There are various ways to do the right thing and most of them are flawed. One can meticulously adhere to rules, for example. Or eagerly perform for various incentives, financial or otherwise. We can avoid the sticks and savor the carrots.
And yet, as Barry Schwartz, the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College told the large audience gathered for his “Bring the Family Address” at the twenty-fourth annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science, within each of these conventional forms of assuring that the “right” thing is done, reside a small minefield of problems that have crippled us as a society.
The author of the 2005 best seller “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less”, who is responsible for bringing to our consciousness the fact that too many choices are not good for us, pointed out another paradox in his approach to doing the right thing.
“This talk is about how we have too little choice,” he said. “ As a society we are giving people choices when then don’t need them and depriving them of choices where they do.”
After assuring the audience that one didn’t need to know a “single thing about psychology to understand and disagree” with his talk, he explained that America was “broken.”
All the most fundamental institutions of a functioning society—healthcare, education, criminal justice, banking, politics– “do not work the way that they should.” Our carrots and sticks seem to miss the point, or make things worse. To resolve the problem one need only return to the ancient Greeks. “We need virtue,” he said. “A virtue that Aristotle referred to as ‘practical wisdom.’” It is very simple, really. Practical wisdom is “the will to do the right thing and the skill to figure out what the right thing is. “
Via Sakis Koukouvis