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Arts & Letters Daily


1a. Duty - Irate parent


Irate parent re ‘Of Mice and Men’



Duty. An irate parent burst into the Principal’s office at Semple High School located in a small town in the Midwest and dove into her questions, ’Why do you permit your English teacher to insist that her class read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbach … (she paused for a moment to catch her breath) … when you know the book is not on the required reading list of the State Education Ministry?’  ‘That’s wrong’, she went on to say before the principal could say a word, ‘morally wrong!’ ‘I find the language used in that book totally offensive … all that cursing!’ ‘I repeat’, she said, ‘that is morally wrong’.


  • What crooked thinking did this parent use to support her indignation?
  • What straight thinking did she use?
  • What might the parent have said to clarify her argument?
  • How might the principal respond?

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view: Moral sense of right and wrong

  • Crooked thinking

The terms ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can be used only in the moral sense.

  • Straight thinking

Any reference to ‘Duty’ and related terms must be considered in the moral sense, unless otherwise specified. Some of the terms can also be used in a non-moral sense. For example, the term ‘wrong’ is used in the moral sense in the sentence: “It is wrong for the children to pick on the new child in class.” On the other hand, the term is used in a non-moral sense in the sentence: “He gave the wrong answer to that arithmetic question” (epistemic sense). Other examples include: ‘responsible’ means ‘morally responsible’, ‘incumbent’ means ‘morally incumbent’, ‘permissible’ means ‘morally permissible’ and so on.

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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