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Teaching Ethics

Volume 19, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Jeremy Rehwaldt
Pages 35-51

Expanding the Context of Moral Decision-Making
A Model for Teaching Introductory Ethics

Many introductory ethics courses focus narrowly on the cultivation of moral reasoning. A review of introductory ethics textbooks, for example, finds that most focus either on exploring moral theories and approaches in detail or on describing moral theories and then applying them to contemporary issues. I argue that these approaches fail to recognize humans as biologically driven, psychologically shaped, and sociologically constrained beings. I examine the factors influencing thinking and action in each of three areas—the role of emotion in moral decision-making, the problem of unconscious bias, and the influence of social structures—and argue for a broader approach to teaching introductory ethics that takes these factors into consideration. The article describes some classroom approaches for fostering understanding of these factors, as well as strategies students can use to act more effectively.

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