After the trial, Stewart goes to meet his now freed client to collect his fee, and finds that he has skipped, leaving a note apologizing for leaving, but explaining that he was seized by “an irresistible impulse.” Stewart smiles the rueful smile of a man who knows he has been hoisted by his own petard. It was an appeal to the Golden Rule: I’m not doing anything to the stranger I’m taking a photo of that I would object to if he did it to me! We often hear this when a successful individual or organization is justly criticized for unethical habits, routines, tendencies or policies, and defenders recoil at the suggestion that a successful formula might be altered in any way. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. A lawyer is bound to seek her clients’ legal objectives, and is required not to have any regard for the opposing party’s needs and interests at all. He is what he is, and what he is is an irresponsible, narcissistic, rude, boorish, uncivil, nasty, destructive, ignorant, impulsive untrustworthy and despicable creep. The issue in which this rationalization was raised on Ethics Alarms was a news story about a grandmother who killed her cat and kittens to punish her grandchildren. Discussions about ethical issues, not to mention attempts to encourage ethical behavior, are constantly derailed by the invocation of common misstatements of ethical principles. In the case of taking non-consensual public photographs of strangers,  the photographer must assume that the subject might not want to be photographed, that it might make him uneasy or place him in fear, and that ethical principles of empathy, respect, fairness, kindness and caring require that the photographer ask permission first. Playing the hands you are dealt as well as possible should never be penalized or punished, but for those who are dealt winning hands to convince themselves and attempt to convince others that their good fortune proves their special virtue and merit is obnoxious and foolish. As he was falling, people on each floor kept hearing him say, “So far, so good.” Heh, so far, so good.”. He isn’t concerned about the damage the narcotics business will do, only that societal objections are currently so strong that the business is too much of a risk. It was unconstitutional then, and it’s unconstitutional now. 36. If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. This rationalization has been used to excuse ethical misconduct since the beginning of civilization. Spousal abuse where women beat up their larger husbands are especially ugly extensions of  this rationalization. Rationalization 8, The Trivial Trap  or “No harm no foul!”, relies on #3. Rationalization #53 has as many defenders as The Golden Rationalization, #1, “Everybody Does It.” Whole philosophies have been based on it, like Hedonism, which holds that personal pleasure is the highest human value. Clever, but nonsense. 25B, The Irresistible Impulse, or “I can’t help myself!”, It was a close call where to file this one. Before too long, one has embraced “the ends justify the means” as an ethical system, otherwise known as “the terrorism standard.”. Unless, however, those virtuous entries include measures to undo the wrong on the bad side and to make any victims whole, the imagined justification is just that: imaginary. Why do good people make bad choices? Rationalization 51 is  The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.” The theory there  is that as long as “nobody “is bothered by the unethical conduct, it’s ethical. The better approach, and the one promoted by Ethics Alarms, is to teach and encourage good behavior and ethical virtues for their own sake. If the user really thinks that an unethical act can be legitimately framed as “not the best.” that tells us that he or she believes an unethical act can be good. The Trivial Trap  or“No harm no foul!”, Many argue that if no tangible harm arises from a deception or other unethical act, it cannot be “wrong:” “No harm, no foul.” This is truly an insidious fallacy, because it can lead an individual to disregard the unethical nature of an action, and look only to the results of the action. Nonsense, of course. Not all these behaviors will be equally severe, and oftentimes it may even be unclear whether behaviors should be seen as unethical. Thus even an unethical act that causes no direct harm to others can harm the actor, by setting him or her on the slippery slope. It still doesn’t make him a better person. If the conduct of an elected official is unethical, then the official is accountable for it whether others have gotten away with it or not. “You can’t use this against me, because you cheated!” is not the same as “Because you cheated, what I did is OK!”, A typical  use of the Scooby Doo Deflection includes “Mom! It is why the Chicago Black Sox were banned from baseball for life for taking bribes from gamblers, even though it couldn’t be proved that they didn’t play to win while losing the 1919 World Series to an inferior team. The libido “wants” pleasure and gratification, even if it is adulterous. “I couldn’t help myself!” is far too easy a dodge, and while there might be the rare occasions when that description is accurate, it is far more frequently used as an excuse to keep indulging in selfish, personally beneficial, anti-social and unethical conduct, and to try to attract sympathy for being “unable to stop” doing so. It is also the default rationalization for hoaxes that are irresponsible. #64  also could be named after Orwell’s “1984,” and called “Big Brother’s Rationalization” in homage to “War is Peace,” etc. Whose idea was sequestration? It typically occurs when a group or class that has been mistreated (or considers itself so) demands a special privilege to be unethical for a brief interval, and a dispensation from any adverse consequences. “It’s complicated” has broader uses, however. The Unethical Tree in the Forest, or “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”. That’s not the Golden Rule, however. Whose idea was sequestration? Learn about some common rationalizations that can cloud our judgment when we are involved in making tough ethical decisions. Rescuing a rotter from certain death is as admirable as rescuing an innocent child; horse-whipping a chiseling, cheating, wife-beating cannibal is still wrong. What matters is whether they make the government work. It doesn’t. All of the Mount Everest climbers who left a stricken colleague behind to die protested later that they were certain the next climber behind them (or the next, perhaps) would stop to help the man. 44. In the jungle it keeps us from being poisoned; in civilization, it robs us of the joys of Brussels Sprouts. It is true that if you are hitting me over the head with a brick, I am grateful when you stop, and whenever you stop, the end to my pain is appreciated. 8A. In 2013, for instance, Congress gave the NIH more than what the White House had requested, but then $1.5 billion was taken away by sequestration. Course Hero is not sponsored or endorsed by any college or university. We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. If you ask … We have to learn to be able to separate the critique from the critic, especially when our own ego wants the criticism to be unfair and invalid. “We can’t stop it” is a lazy capitulation that assumes cultures can’t change, and we know they can and do change, both for better and worse, all the time. Similarly, Tom Brady is a great quarterback, so what proof is there that deflating the balls was the reason he had a great second half in the play-off game in question? When you hear yourself saying, “I’ll do anything to fix this! It accused the French Government anti-Semitism and a breach of justice in the prosecution and imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer sentenced to lifelong penal servitude for espionage. As any Gilbert and Sullivan fan knows, February 29 is the troublesome birthday of Frederick, the dim and conflicted hero of “The Pirates of Penzance.”  Apprenticed to a pirate as a child by mistake (his nurse heard “pirate” rather than “pilot”),  the lad was bound to serve as a cutthroat until his 21st birthday, and thinking that the terms specified his obligation to reach until his 21st year, quits the pirate band that raised him and joins the police, who are  seeking to put his old comrades behind bars. Play what I get until the break of day. Ethical people don’t think like that. That doesn’t mean his courageous and selfless act was unethical. In this context, “It’s complicated” is a matched set with #23. The Irrelevant Mitigation: “He’ll/She’ll/They’ll get over it.”. Journalists and pundits are often the worst devotees of #65. Stopping or avoiding unethical conduct that I know is coming may be wise and it may be prudent, and I may blame myself for failing to do either if that was possible, but the last person who has standing to blame me for my fate is the one doing me harm. Patriots, artists, activists, scientists,  explorers, lovers…heroes and heroines of literature, movies, TV and popular culture….they are all frequently driven by passion that allows them to overcome pain, failure, great obstacles, frustration and overwhelming odds for admirable ends, often for the benefit of society and even civilization. The sad truth is that ethics are unnatural, civilization is unnatural, and the state of being human demands a greater acceptance of responsibility to others than nature has programmed into us. I bet if she could talk, Roxie would say, ‘You know, I really like you guys, really, and I’ll miss you a lot, but on balance I think I’d rather keep living, thanks. The doctor’s defense was that she would have lost her sight anyway because she didn’t follow the treatment prescribed by another doctor. Named after a particularly enduring Chappaquiddick joke, #52A resembles many of the rationalizations on the list, because “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” is both a rationalization and legitimate argument, depending on the circumstances. Self-validating Virtue, in which unethical conduct supposedly becomes ethical because the person doing it is deemed—usually by himself— incapable of wrongdoing. #56 is a pretty neat trick, when you think about it: it simultaneously appeals to an individual or organization’s self-esteem while unilaterally declaring an objective, motive or methods demeaning. Naturally, the next step is to mock and deride anyone who says we should care. When those who have caused injustice or calamity either cannot, will not or do not step up to address the wrongs their actions have caused (as is too often the case), the responsibility passes to whichever of us has the opportunity and the means to make things right, or at least better. “Our Jewish neighbors who are being shipped out of the country are being liquidated? At the same time, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” is also a rationalization for rash action, deliberate inattention to predictable problems, and poor or non-existent planning. Don’t expect me to thank you, however, or to relieve you of the responsibility for the consequences due for hitting me at all. 41. This rationalization embodies the popular and over-used conservative mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The problems with that cliché are 1) things that aren’t broken can still be improved, 2) things that are broken will often keep working until they fall apart and someone is hurt, and 3) “not broken” is a long way from “the best it can be.” “They must be doing something right!” carries this illogic to the point of absurdity by asserting that what clearly is broken should still not be fixed, because the individual or organization continues to be successful in spite of it, on the Bizarro World theory that the perceived success could somehow be a result of it. Trustworthy people don’t think like that. Time that we cannot bring back. By emphasizing that the goal was difficult, a fact that indeed was known to all and should have figured into the planning and the execution of the operation to accomplish it, The Maldroit’s Diversion focuses attention and criticism away from those responsible for a disaster—those whose incompetence, lack of diligence, and poor judgment were the real reason an important task was not accomplished, not the fact that it wasn’t “easy.” The rationalization strives to avoid accountability, and conveniently prepares for an ultimate failure to succeed by planting the thought: “This objective is so difficult, who can blame him/her/them for failing to do it?”, 38. Let’s tackle the complicated ethical issues, dive into them, and solve them. Today, arguing on Sunday Morning shows about whether President Obama was exceeding his Constitutional authority by unilaterally changing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a Democratic Congressman pointed out that it wasn’t the first time a President had done this. Moreover, we should note that President George W. Bush, a Republican, is responsible for significantly boosting NIH’s funding in the early years of his presidency.”. From unseen sources, As with its parent, #19, 19A  falsely changes an accusation of wrongful conduct into one of, “Generally, Congress gave the NIH about what the president requested — sometimes more, sometimes less. This is yet another variation on the Golden Rationalization,... 2. In too many cases, 63A apologies are meaningless, and are  attempts to avoid accountability. It is, perhaps, the ugliest rationalization of all. 51. The disparity in power makes the act irresponsible and an abuse of position. Thus the devout Catholic reasons that there can be nothing unethical in corporal punishment inflicted by teachers  because Sister Mary used to smack him with a ruler and he grew up just fine. Rationalization 13 is one of the really deadly rationalizations, the closest on the list to “The ends justified the means”: The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else. I was just borrowing it! I always liked him.”. John Lyly’s Rationalization, Or “All’s fair in love and war“, This popular and well-traveled rationalization was first put into print by  16th century poet John Lyly, who wrote in his novel “Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit,” published in 1579, “the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.” The tip-off that this is a rationalization, and was so even in 1579, is that everything wasn’t considered fair even in war once mankind began civilizing beyond caves and clubs. Don’t judge people. Making a joke, after all, is a little like shooting a gun: whether or not it hits the mark, you’re responsible for the result. Those who employ The Utilitarian Cheat, however, don’t want clarity. 18. Those who reason otherwise were never really ethical at all. 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