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Integrated experiences (Essay Sample)

Final Essay Assignment "The Good" in life, as defined first by the ancient Greeks, is the final or ultimate end at which our actions aim. It's the answer to the question why you do what you do. For Epicurus, as we've seen, it was pleasure, though his explanation is much more complicated than might first come to mind. One is successful when this end is accomplished (adding perhaps the qualification "to the highest degree possible" or "to a reasonable degree"). Another description is one's "philosophy of life." Typically when someone asks the question "What's your philosophy of life?" I suspect the questioner himself doesn't quite understand what he is asking. The question might mean "What sense do you make of the way the world is, or what's the purpose of it all?"; or "How do you deal with the tribulations of life?"; or "Why have you chosen to live in the way you do?" The last interpretation is another way of asking "What's the Good in life?" As I wrote in the introduction to this Unit, unless one knows where one is aiming (and perhaps why as well) it's very unlikely one will happen to hit the mark. Your assignment: what will be "the Good" in your life? What is the end or goal, for the sake of which you act as you do? Once you have a preliminary answer, ask yourself what problems might there be with your answer. For example, suppose you choose "wealth" as your goal. I imagine few people truly hold wealth as the final goal. Instead, they want certain goods that wealth usually brings: security, prestige, comfort, and so forth. Your essay should be a minimum of 8 pages of content (do not count the title page or reference pages) using APA format. It should include appropriate references to all the required readings for this course and may also include references from other relevant readings. Required Materials The Consolations of Philosophy. Alain de Botton, Vintage International. 2001. ISBN: 0-679-77917-5 Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. DeGraf, Wann, Naylor, Horsey. Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2nd edition (September 1, 2005). ISBN-10: 1576753573 Confession. Leo Tolstoy. W.W. Norton. 1984. ISBN: 0-39330192-3 Paperback Education, Culture, and Who We Are Ask yourself this question: where did you get your beliefs about the world? Most of us are Christian. Why? Very likely it's because our parents were Christian. Many of us learned the prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Most learn this prayer (or a similar one) at such a young age we don't remember being taught it. Yet look at the words in the prayer. "Lord” and “soul” are being spoken by the young child even before she has the vaguest notion of what the words might mean. Especially as her parents or other family has taught her this, she never questions that such things as “the Lord” and “soul” exist. Further she is likely taken to church where belief in these is reinforced. Why were your parents Christian? Probably because their parents were. Most Democrats are the children of Democrats; most Republicans the children of Republicans. Most union supporters are the children of union supporters; most racists, I'd think, grew up among racists. Had you been born in Bombay, India you likely would not be a Christian but a Hindu or Muslim. You would think of Christians as “those people with that strange religion.” Most of what you believe about the world, I'd wager, is a product of your particular upbringing. Had you been raised by different parents a great many of your fundamental beliefs about life would very likely be different. Most of us accumulate our beliefs about the world through happenstance. The accent you speak with (and if you don't think you have an accent ask a Southerner or New Englander if you do) you acquired without realizing it. You soaked up the atmosphere of your upbringing. How was it possible that educated white people in the South in the 1850's continued the practice of slavery? Why couldn't they see this as wrong? The simplest explanation is that in the world they grew up in it wasn't believed to be wrong. In a similar manner we soak up beliefs. We are not mindlessly absorbing beliefs; the process is more subtle. Some beliefs we do question, and either discard or keep but now hopefully with better justification. If we do acquire our beliefs in large measure through accidents of birth and upbringing, should this give us pause to wonder how justified they are? Of course. It should also make us less attached to our beliefs, and more willing to question them. This does not mean this examination of our beliefs is easy or painless. Few people like to admit they're wrong. A famous Wall Street investor gave the commencement address at a prominent business school. These newly christened MBA's would have liked nothing more than to go to work for this man. This investor began his career on Wall Street penniless. Through investing in the stock market his personal wealth grew to over a billion dollars. Whatever this man knew, the graduates in that audience wanted to know. The first thing he said in his speech was: “How many of you enjoy learning that your are wrong about something you believe?” Among the hundreds of graduates, only one young woman raised her hand. The investor asked “Why on earth would you want to learn that you are wrong about something?” She replied “Because now I know what's true. That's one less thing I'm wrong about. I'm now better off than I was before.” He grinned and said “See me after my speech. You have a job with me if you want it.” He went on to explain that in making investments in particular stocks, one must be able to accept that sometimes one is wrong. It is suicidal, he said, to watch a stock go down and down and yet refuse to believe that one was mistaken about the prospects for that stock. Of course you'll be wrong sometimes, he said. But pride gets in the way of making money. We all prefer to be right. But because we differ about the truth of many beliefs, logic says at least some of are wrong about at least some matters. Being able to separate the matter of the truth or falsity of a belief I hold from the matter of my self-worth as a human being is a crucial skill in life, I think. We all have known people who never admit to being wrong about anything. They will hold tooth and nail to their beliefs even when it becomes absurd. Such people are unpleasant to be around, of course. Further, they never grow as human beings. Their understanding of the world has halted; they become stunted, paralyzed. That cannot be a good way to live. Widespread in our society is the attitude that education ends when a person finishes school. In some professions one must periodically take “continuing education” courses, but even this requirement is rare and is confined to the category of professional training. So physicians must keep abreast of new treatments; realtors must take courses now and then to learn any changes in the law; and so forth. In other words, vocational training. The notion of education as simply good for a person, moreover as necessary for a person, ends with high school or college graduation. We tell our children they have to attend school, that education is important to them. But important why? Yes, they learn the skills—reading, writing, basic mathematics, science and history—that they will need to function as part of society. But is this all? Why is education regarded as crucial until the moment of graduation when suddenly it becomes entirely optional? What of the manager or realtor or engineer or nurse, not as a professional in need of current training, but as a human being facing a changing world, a body growing older, new responsibilities as parent, grandparent, and caregiver of one's own parents; as citizen, church member; as a spouse or former spouse? We receive formal education to prepare us for our careers. But what education do we receive to prepare us for our lives? Only what we undertake ourselves. One way human beings differ from other animals is we have a desire to know about the world and ourselves. We ask questions. A child has an insatiable need and desire to know. What parent hasn't heard the endless strings of “Why?” from a curious child? Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher and student of Plato, begins one of his greatest books with the sentence “Man by nature desires to know.” Human beings need to know. We have other natural needs, for example, the need for food. Our bodies signal when we need food; our stomachs gnaw at us and the flesh disappears from our bodies. Without these signals it would be possible to starve to death and not realize it. We know clearly when we lack food. But when we lack knowledge—when the need to know, for our minds to grow, is not being met—we may not be aware that we are deprived. We can starve from a lack of knowledge and not be conscious of it. But we nevertheless suffer this lack. Just because we aren't conscious of the natural need to know doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Long after our formal education has ended this natural need to know persists. Our minds hunger for knowledge even without the pangs of deprivation. In this sense, Aristotle says, continuing to learn about oneself and the world is not optional, not if one wishes to live a good and happy life. This need must be met. In grammar school we learn to read; without this skill the libraries of the world would be useless. We learn the basic tools necessary to education. There is a great deal of memorization and rote learning, as is necessary at this stage. In college this is continued but the skills acquired are different. The chief skill one should learn in college is how to think. Assuming one can read one should then be able to abandon formal education and simply visit the library in order to learn anything found in the stacks of books. But most who try this don't succeed. Why not? While they can read and grasp the meanings of the words in the sentences they lack the ability to think critically, to think for themselves. Many times when teaching ethics class I've experienced this play out. In preparing for class to discuss the death penalty, for example, I'd assign two readings on the death penalty, one where the author argued in favor of executions, another where the author made the case to cease executions. When we discussed the readings in class the common experience was “I was in favor of the death penalty after reading the first article, but against it when I finished the second one,” this said with frustration at having their opinion pulled one way, then another. A common feature of the experience was that even when they suspected the writer was wrong in his reasoning they weren't able to explain why. Their frustration grew from feeling that their current opinion depended on the accident of whichever author they last read. “I have seen in my lifetime hundreds of craftsmen and ploughmen wiser and happier than university rectors.” (Montaigne) Every time we encounter difficulty in our reading we are faced with a decision: am I being stupid or is the author not being clear. We have to beware the writer that seems to take delight in finding unusually difficult ways of expressing ideas, of using words rarely seen elsewhere. But we also have to beware of our own laziness and disinclination to think through an idea. What is education beyond general preparation for life in society and training for a profession? What good is it? Will it help you earn more money? Probably not. In a society where value is mainly financial or materialistic (despite our claims to the contrary), what good is something that will not improve your standard of living (coincidentally, mainly defined in terms of income)? Education changes us—that is its value—and the world turn changes for us. A common example of this is arctic peoples and their relationship with snow. Some of these northern peoples have as many as thirty different names for snow, depending on its weight, wetness, the way the light reflects off it, how useful it is in various ways, and so on. Having this knowledge is important to their survival in many ways. They perceive—they literally see—variations in snow that we don't. In this sense their world is richer than ours. Knowledge can change the way the world appears to us. There are countless examples of this. Just as learning can make the world richer, it can also make the differences smaller. Racism, for example, is spawned by a reaction to differences in physical characteristics, chiefly skin color. On the basis of a difference in skin color whole races were enslaved and continue to be persecuted today. But is skin color a more relevant basis for discrimination than, say, eye color? What if a culture decided that all green-eyed people were lesser beings? And on this basis the culture discriminated against these green-eyed beings? We would laugh and think how nonsensical this would be. Is skin color, or the shape of one's face, or one's height, a more rational basis for discrimination? Of course not. In this way education—learning to think critically—can make differences shrink. A question which reveals a great deal about a person is this: assuming no limits, how long would you like to live? I've had classes do this as an exercise. The entire class stands. I put a number of years on the blackboard—starting with 70 years. Each person is to sit down when I write the number of years of life that would be enough, when more would no longer be desirable. A few sit down at 70. More at 90. Most have sat by 150. Those that are still standing at 150 usually would choose to live forever. Why do some turn down more life? Boredom is the usual answer (once it's made clear you wouldn't be sentenced to live in an aged, decrepit body for those many years). They say they would have seen all that was there to see. Or perhaps more seriously they regard life, on the whole, as suffering. A longer life means more suffering. Those who would choose more life see very differently. The world is endless in what it can offer the interested person, they'll say. The world changes and they are excited about experiencing that change. Technological change alone—for better and worse—is endlessly fascinating. Moreover, they are excited about the ways they, themselves, might change. This is the main difference between those who sit and those who remain standing. Those who'd bow out early often have become bored with themselves. But those who'd choose endless life are curious about how they might change, into whom they might evolve. How do people come to have such profoundly different conceptions of the world and themselves? This is one of the questions we'll look at. One definition of wisdom is “knowledge about how to live that arrives too late to be of practical use.” While often sadly true, I'm more optimistic. This is one facet of education that's underestimated. The word education often conjures up other words like ‘literature' and ‘essay.' What unfortunate words. Both have come to have the association, the sound, of dry and stuffy and boring. It's no wonder we avoid “the classics.” While largely undeserved, in this course we'll look at other rewards education can offer. We can think of this as practical wisdom, or in the words of Alain de Botton's book as “the consolations of philosophy.” Education, then, wouldn't be an activity separate from one's life, but very much a part of it, improving and enriching that everyday life. “An unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates (ca. 350 B.C.) What is the aim of life? What is the aim of your life? The aim or good of life is the goal for the sake of which you do what you do. You work to earn money, and perhaps to gain some satisfaction. Why do you earn money? To pay your mortgage, put food on the table, buy a new computer, put your kids through college, and save for your retirement. But why do you do those things? Eventually you must arrive at a goal—an end—which you pursue for its own sake. In Socrates' day this was defined as “the Good.” Very often today we use the shorthand “happiness.” Another metaphor is a roadmap and one's destination. Unless you know your destination, which roads do you take? When do you turn? Without a destination in mind, travel—a person's life—would be random. You might visit places that bring you happiness and meaning, but you'd likely take dead ends, or with frustration continue to return to the same painful, disappointing places. It's fair to say the average person spends more time in given week watching television than in thinking about the destination of her life. An unexamined life would be a life pursued without a destination in mind. There is no better model of education than Socrates. In the writings of Plato which feature Socrates (almost all of Plato's writings—rather than being dull treatises—are couched in dramas, in plays, with Socrates playing the lead role) this articulation and clarification of the best destination for a human life, and of the roads which lead there, is the main goal. The destination, the roads that lead there, and the traveler. Socrates visited the oracle at Delphi and asked for wisdom. The oracle—a person believed to have communication with the gods—answered “know thyself.” What could be simpler? A common experience will show how difficult this prescription is. Who among us hasn't lied to herself at some time? We call this self-deception. Now with just a little examination a huge problem arises. How can I successfully lie to myself? I can lie to my brother, and he believes me, because he can't see into my mind. There is a wall of sorts between his mind and mine. I can hide the truth from him behind this wall. But when I deceive myself I am both the deceiver and the deceived. I hide the truth from myself. But if I'm hiding the truth, I of course know where it is—I put it there—and so I cannot be deceived. But clearly I do lie to myself. Do we know ourselves? Certainly not as well as we might think. What Does Work Mean to You? In Andrew Carnegie's steel mills of the late 19th Century, men worked 12-hour shifts for 364 days straight. Being a patriotic American Carnegie celebrated July 4th by giving his men Independence Day off. Thankfully how we view work has changed since then. Full-time work is no longer 84 hours-a-week with no overtime, no benefits, no workman's compensation, and the other benefits American workers have come to expect. But full-time work is no longer 40 hours a week either. In the year 2000, for the first time in decades, the workweek of the average American exceeded 50 hours. This doesn't include commuting time. Productivity in the first quarter of 2002 rose more than six percent, at the same time the unemployment rate rose. Fewer people were doing even more work. Time is becoming a brutal master for most of us. “Something's got to give. For many Americans, it's sleep. Doctors say more than half of all Americans get too little sleep—an average of an hour too little each night. We average twenty percent less sleep than we did in 1900.” (Affluenza, page 43) The demands of work shape most of our lives. Many of you find yourselves in class on the weekend, on Sunday, at the cost of attending Church or observing the Sabbath. One way or another work is pressuring you to be here. Either you must get your undergraduate degree to feel more secure in your present position, or you need the diploma to advance in your career. Where you live is likely determined by work. That your family is spread out over the state or country is probably due to job requirements. If you seldom see your children's soccer games, again, it's probably because of work pressures. Despite our culture's claim that children and family come first, it is work that comes first. Most of us first determine or acknowledge our work demands, and then fit our family life around that schedule. We work more than half our waking hours, or worry that we aren't working enough, or worry if we should be looking for another job—all facts determined by business. Business, I would argue, has determined how most of us live our lives. Not long ago a student told me this. She saw that her next-door neighbor had just bought a new Ford Expedition. They have been neighbors for 15 years, and my student asked the woman if she could just drive the new truck around the block once. The woman smiled sheepishly and said “I'm sorry, I know this sounds terrible, but I just got it and I can't let anybody else drive it. I know that sounds bad, but ask me again in a month or two.” My student said each morning her neighbor loads her two little children into her new Expedition and drives them to a day care center where she leaves them with minimum-wage-strangers for the whole day. “She'll let strangers watch her children all day every day, but she won't let a good friend drive her stupid truck.” Work and the Alienation of Labor Most of us will spend more time working in our lives than we will any other single activity. Work, then, will have for most of us a profound effect on the nature of our lives. The question “What does work mean to me?” becomes very important. Will work be simply and only a way of earning money? For a number of us this is how it feels, at least part of the time. “All work is honorable; it depends on the spirit in which it's performed.” I saw this quotation taped on the refrigerator in the kitchen of a law office I was cleaning years ago. It struck me as odd, given the six lawyers who worked there averaged about $250,000 a year, while the five secretaries and the receptionist were paid about $35,000 a year. Clearly, while all work was honorable, some paid tremendously better. One consequence of industrialization was the specialization of labor. Instead of one person creating a design for a dining room table, choosing the wood, cutting the pieces, sanding and staining them, putting the table together, and admiring the finished article, we have factories doing this. No single person does all these jobs; just as in an assembly line in a factory, one person does one very particular task repeatedly on dozens or hundreds of tables each day. While the assembly line is much more efficient, and so allows us to produce tables and countless other goods at very low prices (relative to the cost if produced one at a time), the method has an important drawback. When we are involved in the creative and production process from beginning to end, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment. We feel some measure of fulfillment, having expressed something of ourselves in the process. We've used important aspects of ourselves in the effort. When, on the other hand, we become “cogs in the machine” we usually suffer what is termed “alienation.” We become distanced or separated (made to feel a part of ourselves is “alien” or foreign) as persons from our labor. Our labor, in its repetitiveness and machine-like quality, feels to us as separate from ourselves. In cleaning the bathroom at home, or mowing the lawn, we experience something of this. But these tasks are brief and serve to maintain our homes. When a person cleans ten motel bathrooms a day, or mows twenty lawns, the feeling is very different. It begins to seem as though we are machines repeating the same motions. But we are not machines. And there is a price paid for long hours spent in machine-like labor. Alienating labor isn't found just in our factories. The maid who makes bed after bed; the secretary typing from dictation on her word processor; the mechanic on his sixth oil change of the day; even the physician on her one-thousandth, routine arthroscopic knee surgery of her career, or the tenth ear infection of the day; in most jobs there is some degree of this alienation of ourselves from our labor. Given the great amount of time we spend at work it's important to grapple with this feature of labor. Few of us have jobs that are utterly alienating. A fellow I know worked in a slaughterhouse years ago (I don't know if this particular practice continues in slaughterhouses today). Cattle were driven, one-by-one, into an enclosure that restricted movement. The animal's head was held still, and a man—the man who held this job was known as “the hammer man”—would swing a sledgehammer into the forehead of the animal killing it. That animal was removed and another brought in. And so the hammer man's day went. What would such labor do to a person? Perhaps the only way psychologically to survive such a job would be to alienate oneself from the labor. For most of us alienation is a byproduct and not a necessity of the job. It is a matter of degree. Most of us instinctively focus on those aspects of work that are pleasant or meaningful, and minimize the alienating features. Work and Moral Integrity The accountants at Arthur Andersen (the accounting and consulting firm involved in the infamous Enron scandal) who suspected something was rotten (or actually knew), were very well paid. They had jobs much more respected than the office cleaner. But they were forced to choose between keeping those respected, lucrative positions or doing what was both illegal and morally wrong. Many lives were ruined because of how they made their decisions. Most occupations present us with moral (ethical) quandaries. Some are large in their consequences, some rather small. How we confront and deal with issues of professional ethics will be an important element of how we experience our work life. We'll look more closely at this matter of professional ethics in another Unit. Work and Self-Identity “What do you do?” When you meet someone at a gathering this is usually the first question asked. We draw many conclusions about people from the answers given. Certain jobs carry titles and the response indicates so. “I'm a physician; I'm a nurse at Beaumont; I'm an engineer at Ford; a teacher; a professor; a developer; a carpenter; a realtor; and so on. Notice the grammar of these responses. “I am a certain thing.” Literally I identify my being with one who does certain work. My job gives me substance. Usually one's sense of identity is invested, in part, in one's work. Certain other jobs don't invite that response. So, if I work on the line at GM I might not respond “I'm a line worker at GM”; instead I'll just say “I work at GM.” How a person responds to “What do you do?” will suggest how closely she ties her sense of identity—her sense of who she is—to her work. The relationship between one's work and self-identity can have great impact. While digging ditches, for example, can be quite alienating, it will rarely present ethical issues. I can do my job better or worse, but in the end little depends on my choice. In this way I can leave my work behind at the end of the shift. While mechanical, it didn't ask me to compromise my integrity. There is also a virtue of such manual labor. While my body is occupied my mind is mostly free—my mind remains my own during work hours. This can be a great freedom. Other, better paying jobs require that I give my mind to my work. This can turgidly boring, offensive, or may place me in the position of compromising my integrity. Unemployment awakens many to the role work plays in maintaining self-esteem. In our culture shame attaches to being unemployed, no matter how one came to be without work. There is shame in not providing for one's family, or for not taking care of one's own bills. A friend of mine was laid off and was entitled to six months of unemployment benefits. She was ashamed to apply for them. Even if part of her wages had gone to fund this benefit. The shame she anticipated feeling standing in front of the person at the Unemployment Office kept her from going. As well, in her upbringing a healthy, capable adult earned her own keep and didn't accept charity, even in the form of government funds, if she was able to work. Finding herself without work, a person may feel her self-esteem injured. Without “being a whatever” she's left to wonder what she is. It's dangerous particularly in the employment climate today to invest so much of one's self-worth in a job, when that job might disappear. Historically there's a difference between men and women in this matter. While women have always worked (at least) as much as men, this work mainly was in the home and uncompensated. Women were taught to invest their identity in being a wife and mother: in relational identities. She was the mother of two children; she was the wife of a certain man. Her self-esteem depended on the work her husband did, not the work she did. Her homemaking skills figured in as well. (You might remember television shows when you were young, when the mother-in-law would visit and the daughter-in-law fretted about the cleanliness of the house. The mother-in-law, in particularly over-the-top stories, would don a white glove and run her finger over the mantle or table, inspecting for dust. The younger woman would hold her breath to see if she passed the test and so receive the stamp of approval on her identity as a good wife.) If a woman also had a job outside the home this perhaps added to her identity, depending on the job. If she was a part-time clerk in a bookstore, probably little was added. If she had trained for a particular career and worked in that field, probably a much greater part of her self-worth came from this outside work. But if she quit her paying job her primary identity as wife and mother was still intact. With men the loss of paying work was and continues to be more psychologically devastating. It didn't matter that he was still a father of two and husband of this woman; more important was what he now wasn't. Women in the last few decades have entered the paying workforce in great numbers, of course, gaining a new source of self-esteem. But this has created a quandary. Our culture still grants women much esteem as mothers (though much of this is lip service). This esteem comes at a price. We expect women to be good mothers. The problem arises when working outside the home conflicts with motherhood. Only women do we punish with this conflict. A father who works 60 hours-a-week, who travels part of each month, who arrives home in the evening just before the kids' bedtime, who rarely attends the children's games, such a father is regarded as a good provider, a hardworking man. But a woman, a mother, who maintains the same work schedule is usually seen as a bad mother, whether or not her husband has assumed the bulk of parental duties. For most couples two incomes are required to maintain their desired standard of living. Having the mother quit her job isn't usually an acceptable option. Women then are forced into the dilemma of choosing being a “good mother”, or a provider and the benefits to her esteem such work brings. Despite the magazine covers and commercials on television suggesting that modern women “can have it all” very few women will say they've found this possible. Something has to give in her life as mother, wife, workforce member, and simply as a person; in some aspect her self-identity will suffer. Men face different pressures. While a man may work hard, perhaps at the price of being the father he would like to be, our culture hasn't comfortably accepted the idea of the male quitting his work to be a stay-at-home dad. When men gather and one says that he's quitting his job to be a full-time father, the others may remark as being envious of escaping work and being with the children. But normally there is also an unspoken judgment: what kind of man are you if you let your wife earn the money? Who or what are you if you don't work. Moving Forwards We return to our opening question but with our eyes towards the future: what will work mean to you? Some questions come to mind - What do you need from your work? “Need” will likely encompass money; it may also mean a measure of self-esteem or self-respect. Possibly, too, the respect of your spouse, friends and family. Though more difficult for some people to accept, we might also need work simply to occupy part of our time. Gaining some satisfaction, even pleasure, from work may also be necessary particularly if we see ourselves as working for the next two or three decades. - Merely saying that I need money from my work in fact tells little. How much money? To answer this question we must know the reasons I believe I need that amount of money. It's obvious much hinges on these reasons. We'll examine this question carefully in our Unit on Success and Purpose. - What part of my identity do I expect from my work? Particularly for men, just asking this question relieves some pressure because the question implies other possible sources of identity beyond work. Of course it needn't, and for various reasons shouldn't, be all or nothing. Were work my entire source of identity this would preclude me from having meaningful relationships with others; just as it would prevent me from having a meaningful religious posture in the world; or a sense of identity as a citizen of Warren or Michigan or the United States. But work will likely provide a needed element of self-identity. - In viewing my life as a story, what role will my work play in this story? If I were to read the story of my life, what would I think of the main character's work and how he or she feels and thinks about this work? Would I view that character's life as tragic because of his experience of work? Would I see that character's work as woven meaningfully into his life? Professional Ethics I once read the diary of a Nazi concentration camp commandant. He wrote one day that he was frustrated because the ovens used to burn the bodies of the prisoners that had been gassed had broken down. This was a serious problem, he noted, because each day trains arrived with more prisoners for execution and the live bodies were accumulating with no place to put them. In order to maintain the schedule of killing and disposal, he had to locate—with some effort and ingenuity he added—trucks from neighboring farms and towns to transport the prisoners into the nearby forest where they could be shot and buried in a huge trench. He described in detail how he solved the various logistical problems and was satisfied with a good day's work. He then wrote of going home and celebrating his son's tenth birthday. They played games and had a wonderful dinner and cake for dessert. He wrote how proud he was of his son, his namesake, remarking how much he had changed in a year, how fast childhood moves for the parents while how slowly he remembered it moving for him as a young boy. The man was an elegant writer and quite perceptive as a father. I couldn't help but think this man was psychotic. How could he kill innocent people by the hundreds during the day and in such beautiful words describe the life of his son? But perhaps he is not so strange, not so abnormal after all. Recently a problem occurred at Ford with the tires on their Explorer model SUV. I can't help wondering this: at what point did the maker of the vehicle, or the maker of the tires, realize that these particular tire models were failing at a rate that was statistically much higher than normal? That is, when did they know something was seriously wrong? In the world as I imagine it, people would know that the product they were selling, they were permitting to continue on the roads, was dangerous and was causing accidents that killed people. Yet in my imagination these same people would write memos suggesting the matter be looked into more carefully, as they didn't want to invite lawsuits and be forced to recall millions of tires. These same people would then go home to spouse and children. Are these people that different from you and me? Could you do this, or anything approaching this, and return to your life still believing yourself to be the same, basically good person? We can't act morally in our private lives, then abandon morality in our work lives, and expect to remain ourselves. The effect must be damaging. But with morality uneasily present—when present at all—in American business as well as most large organizations, how can a person manage to retain her moral integrity and still navigate the workworld successfully? First, what do we lose when we sacrifice our moral beliefs? Setting aside the issue of sin and concern for an afterlife, we find several losses. Our sense of integrity and self-respect is the first casualty. A loss of integrity leaves a fractured identity. The person I thought I was I can no longer claim to be, as my action just violated this picture of myself. Often we tell ourselves this false step was an exception, never to be repeated. One lie doesn't make a person “a liar” we say. But typically we find ourselves in the same moral quagmires again and again. So it becomes difficult, even impossible, to excuse these instances as exceptional. This is often true in our professional lives. A technician tasked with testing a sample from a shipment of car parts reports to his supervisor that the test lot failed. This would mean the entire shipment would be rejected, slowing production and causing other problems. The supervisor instructs the technician to test another sample. Repeated enough times it's likely some chosen sample will pass. Should the technician comply or refuse to retest on the grounds the parts haven't met specifications and so may fail? The technician might agree to retest. He might rationalize his action in various ways: the specifications are unnecessarily strict; the part isn't relevant to the safety of the vehicle; if he doesn't manipulate the test results the company will find someone who will; it's just this one time, it's not common the samples fail the tests; if he refuses he may not be fired but probably will be punished in some manner by the supervisor; and perhaps most importantly, he needs the job. Integrity is seldom lost in large measures. It is surrendered bit by bit. We are almost always aware we are surrendering it; this awareness combines with a uniquely uncomfortable feeling at these times, usually followed by our rationalizations. But whether cleaved in large parts or eroded in nearly imperceptible bits, the effects are the same. I change. The person I believe myself to be is left behind. (There are many facets to “the person I believe myself to be.” How I regard myself as a moral agent, a moral person, is just one.) The Institution of Business As human beings we have created many social institutions: religion, families, schools, marriages, communities, political parties, and so on. Another institution exists, one that arguably we created—morality. Morality is accepted, in fact deemed a core part of these institutions. We can describe actions by spouses, children, classmates, fellow competitors, and coworkers as morally right or wrong, and we all feel as if we know what's being said. Even in the military, in the middle of battle, there are moral rights and wrongs. There are practices regarding treatment of prisoners that are condemned as wrong: torture, for example. The killing of non-combatants in a war is commonly thought also to be wrong. A husband cheats on his wife and we say it is wrong; an Olympic sprinter takes banned anabolic steroids and we say it was unethical to do this; I look on your paper during an exam and we think I am committing a moral wrong. But there is one human institution, perhaps today the most influential, where morality exists uneasily or not at all. It is probably more influential than family or marriage or church. That institution is business. It is more powerful because it is determines so much of how we live our lives. As a culture we work more than we have in decades. Most of us will spend more time working in our adult lives than in any other single activity. To suspend our moral beliefs while we work means, then, abandoning morality for most of our waking lives. How could we continue to regard ourselves as good people? Ironically it's the fact that we are troubled by moral controversies in our working lives that confirms our basic goodness. The truly awful people aren't bothered, and this discussion would have little meaning for them. The rest of us meet situations in our working lives that run the gamut from minor to major in moral seriousness. I've compiled a sampling of moral dilemmas past students have encountered, described in their own words. source..
Student`s Name:
Life experience is complex and different to all persons. Different people have different views of life according to how they are brought up and how they incorporate their day to day actions with the realities in life. How can someone define what measures success in one`s life? This is a question of ultimate challenge to philosophers which requires one to consider very many assumptions which may apply to a rational person. Good in life or success in life may be accomplished in various ways with different people. For most people, good in life is achieved when the end is accomplished or when their aim in life is eventually achieved. In this essay I will explore the good in my life and the impact of it to the society. The good in my life is to hold the highest prestige in my life. That is what I want to accomplish in life.
Education, Culture and my personality
Most people acquire their beliefs through learning from parents. I come from a family of three inclusive of my parents we are five. My family is a noble family that has been admired by many people in the society. This is owed to the fact that my parents have never mistreated anyone in the society despite the position they hold in the society. They have never looked down upon anyone whether a poor or a middle class individual. My parents hold prestigious positions in the society; my father is a City mayor while my mother is one of the senior government officials in the United States of America. I am a Christian because my parents are Christians; I learnt how to pray because I saw my parents pray and they taught me how to pray every day. Since the time I was young to this moment I am an adult I have learnt different things without getting to question of what they are.
The cultural background where I grew up has continued to shape my present and my future. As I have been told constantly by parents through the word of mouth that; what I am being taught has been passed from our lineage generation after another. I have learnt to accumulate beliefs through the experience I have had with my parents. I have learnt from them the importance of being respected in the society. That respect is the most paramount element in one`s life. I have grown respecting everyone whether young or older than me. I have embraced everyone with respect they deserve at any point in time. Since the time I learnt how to talk and since the time I was in kindergarten as far as I can remember, we would sit round the table for meals as one family.
There are things in our family which I can never let go off. I have leant through beliefs and experience inclusive of the informal education from my parents. Just like some educated white people in the South; back in 1850s who continued with slavery practice despite it being so inhuman. This was because they could not see anything wrong as they got mindlessly soaked up in the belie...
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