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Arts & Letters Daily


7a. Duty - Allocating books


The normative and descriptive usage of the antonym of  ‘moral’


Duty. Mr. Jacks was making a final count of the English books that had been allocated to him for his English classes because some students can get quite upset when they don’t receive their textbooks on the first day of classes. Sure enough, the new vice principal, Ms. Bentley, had short-changed him of two copies of one of the novels. This was the second year that she had made a counting error. Enough already! He was sure she was shorting him whenever there was a shortage of books. This time he was not going to put up with it. He confronted her accusing her of deliberately short changing him whenever there was a shortage of books. Had he made a moral issue of what started as a non-moral issue? Was that immoral?


  • What crooked thinking did Mr. Jacks engage in?
  • What straight thinking should he have considered?
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view: The normative and descriptive usage of the antonym of  ‘moral’

  • Crooked thinking

The normative and descriptive usage of the antonym of ‘moral’ are the same.

  • Straight thinking

The normative usage of the antonym of ‘moral’ must be differentiated from the descriptive usage. When ‘moral’ is used in the normative sense, then its antonym is ‘immoral’. When it is used in the descriptive sense, then the antonym is “non-moral”. The same applies to the antonym of the term ‘ethical’.

Moral principle value tests

An application of the moral principle value tests probably illustrates most clearly what is entailed in evaluative reasoning. They are:

It is important to emphasize that the moral-value principle tests are not designed to resolve issues (guarantee right answers!) but to assess the ‘justification’ for moral value decisions.

To view the Dilemma from the perspective of Duty, Rights, Motives, Desert and Justice, click on the following:

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