Preface

Like the entire Field Guide, this page is a work in progress.

Here, unedited, are a few preliminary notes on the way to a preface, which first appeared here:

the story of how this book came about – in the context of practical ethics courses at Georgia Tech. Problem-based learning; ongoing, iterative design process.

Focus on a particular set of cognitive skills involved in critical inquiry in practical ethics . . . finding a closer and closer fit between learning outcomes, assignments and assessment . . .

Not opinion, not problem-solving per se, but something prior to all that, more basic: explore a messy problem situation in depth, generate an array of options, and consider the implications of each option, one way and another, without coming to conclusions.

They can come to conclusions, I tell them, on their own time.

The point of this – isolate skills of ethical perception and imagination in the complexity of human experience of the world . . . an emphasis on particularity rather than abstraction . . .

Theory serves as a set of tools for perception and imagination . . .

Combatting the tendency to fortify opinion, to stop at conventional rules.

what I was asking from students was really a kind of list of concrete instances of basic values that fall out of the various options they consider: not the conclusion that the option increases net utility, for example, but that this person over here may be worse off in this particular way, while that person over there might be better off in that particular way.

Reaching for ways to express this to students, I hit on an analogy with a pastime from my youth, one that has largely fallen into neglect, but which I revive from time to time: birding.  The point is to be able to identify a particular bird in a particular setting, and to develop a sense how it came to be where it is, how it fits into its habitat, what its habits and tendencies are.

What you all need, I found myself saying aloud to my students, is a field guide to basic values.

Additional material for the Preface:

What a Field Guide Is For

One thought on “Preface

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