Common Sense is NOT Consensus: Professional Ethics as Marksmanship

Volume 29
Fall 2001
Common Sense is NOT Consensus: Professional Ethics as Marksmanship

Tjeltveit'€™s response to Hathaway'€™s proposal to ground ethics on natural moral sense raises several significant issues and extends the discussion in important directions. Yet some of these issues arise from a misunderstanding of subtle but vital aspects of common sense ethics. Despite the cogent concerns raised by Tjeltveit, the central value of common sense ethics as a foundation for ethical practice remains. More importantly, no feasible alternative is readily apparent. The one promised by Tjeltveit either is unclear or does not fare as well as the common sense alternative suggested in Hathaway'™s proposal. Contrary to his claim that common sense ethics is unlikely to produce moral excellence, a grounding of ethical judgment in the moral sense provides concrete resources for superlative ethical judgment and inspiration. Treating moral judgment as, at least in part, a sense opens the door for a vision of moral discernment as marksmanship. The fundamental assumption that one is aiming at "€˜hitting"€™ objective moral truth motivates serious ethical concern. An emphasis on the natural moral sense in the context of moral realism also results in a commitment to precision under varied conditions of practice. Such a view does not inadequately consider the role of sin. Rather it takes literally and seriously the deep meaning behind the most common biblical term for sin: hamartia.

Dr. W.L. Hathaway
240 - 245
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