The ethics of political correctness

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Assignment #2: The ethics of political correctnessMandatory Assignment

The questions within this summary of some issues of political correctness are to be incorporated within your analysis. Not every question incorporated in the summary must be addressed. They are there to provoke you to think about these issues.

When you answer the questions in your analysis, do so using at least two virtue theories. You may use positive virtues or their opposite, vices.

Your analysis must be at least 3 pages, single spaced with a minimum of 5 separate identified sources.

Remember The header is:

Assignment #2: The ethics of political correctness, your name

Then skip 1 line and begin your summary.
If you wish to insert relevant graphics, do so. This does not change your responsibility to write at least 3 pages of analysis.

As always, grammar, spelling, paragraphs, sentence structure, paragraphing, and content matter. Use your college level vocabulary. This means avoid slang unless necessary.

Summary

Topics like abortion, racism, law and order, and privacy attract a more intense argument when they come up, but if you’re looking at an issue that draws the consistent debate and anger in our society today, ‘political correctness’ is a one.

Debates about political correctness often proceed as if proponents see nothing to fear in erecting norms that inhibit expression on the one side, and opponents see nothing but misguided efforts to silence political enemies on the other. Political correctness is an important attempt to advance the legitimate interests of certain groups in the public sphere. However, this type of norm comes with costs that mustn’t be neglected–sometimes in the form of conflict with other values we hold dear, like free speech.

We can agree discrimination against people based on arbitrary qualities rather than merit, is not just unfair and unjust, but is prejudice or bigotry. Therefore measures that work to decrease and eliminate should be positive things.

If there is no acceptable amount of bigotry then bigotry is never acceptable.

But when does political correctness become a deliberate attempt to control people and limit criticism of society? Is it censorship? Is it justifiable to restrict what people say if it puts others in danger?

Even if there is no conspiracy behind the PC movement and it’s a well-intentioned effort to protect others, who gets to decide what is and is not acceptable speech? How can we discuss issues if we can’t say the words we’re discussing?

What about the evolution of word meanings when acceptable words morph to become unacceptable? Terms like ‘visually impaired’ instead of blind, ‘disabled’ instead of crippled, ‘African American’ instead of Negro, and ‘sales person’ instead of salesman, have changed both in casual usage and in business and government.

The new terms are sometimes more accurate – ‘vision impaired’ refers to the entire spectrum of vision problems rather than total blindness, for example. And, the new terms avoid judgement that the original, ‘politically incorrect’ terms bring with them. ‘Homeless’ is a factual description of a person’s circumstances. ‘Bum’ pretty much implies that they deserve their situation – a sweep judgement with no regard for the individual’s circumstances, or bigotry for short.

Will limiting our ability to discuss social problem actually limit our ability to fix them? If it’s politically incorrect to say a particular group has significant problems, how can we solve those problems?

Another issue, offense is subjective. You don’t need to be correct to be offended; you just need to be offended. How can you communicate if every word has to be carefully selected to avoid unintended offense?

In order to answer the above questions and analyze political correctness as an ethical issue using principles of virtue ethics you must:

1. Do some research on the meaning of political correctness as it is now used.

2. Also research the type of words that are now preferred by those promoting political correctness.

3. Select several virtues from the chapters and discuss what a person with virtue ethics would do when faced with a politically incorrect joke, comment by a friend or boss, a blatantly bigoted statement by a person in a leadership role (teacher, coach, or guest speaker in class).

4. If you the virtue ethicist were to be in charge of the rules of what is politically correct, where would you draw lines? Why?

5. Are there places where politically incorrect issues may be discussed in an effort to improve society? (Perhaps in an academic setting, or a government hearing, a Doctor’s office, or a public forum on a topic).

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