Friday, May 1, 2009

Walking With Grandpa

"Walking With Grandpa" by Uncle Greg -AS FEATURED in Chicken Soup For the PreTeen Soul, October 12, 2000

When a young boy playing baseball with his friends hits a rock through a neighbor's window, he and his friends all run away. Walking home, the boy visits Grandpa and they talk. Afterwards, the boy realizes what the right thing to do is. The story, "Walking With Grandpa," uses a Socratic method of Question and Answer to reach a conclusive moral decision. The finding it suggests is that Honor is its own reward. It reaches this conclusion by suggesting that the human ability to empathize, which we all share, can guide us in gaining a sense of how others feel and are impacted by the consequences of our actions.

Uncle Greg's Commentary:

The field of ethics today is complex, in our globalizing world of comparative cultures and moral relativism. For me, ethics (despite all of the academic gymnastics) falls into two broad camps: fear-based and exchange-based. (Note: I am not referring here strictly to rules, legitimate authority, etc...but more about situation-based decision-making.)For example: a kid finds a wallet on his way home from school. He sees that no one is around and that there is money in the wallet. Does he return the wallet? If so, why? What is his motivation? He doesn't have to return it, since no punishment will follow if he doesn't. So, he won't lose anything by keeping it. (Thus, in this case, fear-based ethics do not apply.) If he returns it, he may or may not get a reward, which if he did, would likely be equal to or less than the money in the wallet. (So, the exchange-based set does not make him any better off or motivate him, assuming a right decision could be purely quantified.) Is there perhaps (conceivably) a value in returning the wallet, which cannot be quantified, according to the typical fear/exchange scenarios? The story, "Walking With Grandpa," using a different situational example, suggests that doing the right thing, for its own sake, is intrinsically priceless, in terms of the self-esteem value it yields. Motivation outside of the customary loss/gain paradigm? Living up to what we aspire to and hope for is the greatest reward of all.

G.Hall (2000)

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