere of abuse, physically and mentally, and patterns of neglect, research shows that we are more likely to not to develop a mature moral and ethical consciousness. In this case our thinking and ethical development lacks empathy, connectedness, and an appreciative knowing of the plight of others.  and how our actions and lack thereof cause a ripple effect throughout their personal and social environment.

Some of the social moral and ethical errors we see perpetuated by individuals are thinking errors, misuse of ability to reason in a principled syllogistic manner; blaming others, where we are unable to see our actions in others’ responses; seeing situations as someone else’s

responsibility; a lack of ability to see our personal reactions to social taunts and ability to step away from them; unawareness of the need for power over others.

 Can we intentionally treat the lack of ethical reasoning by design?

We must be able to teach moral and ethical reasoning by design and not by default. To intentionally teach ethically reasoning would set our society on a different path. A safer society and our world a much better place for children yet unborn.

To do wherever you are… we are all teachers to someone. When teaching at Shundee Polytechnical University in China, it was apparent that many students didn’t have an idea how they would ever be a leader. My seminars were based on my book Back to Basics Management, Lost Craft of Leadership, I approached the first lessons as everyone was a leader in some aspect. If you contemplate the idea you can see that we all have the opportunity to display leadership skills many times in a week; be it one child, or a group where we speak up on an idea. This same reasoning applies to teaching. Each of teaches to someone, many times we teach by example, good or bad. We teach.

Teaching How to Think

Today, as I was writing, there was a piece on NPR about how it is difficult to connect the working of the brain to the mind. The brain is a physical appendage full of neurons and connections. We can study what parts of the brain light up when we cogitate certain ideas, but this does not explain how the mind thinks and reasons.

You can learn in different ways… either by training the individual to respond in a certain way, such as athletes’ do or by learning how to think by exercising the mind. Training the physical body and brain is process is where the muscles are trained without engaging thinking or reasoning by repeating a movement. A kind of memorizing for the muscles. A person can learn facts by memorizing too. But the learning that we are talking about is where the student learns how to think about a subject like math, but in this case how to think and reason using principles that are axiomatic in nature. To be axiomatic means that reasoning (syllogistic reasoning) conclusions are always so. True, no matter where or how you use them and think of them. Just as we spoke of 2 + 2=4 earlier. Math is axiomatic in nature.

A supra athlete is will tell you that achieving excellence is more than training the muscles, they must learn to produce certain states of consciousness before they perform at a challenge of any sort. Artist of all kinds say similar things, they have a state of consciousness they think up to before they begin to perform their art be it painting (or any form of creating visual forms), dancing, writing, and acting.

Teaching at any level is engaging the consciousness of an individual. Memorizing be it muscles, or facts, is not considered learning.

More on March 30, 2020                                                                                                                   © Suzanne Deakins

Morality of Wisdom


“Practical Wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill.” Aristotle

I would also define wisdom as insight into universal concepts and a monistic understanding of the universe. Wisdom resides with those who have seen the butterfly flap its wings and create a storm on the other side of our globe. One action causes a reaction upon the entirety.

A wise person knows when and how to make an exception to every society rule. They know how to improvise, and when to change their roles to fit the situation. Real life problems are always ambiguous and unclear. Daily we are faced with a changing society and circumstances that we have no experience crossing. Our path ahead is often vague and indistinguishable from past journeys.

The context of our moral gyroscope is always changing. A wise person uses their knowledge and experience to act according to the unique needs of the moment. The rational thinker makes new combinations, creating new paradigms to fit the changing world and environment. Past experience tells us that “staying the course” often heads us for the iceberg that is 90% under the sea. To navigate a rapidly changing paradigm, as we are with the COVID-19 virus, we must think outside the systems we have used before. The ability to be plastic, moldable during this time can change our outcome from a disaster to new a new set of archetypes and models where we leave behind our inability as a society to embrace the differences, needs, and future of all. Perhaps as a world we can stop seeing any peoples as collateral damage.

If we are wise, we know how to use these skills of moral skill and will to serve others with empathy, kindness, and care. These types of people are not born but made out of experience. We must have permission from our inner feelings and intuition to act in a way that is fitting for the moment and circumstances. Many times, this means passing beyond, the personal emotions to do what is for the better good of all.

Morality and straight thinking take a lot of experience. You fail many times, but with wise teachers and leaders you learn from the mistakes. A teacher/mentor is one that has, through experience and personal inner investigation, learned to navigate a changing world and environment, and knows how to reset their inner gyroscope to fit the current moment in history.

You don’t need to be a genius to be wise. Without wisdom being intelligent is not enough. When things go wrong the majority of people reach for more rules or stronger ones. And we reach for reasons (incentives) to help people play by the rules. How can you even write a rule that gets people to bypass their emotions and intuitions to act differently and accommodate to the changing situations we are now faced with? How do you pay a bonus for empathy and kindness?

All great solutions have been made by those who stepped outside of the rules, that thought differently, and were able to embrace the current moment of change with wisdom and straight thinking. An over reliance on rules slices away at our ability to create and use our experiences and past improvisations. Moral will, inner integrity is undermined by an incessant reliance on inducements to follow the rules and do the right thing. When we don’t allow ourselves to think outside of the box of rules, we think we have been given; we are engaging on an inner war against our wisdom, intuition, and experiences.

We script what we think teachers/mentors should be saying because we don’t trust them to teach on their own, as if something is wrong with their ability to adapt to their students needs. The duplicity of expecting a teacher to be intuitive and wise, but only allowing them to teach the words set down as a script. This scenario leave no room for changing as the current environment manifests.

Scripts are meant to prevent misadventure, and they do prevent disaster, but the scripts produce mediocracy or worse dull and boring situations where no one learns anything other than a few facts. Scripts are needed to a degree to give teachers an idea of the words that are needed to teach the class. Too many rules and scripts keep the teachers from using their gifts and experiences. Eventually those with gifts stop teaching.

In todays environment too many incentives cause individuals ask what is in it for me, rather than what is my responsibility. The me generation, started in the 60s with Ayn Rand’s ideas of you want it you should have it. President Reagan brought this back to life in politics. The result is seen today in our legislative bodies and our government as a whole, new rules must satisfy individual groups’ wants to get passed. The dire needs of our climate is an easy to see example this.

Excessive incentives demoralize professional activity. We can see this in the big bonuses given where individuals, such as drug company salespeople, sell not because the product is healthy, but because of their bonus. Drs prescribing opioids because of the bonuses the companies offer. Excessive bonuses cause individuals to lose morality and self-confidence in their own abilities.

“We must ask, just NOT is it profitable? But is it right?” Barak Obama

Too many rules, and incentives causes us to lose our professional morality. We stop asking is it the right thing to do. When we stop overloading the system with rules and bonuses, we encourage teachers and mentors because they want to do the right thing. By-the-way teaching “how-to-be-ethical, does not increase morality. Teaching how we make those decisions does. Morality and ethics are dependent on an individual’s experiences and social structure.

We should strive to be heroes, both average and extraordinary heroes. Our communities and world needs both. Research has shown that if we show behavior that puts the well being of other before our own ego needs the community around us will do the same. We need leaders that will encourage moral behavior and deeds. We need leaders that show us by example kindness, empathy, and care. We need leaders that are willing to put away their personal agendas for the greater good. We need leaders that are willing to create new paradigms for a changing world and environment.

Even the wisest and the strongest individuals will give up if they have to swim against the current all the time.  Work you do that interacts with other people is moral work. As teachers we should strive to be ordinary heroes to those we mentor. We should strive to be moral exemplars to those we mentor and teach.

We are always teaching and mentoring, someone is always watching us.  The most important thing our students need to lean is to respect themselves, their teachers, and learning. Once these three are in a student’s mind the rest is easy.

If we use our practical wisdom it allows other virtues such as honesty, courage, empathy, kindness et all to be used and learned. We must pay attention to our organization so that those who come can learn the virtue of practical wisdom and not have their creative ability suppressed by rules and outdated scripts.

© Suzanne Deakins March 26, 2020












Moral Reasoning


These posts are not meant to tell anyone how to act or not act ethically and morally, but to make us aware of what goes into how we make decisions during this historical time. For the most part morality and ethical concepts are inner changeable in English, and to most people’s thinking.

Scientist tell us that moral, ethical thinking seems to be a complicated process in the brain. They say there is no single place in the brain that makes the decision but rather a network of regions that are involved in moral decisions.

As we move deeper into the pandemic of the COVID-9 virus it is important to recognize how we are going to be faced with moral and ethical decisions at a scale we haven’t had to consider for many years. Front line workers will be asked to perform tasks that will haunt them the rest of their lives. Families will be asked to make decisions, that will change the course of their life.

My stepfather was a survival in WWII of the Betaan death march. As a nurse he was the Japanese prisoner-of-war-camp medic. He had to make choices of who would receive medications and live. The lives of those lost remained burnt into his brain for the rest of his life. He rarely remembered those he saved. This is not too dissimilar from what our front-line medical people will be faced with.                                                                                                                                                                          Moral Reasoning uses critical evaluation to specific events to determine what is right or wrong, and what we ought to do in a particular situation. The simple decisions we make daily (like deciding what to wear or eat) is done in the same manner that we decide on a moral question such as to lie-or-not-to-lie. Our brain processes both in the same way.

Moral reasoning usually applies logic and moral theories, such as deontology, deciding according to rules, such as don’t lie; or utilitarianism, decisions based on out comes, the greater good, but because we cannot predict outcomes, it has limitations as does deontology. We use moral reasoning to specific situations or dilemmas.

People are not especially good at moral reasoning. Indeed, the term moral dumbfounding describes the fact that people often reach strong moral conclusions that they cannot logically defend. Moral dumbfounding happens when a person uses their emotions and intuition rather than approaching a specific situation rationally. Moral dumbfounding is apparent when we are faced with a situation we can’t answer. For instance, a situation such as birth control. Saying birth control is not right, but neither is supporting babies and mothers. This situation dumbfounds many when faced with it.  Evidence shows that the moral principle, ethics we choose to apply to a specific situation is more than often based on emotions, internal biases or outside pressures not logic. So many of our choices are based on our self-serving biases or the desire to conform to our group’s ideals.

During this time many of us will be faced with times our morality and ethics will need to be examined. C.S Lewis says that integrity “is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” When we grasp, accept and choose to live according to our principles, which includes honesty fairness, and decency we are exercising integrity. We are a person of integrity when we demonstrate we are a person free of corruption and hypocrisy.

We reveal our integrity when we act with virtue no matter the circumstances or consequences. The ability to act upon our moral and ethical biases is the critical connection to a society that is humane and empathic of all peoples. I recall a broadcast by a med worker in England who finished her shift crying because the shoppers had stripped the stores and she could not find food to feed her family. Are those hoarding acting with integrity?                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Moral Absolutism affirms that there are certain universal principles, by which all peoples can be judged. It is a form deontology (morality is based on societal rules). There are certain considerations by all people, but most societies have quite different views of what is moral and ethical. This is in contrast to moral pluralism and moral relativism. Moral relativism looks at each situation, and moral pluralism states we should be tolerant of all people’s morals. But beyond that, people from different countries may hold varying views about everything from the morality of abortion and capital punishment to discrimination and corruption.

Moral absolutism declares a common set of moral values, in reality, moral principles vary greatly among nations, cultures, and religions.

© Suzanne Deakins                                                                                                                        March 23, 2020


Ethic Fading in Time of a Pandemic

Ethical Fading in the Time of a Pandemic

As we progress as a country, as a world into darker days of this pandemic, we will be faced with many ethical and moral choices. Morality choices are not just about our own behavior. Most times we are called onto make choices that have long lasting effects on our neighbors, our families, and our mental health.

In March 1984 I had to allow my baby daughter, she was 2 ½ years, to die. The disease she had would not let go. Without going into morbid details, I can tell you the morality of death and life decisions any person makes stay with you an entire lifetime.

Healthcare workers are making these decisions across our world. For the rest of their life they will question their decisions of life and death. The last look at the individuals, no matter how many, will never leave them. Over time the pain will ebb to a degree. It is possible many will commit suicide when the emergency is over, unable to deal with the questioning in their mind of the decisions they had to make.

No person is ethical 100% of the time. No one can answer the ethical questions we must ask ourselves during this time.

The first  facet is called ethical fading. It occurs when the aspect of the ethical questions begin to fade from our thinking. We engage in self-deception, thinking our decision to go out or gather will have no real effect. Ethical fading occurs when we decide to horde supplies of all kinds is our right.  We deceive our self into imagining we are worth the cost to humanity. Look at the post on 03-21 for more insight into this kind of moral choices.

Moral disengagement is when we restructure reality to make our actions and choices seem less harmful to others. We make up statements such as “well if I get the virus, I get it.” We try to minimize the guilt we feel when violate the ethics we know are important in our decision-making.

Diffusion of responsibility occurs when we wait for others to make a decision to act. For instance, we already know how the COVID-19 is passed and that staying home and not gathering is important to cutting down the impact. But many wait for their governor to put a shelter in place order. Diffusion of responsibility makes people feel less anxiety to act, they believe, correctly or incorrectly, that someone else will do so. When we don’t feel responsible for a situation, we feel less guilt for doing nothing to help.

More tomorrow… March 23, 2020

© Suzanne Deakins


Moral and Ethics in the Time of COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 virus begins to take its toll on our healthcare systems, including supplies and tiring healthcare workers, many ethical and moral decisions will need to be made. For instance, if respirators are in low supplies and you have two patients, one who will possibly survive and one who probably will die, how do you decide who gets the respirator? Remembering no one can accurately predict outcomes?

This is not a series about how to make a moral and ethical decision, but rather finding out HOW we make ethical and moral decisions. Below is a discussion on ethics and morals. First of all, we have the concept called


Deontology is an ethical theory that uses rules to distinguish right from wrong. Deontology is often associated with philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant believed that ethical actions follow universal moral laws, such as “Don’t lie.  Don’t steal.  Don’t cheat.”  It implies that as long as you follow the rules you are being ethical. In contrast of deontology is consequentialism, which evaluates actions based on the outcomes.

Most of us use the deontology, it is easy, follow the rules and there is no questioning or ambiguity of our decisions. We don’t have to question our biases. Understanding how limiting and ridged deontology can be, keeps us from basing our actions, and their consequences, on a “real” picture of a situation.   Deontology is an easy way; you just follow the rules, no matter the consequences.

 Consequentiality ethics state “greatest good for the greatest number.” Ideally this sounds fine, but those using this method can also range from utilitarianism into hedonism. There is more to making ethical decisions than following the rules or trying to accurately guess outcomes. Making an ethical decision is influenced or can be predisposed because of other ideas.

Most people make decisions based on prosocial way. That is, they decide on ethical behavior based on what their social group believes or acts upon. For instance, research shows that if our group recycles, we recycle. While, we consider this a “good thing,” it can turn into herd consciousness where we follow the group without real independent thought and decisions thinking. This is called conformity bias. Along these same lines is the Group think.

Group thinking/reasoning: The desire to remain loyal as part of a group is a big part of personal identity. We find it difficult to think outside of the boundaries set by our group. This is often to seen in religious groups, organizations of all kinds, and teenagers. Many psychologists find group thinking as causing deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.

 Group members often suffer overconfidence and hold an unchallenged belief in the group’s aptitude and morality/ethically. Members rarely speak up for the unconscious fear of being rejected by the group for any variance of concepts. Expulsion from a group is both frightening and painful. This denunciation is felt and seen as a punishment.

A group thinking may come to an ethical and moral decision that is more extreme than an individual would make aside from a group. Just as the whole is greater than the sum of its part, so are moral and ethical decisions they are more extreme than individual evaluations. The maintenance of coherence and harmony are more important than individual judgment in groups.  This need to maintain this congruence and consistency can lead to unethical behavior, and destructive decisions.

More on Ethics and moralities to come.

© Suzanne Deakins 2020