Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Morally Acceptable" May Still Mean "But a Bad Idea"

There is an interesting comparison of actions that a majority of Americans now find "morally acceptable" which most Americans used to reject.

I think that this question is misleading, and is becoming more so.  My students are very reluctant to pronounce anything morally unacceptable, or always wrong.  Yet I do not think their underlying position has actually changed that much.  It is not that they find formerly abhorrent actions to now be acceptable.  It is that they don't want to pronounce moral absolutes in case someone comes up with some wild desert-island counter-case.

I think an additional question wording would be revealing.  We should ask, "Do you think doing X is almost always a bad idea?"

I believe on that standard we would see that there has been less change in American morality than some fear.


Dennis Evans said...

This makes perfect sense, but it seems awkward in terms of keeping a continuous strand of statistics as responses to words. But the language changes. And What if a questionaire was giving to people in the Spanish language: is there ever an actual emotional equivalent?

Gruntled said...

We should probably continue the traditional language, but at least once we should also try this alternative framing, to see if get different results.