Think of an ethical issue that concerns you. How do you feel about it? Probably your reasoning about this issue is really less important to you than your feelings. We all react emotionally first, and then give reasons for what we feel is right or good.
By “your intent” I mean your focus, your purpose, your state of mind as you act. Your intent is always affected by your emotions, so it always impacts what you do and who your are as you act. Doing what’s right with anger isn’t the same as doing what’s right with compassion. Your feelings as you act ethically matter to you and also matter to others.
This means ethics is always relational, always personal, even when it seems otherwise. You cannot step outside yourself to reason and be objective. You can only be more objective by gaining insight into emotions that often are largely unconscious. Knowing your feelings also requires listening carefully to others who may disagree with you.
Both our feelings and reasoning are affected by our relationships with others. For doing ethics, therefore, we must always have a clear intent to be ethical in our relationships.
Ethical reasoning involves principles and predicting outcomes, but only persons can apply principles and make predictions. Becoming more aware of our emotions is the only way to be more caring and more rational.
May 11, 2016