When someone says ‘do the right thing’ what exactly is meant by that?
Do the right thing.
First thought: there right-ness, and some things fall under that umbrella. Do those things. So: perform those actions which have the property of being right.
Perform those actions which have the property of being right. What is this property called ‘right’? How does an action acquire right-ness? Well, a possible answer would be that it is the appropriate action for the situation at hand. Then it would be the ‘right’ thing to do.
Perform those actions which are appropriate in any given situation.
Well, duh. But generally speaking, ‘do the right thing’ is meant in a moral sens. So let’s try again. In this context, ‘right’ means, more or less, the appropriate moral action. So we could still basically say, ‘Perform the appropriate moral action in the situation at hand.’
Now, that I’m after here isn’t necessarily how to determine the right action per se but to determine how it is that we can say any action is moral in any sense. In virtue of what are actions moral? There are a good number of ideas to choose from: perhaps classical natural law theory, perhaps evolutionary ethics, perhaps divine command theory, perhaps a kind of common sense ethical theory, perhaps utilitarianism.
My own ethical position has been spelled out and argued for in some detail here – simply click the ‘ethics’ category tab to your right to see where I ‘m coming from. But this post is more to start a conversation than spell out what I think (again).
So, to any interested readers, here’s my 2-part question:
(1) What is your personal moral and ethical theory/stance?
(2) Having read the above ramblings, how would you translate, ‘Do the right thing’?