NOTE: The Naked Theologian will be on hiatus for the month of August and will return after the Labor Day holiday.
You stop by the convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk. On your way out, you hand the cashier a $10 bill. After she gives you your change, you realize she confused your $10 for a $20. You now have more money than when you walked into the store. (Granted, this scenario is a stretch.) The cashier has started to ring up the next customer and you have to decide whether to give the money back.
Why would you do the right thing? (Ethicists call this “the metaethical question”—and now you can too).
From the list below, choose all the reasons you’d do the right thing.
1. fear of God’s punishment
2. you were in a good mood
3. it was the most expedient thing to do
5. c’mon, there was only $10 on the line!
6. because God rewards the virtuous
7. your better instincts took over
8. you knew you’d feel good about yourself for doing the right thing
9. hmmmmm…don’t know
10. it was the best decision given the circumstances
11. it was the right thing to do, period
12. the cashier was cute and you’re between partners
13. whim; you never really know what you’re going to do ahead of time
14. you knew others would think you rock when you’d tell them what you did
15. your happiness comes first—this choice made you happy
16. the happiness of others comes first—this choice made the cashier happy
17. you tried to imagine what kind of world you’d like to live in, and then decided
18. you wanted to set a good example for your kids
19. God calls, 24/7 for your response to the demand that you bring justice and
loving-kindness into the world
20. you expected the cashier would thank you profusely; you like being thanked
21. you tossed a coin; it landed in her favor
22. the cashier looked like she needed the bucks more than you did
23. you’re on a personal quest for moral perfection
24. her brother is 6’5”, 250 lbs.—he hurts people who take advantage of his sis
25. you were afraid you’d get caught and the police would get called in
26. you were afraid you’d get caught and be publicly humiliated
27. _____________________________________ (other)
From the list, select the 3 best reasons for doing the right thing in any moral situation?
Are the 3 best reasons different from the ones you chose with regard to the cashier?
If the 3 best reasons don’t always motivate you, why not?
Can you boil down the 3 best reasons to a single reason? This is your maxim—in other words, this is the overriding moral rule you would prefer to use when trying to decide what to do.