What is the relationship between ethics and critical thinking? Critical thinking and ethics are used in everyday life. I think it best that we define the two terms before we get deep into the discussion. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says ethics is “the discipline dealing with what are good and bad with moral duty and obligation” and Dictionary Reference say critical thinking is “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence”. These could both be further defined by saying they are the ability to make good or bad choices and the act of thoroughly thinking through a decision. Critical thinking and ethics decisions are life skills.
There are six levels in the critical thinking process. They are remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. The majority of people use the first four levels in day to day life. The final two levels are probably used in more complex problems and more time will be required in devotion to applying these steps. Critical thinking is used in our day to day lives. We make multiple decisions in a day’s time. Some of these decisions are routine and some require more effort and time. We learn to evaluate things at a young age and most likely pick up most of our problem solving skills from our parents. When you hear the term “critical thinking” your first thought may be negative but critical thinking should not be thought of as “being critical” but rather “think critically”.
During our life there will be times when we need to make decisions that can be life altering. A few examples might be buying a new car, choosing courses at your university, or deciding between a two jobs. Everyone can relate to the stress of buying a new car. This is a decision that could affect you for the next five years and it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly. My decision to buy the car may have a different outcome if I start the process with questions as opposed to making a emotional purchase. Those questions might look something like this, “What type of car do I want?”, “What amount of payment can I afford?”, and “What is the best car make?”. All of these questions will determine the outcome. Answering all these questions will allow me to make an informed decision.
We stated earlier that ethics deals with knowing what is right or wrong. We do the right thing because it is the law, because it is what we were taught, or because we listen to our inner voice. I used a personal evaluation tool earlier this week called the ethical inventory list. This was an activity to help me better understand the values that influence my decisions. This tool produced some shocking results which I was surprised to see. My preferred ethical lens was Reputation. I do care what people think and this has motivated me to excel in all things I do. My blind spot was revealed during this exercise and was identified as “unrealistic role expectation”. I had to read the definition twice to fully understand it and I still need to do more research. In short, I put too much value in the role (position) a person holds and that can cause you to forget that people make mistakes. My father was a law enforcement officer. I was taught what was right and wrong at a young age. My father took this to the extreme at times because he saw more bad than good while assuming his daily duties.
I have always been known as the guy that will make the right choice even if that choice is the hard choice. Ethics apply to the professional world and well as the social sector. I work for a large heavy equipment manufacture. Ethics is one of our core values. The company makes ethical choices that affect the entire world. A few examples are promoting safety, recycling, emissions, and renewable resources. Do these topics cross your mind when you think of the largest heavy equipment manufacturers in the world? They may not but it is the professional right, the ethically right thing to do. When I first started working for the company I was surprised at how much emphasis was placed on safety. They require wearing PPE (personal protection equipment) and have mandatory monthly safety training. The company recycles everything. They recycle all metal products, cardboard, plastics, wood, and even personal trash has to be sorted.
Professional companies maintain high ethical standards because it is the right thing to do for their employees and customers. Social ethics is doing what is right for the people around you. When I think of social ethics a couple things come to mind. First is the “adopt a highway” sign that you see along the roadway when you drive home. Groups of people come together for no apparent reason besides keep the world a cleaner place. Is this the right thing to do? Sure it is. Another example is the groups of people that come together at public parks to do maintenance and clean-up work. Chances are they do not live in the neighborhood, nor do they have children that play there. Why do people strangers come together sacrificing their free time to volunteer for activities like these? There is one answer. They are the ethically right thing to do.
Ethics are a vital part of survival but we need to be reminded ourselves that ethics change as the world changes. Things that used to be considered in a negative manner is now accepted by society. However, we still need ethical decisions in order for us to thrive as a community, a society, and a civilization.
Ethics [Def. 1]. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster Online. In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from http://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethics Critical Thinking [Def. 2]. (n.d.). Dictionary Reference Online. In Dictionary Reference Online. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from dictionary.reference.com/browse/critical+thinking