Moral decisions and intellectuals

The columnist and physician Charles Krauthammer cites Thomas Sowell: “The inability to make moral decisions is the AIDS of the intellectuals, an acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Moral blindness of this caliber requires practice. It has to be learned.”

Why do Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell think that intellectuals are unable to make moral decisions? I suppose it is because they believe in moral absolutes while intellectuals tend to see shades of gray. Krauthammer and Sowell prefer moral certainty (of which, they are certain that their morality is correct). They accuse those who disagree with them as “relativists” or, if their opponents are as certain as they are about their morals, “fanatics.”

There are those who don’t care about morality and there are those whose morality is debased. But I care a great deal about ethics and I admire those who find ethical decision-making an often difficult task. Certainty precludes judgment, while good judgment is the basis of good ethics.

The Golden Rule, found everywhere in the world in either its positive or negative formulation, is the touchstone of all ethics. From then one we apply our practical judgments to the real situations in front of us, balancing principles, consequences and adherence to our moral values.

In one way Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell are right. Being ethical person is habit forming. It is the thinking and doing, thinking and doing, thinking and doing, hopefully getting better at being ethical with time.


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