Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
“The Noble Edge” by Dr. Christopher Gilbert is a deep well of wisdom on the subject of ethics!
Just to get this out of the way, this book is incredibly well-written and well-structured. Everything in this book seems to hit the way it should—the relevant quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the numbered ethics principals isolated into blocks, the superb examples that punch the point home, the diagrams that illustrate what the author is talking about, the “instant replay” sections that review what was was discussed, and the thought experiments that prompt critical thinking.
The aforementioned thought experiments, usually involving the fictitious character Grace in hypothetical or imagined scenarios, are part of what make this book so special and fun to read. It almost becomes like an RPG or a sim game that you get to play along with and ask yourself the all-important questions like “What would I do?” or “What SHOULD I do?” in the scenario that Grace is in. We thought about what we would've done if we accidentally hit someone's car or if $20,000+ was accidentally deposited into our account. Does stopping to think about these things make us unethical when the ethical answer seems so obvious?
This book is actually very entertaining and fun to read for an educational book! While it does feel a little like you're being preached to, the book still invites you to participate and be a part of the learning experience rather than being “taught” or talked down to the whole time. Dr. Gilbert clearly comes across as a voice of authority as well as highly intelligent and insightful. We have access to a well of wisdom here.
The discussions of ethics topics like relativism, subjectivism, and consequentialism are superb.
We have to admit that this book really challenged us. No, it wasn't challenging in terms of being a difficult read (it was actually a very easy read), it was challenging in terms of testing us personally. We kept asking ourselves if we'd actually make the right or ethical choice in a given situation, or if we'd take the easy way out, likely justifying out actions. Consider the following key statement from the book and how it makes you feel: “Ethics are black and white.” To hit this home, there's a statement early in this book essentially says that right is always right and wrong is always wrong no matter how you justify it. You can't be a little pregnant, you're either pregnant or you're not. In the same way, your actions are either ethical or unethical. At least that's what the author proposes. Is he wrong? You be the judge. But he certainly puts his points across in logical, rational, and compelling ways.
Now we know what you're thinking because we thought the same thing: is the author trying to say that the only way to be ethical is to be perfect all the time? Ethical, yes. Perfect? No. In fact, as an example to the contrary, we 100% expected him to propose that we be 100% truthful and transparent 100% of the time. After all, he'd earlier made references to the idea of a “lie of omission” being unethical; however, he later admits that we can't be transparent in 100% of situations and with 100% of people. For example, there are greater considerations sometimes than just sharing everything there is to say. The best example is the dressing room example. What happens when your significant other is trying on clothes there and asks what you think of them? Would you be blunt and tell them the item is overpriced “garbage” and would make them look hideous? Probably not. That in itself might be considered rude, untactful, and thus unethical. Instead, you—being a courteous partner—might say something like, “I don't think that fits the occasion” or that you think a certain clothing color or type matches them better.
This extends to other things like work, the media, and politics. In the medical field, it might be a more ethical decision not to immediately tell a patient with a life-threatening diagnosis that they're going to die. Why? Because it's statistically possible that diagnosis could be wrong or inaccurate, and it's also statistically true that a patient's outlook on their condition affects their outcomes. In other words, if a patient thinks they're going to die and that they should just give up, they're more likely to just give up and die even if they still had a chance at a healthy life.
There were times when we disagreed with what the author seemed to be proposing, but then realized that disagreeing with him was actually just reaffirming his argument. We quickly realized that we too had the human inclinations to seek the path of least resistance, avoid pain and pursue pleasure, and to justify our actions.
We wanted to briefly add to the end of this that Dr. Gilbert does a great job at demonstrating how a more ethical society--one that is built up of ethical people doing ethical decisions--is tremendously advantageous in the long-term. In short, though, what kind of world do you want to live in? What kind of example do you want to set for future generations to follow?
This is really an incredible book on ethics. We highly recommend it!
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