A debut work of psychology recommends a system to make readers more adept at solving moral dilemmas.
Morality is a deceptively basic concept. Often invoked but rarely defined, morality is something that becomes increasingly subjective, particularly when personal interest is involved. Toews offers a new procedure for teaching morality that he calls the Principled Thinking Model: “The Principled Thinking Model presented in this book does not guarantee right answers but serves as a way of thinking through different situations involving moral dilemmas.” By considering the duties, rights, and motives of individuals as well as the merits and justice of a given situation, Toews proposes not only an approach to conflict resolution, but also a method of teaching people to respect objective parameters during the process. Citing his own research as well as thought experiments and hypothetical scenarios, the author guides readers away from selfish instincts and toward a shared experience based on empathy. The author dramatizes his ideas through dialogues between two fictional teachers, Bill and Mae, who explore the Principled Thinking Model through the lenses of their students and the pupils’ parents. Toews writes in a dense, scholarly prose that makes frequent reference to the work of his predecessors in the field and the relevant terminology. The Bill and Mae dialogues offer a change in tone, but they are nevertheless somewhat wooden and didactic: “Now Bill is struggling...it will not be easy to answer Mae’s question. He tried, ‘Having a right means that it is not wrong for a person to pursue a specific interest; nor would it be wrong not to pursue it.’ ” The volume is a bit too dry and academic for a general readership. That said, Toews’ in-depth work delivers an insightful take on the way individuals approach morality, and the tests he recommends to shape moral understanding are specific and comprehensive. It’s hard to argue that society isn’t in need of better moral standards—standards built on empathy, not simply religious or cultural values. The Principled Thinking Model provides one possible way forward.
An ambitious, though specialized, treatise on how to improve moral understanding.