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How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living

4.1 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
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ISBN-10: 0688175902
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A brilliant analysis that squarely faces all the issues and can be grasped by the thoughtful nonspecialist.” (Kirkus Reviews )

“A thought-provoking guide to enlightened and progressive personal behavior.” (Jimmy Carter )

From the Back Cover

Should you take a much-needed vacation or save money for your children's education? Should you protect the endangered owl or maintain jobs for loggers?

How do you handle questions such as these? We frequently face ethical dilemmas in our daily lives, and few have trouble with the "right vs. wrong" choices. However, the "right vs. right" dilemmas, in which neither choice is clearly or widely accepted as wrong, many times present obstacles that call for value-based decisions, and that's where we often need help.

Kidder -- the founder of the Institute for Global Ethics -- teaches us how to think for ourselves in order to resolve any ethical dilemma, from the personal to the philosophical. Unique in its approach and full of illustrative anecdotes, How Good People Make Tough Choices is an indispensable resource for arriving at sound conclusions when facing tough choices.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688175902
  • ASIN: B005SNBO3Q
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,382,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Prior to founding the Institute for Global Ethics in Camden, Maine, and London, England, Rushworth M. Kidder, Ph.D., was a senior columnist for the Christian Science Monitor. For the past fifteen years he has worked to refine the guidelines for ethical decision making through the institute's mission of research, public discourse, and practical action. Kidder leads seminars, gives keynote speeches, and conducts interviews with global leaders. He is an award-winning author of eight books on subjects ranging from twentieth-century poetry to the global ethical future and is a trustee of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. He serves on the advisory board of the Kenan Ethics Center at Duke University, the advisory council of the Character Education Partnership, and the advisory board of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on public television. In addition to his weekly columns for the institute's Ethics Newsline, Kidder's op-ed pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Globe. He lives with his family in Lincolnville, Maine.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a nice, short book that anybody could read and get something useful out of. To help potential readers, I will clarify a little about the book. In many ways, it is not a book about decision making per se, but rather ethics and decision making. As such the title doesn't quite fit: perhaps it should be called how good people -should- make tough choices. Given that the emphasis of the book was somewhat different than expected, Kidder made a decent book out of the general topic of ethics. Not arcane in any way, chock full of examples and designed to be user-friendly. A great book for "lay persons" who are nonetheless quite familiar with decisions that have ethical implications and need to make them on a regular basis.
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Format: Paperback
This book has provided me with a structure through which I can begin to think more openly about ethics. It has surprised me with a number of new ideas, most of which are relevant to all of us. I highly recommend this work to those who care about living a thoughtful life. Ethics this way is not stodgy and limiting, but expansive and exciting.
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This books allows students of all ages to start the difficult job of ethical decision making. Starting with its "Right vs. Right" concept, it teaches various ways to think about ethical decision making. This would be a wonderful book for a middle school or high school ethics class as well as an adult discussion group. Could easily be adapted to a church setting.
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Format: Paperback
I was assigned this book for an Leadership Ethics class that is part of my current MBA program. This was actually one of 5 books we were assigned on the topics of leadership and ethics and this was by far my favorite. I find that the ethical dillemmas presented by the author are clear and help drive home his point. This book is not about choosing between RIGHT and WRONG. This book is about how as a leader and manager you may be forced to choose between RIGHT and RIGHT what kidder is calling the ethical dillemma. Kidder provides some techniques to work through ethical dillemas and talks about how to categorize them. The information in this book has stuck with me during the past year. I can't even remember the other books we were asked to read. May be a bit simplistic for some, but I think this is good general purpose leadership and ethics reading for the masses.
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Kidder's book essentially boils down any tough choice down to basic conflicts, a struggle for competing "rights" or things we value. We value loyalty, for example, and we value honesty...what happens if I know my spouse is cheating on our taxes or from their company?
Thought provoking, easily read....strongly recommend.
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Format: Paperback
For millenia, philosophers and others have tried to formulate ethical theories and moral systems on a rigorous basis, but they've always failed to secure even a moderate consensus. With this book, Rushworth Kidder jumps into the fray, but he likewise falls short, despite his apparent good intentions.

It seems to me that there are several fundamental problems which make this undertaking essentially impossible:

(1) Despite universalist claims to the contrary, values vary significantly among people and cultures (relativism), and any seemingly shared values are prone to frequent exceptions. Particular values have sometimes been asserted to be absolutely "true" on the basis of coming from a divine source (eg, most religions) or pure rationality (eg, Kant), but of course such claims aren't convincing to most people.

(2) Even if we could all agree on a universal set of values, circumstances in the real world prevent us from maximally satisfying all values simultaneously, so tradeoffs are usually inevitable. This means that the Kantian notion of rigidly adhering to particular values isn't possible, and consequences have to be considered (wouldn't you be willing to lie to a criminal in order to protect a loved one from being murdered?).

(3) Even if tradeoffs between values weren't required, the consequences of our choices are usually at least somewhat uncertain, so we can't be sure that a particular choice will satisfy particular values.

(4) Even if none of the above problems existed, given that resources are limited, we would still be left with the question of whose interest prevails in trying to achieve favorable outcomes. This is yet another value question which involves tradeoffs.
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Rushworth Kidder is a wonderful writer and thinker and has devoted 20+ years to promoting ethics and integrity. This book does a wonderful job presenting dilemmas, getting you to think about how you might handle them, and providing clear advice on how to evaluate such issues. That's all good. The problem is that it was written almost 15 years ago and it shows. While much of the information is timeless, many of the studies cited are from the early 90s. This would be fabulous if updated.
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Format: Paperback
This is a super reference that provides readers with pragmatic guidance on making ethical choices when often a less moral short cut is available. Mr. Kidder uses specific examples deciding right from wrong in which most frequently neither is absolute and rarely are they the solo options or obvious which is actually right and wrong. In some cases, the dilemma in choosing what your values scream at you is right, but doing so places you in an uncomfortable position when not doing what your gut feels is right would be noticed by only one person. Loaded with specific examples of having to choose (for instance, the example of worried parents talking to their child's teacher about behavior when the child told the teacher a secret in confidence) makes this a winner. Even society and communities have difficult ethical choices between for instance the environment and energy or development and heritage as short term needs bump against long term goals. Sometimes the debate is personal and communal as is the case with abortion. How people look at the issues may change as for instance HIV when Magic Johnson told the world he had it and the economy influences decisions especially in recessions; still Mr. Kidder still feels strongly a person must eat or get their medicine while sticking to their personal values. Throughout Mr. Kidder makes this case to adhere to your personal values even when it hurts in the short run because you are being true to yourself, which in the long run will cause less pain to you. This is a strong guidebook due to the terrific pragmatic examples of making tough ethical choices.

Harriet Klausner
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