My objective in Section I is to assess the North American situation in what has been called the postmodern age. I believe that Americans, and many Canadians as well, do not fully comprehend their unique position in the history of the world's development. In all probability this status will change radically in the 21st century. For that matter. I believe that the years ahead are going to be really difficult and trying for all of the world's citizens. Basically, however, the United States, as the one major nuclear power, has deliberately assumed the ongoing, overriding task of maintaining large-scale peace. This will be increasingly difficult because a variety of countries, both large and small, may already have, or may soon have, nuclear arms capability. That is one stark fact what makes the future so worrisome.
Section One has provided a background for the remainder of the book by discussing the North American situation in the postmodern age. Then, in Section II, there is an explanation of the "ethical gap" that exists insofar as people's understanding of ethical decision-making in relation to society's values and norms.
Following this, in Section III I will explain how we are called upon daily for ethical opinions and/or decisions about personal, professional, and environmental (societal) problems. In this connection we believe that a person's ethical involvement should be an implicit/explicit experiential approach that typically moves daily from one to the other of the three categories mentioned (e.g., personal). At this point, mostly in chart form, I offer a quick look at six of the major ethical routes or approaches extant as offered by the field of philosophy as solutions to today's confusing Western-world scenario. Interestingly, one would be hard pressed to find a friend or colleague who conciously has chosen or understands one or the other of these approaches to ethical decision-making.
I have observed that most books of this nature propose what amounts to one specific philosophical, religious, or common-sense stance. In this regard I do believe fervently that the reader must ultimately make his or her own personal decision about which approach to follow--if any! However, if it does happen, I hope it will be one that is determined by the individual when "the age of reason" is achieved (let us say, after age 13).
I decided therefore to offer an explanation of an "easy-entry" approach in Section IV, a three-step one that can be used safely before a person makes a final decision as to which ethical decision-making approach to follow as more experience and maturation occurs during life. Admittedly, many may never proceed beyond this initial (three-step) stage--if they get this far!. Incidentally, this three-step approach recommended can also be checked or vetted to a degree by comparing it to a jurisprudential (law-court) analysis of the ethical decision to be made. And, fortunately, most of us hear or see or read about law-court trials daily.
In Section V, after brief explanations of each type of dilemma faced when confronted with personal, or professional, or environmental problems daily, I offer two examples of each using the three-step approach to to resolve such decision-making problems as we all face daily.
I then decided also that I had a basic responsibility to make my own position on ethical decision-making known clearly. In the turbulent 1960s most students demanded this as a right--that is, something that I owed that to them. Today I personally believe that what has been called "scientific ethics" offers the best hope for the entire world in the 21st century. So, in Section VI, I explain why I have personally accepted this approach for use immediately after I have carried out the initial three-step scanning of the situation at hand. (I must confess, however, that definitive scientific evidence about this or that problem is often not readily available when needed.
Lastly, in Section VII, I suggest an approach to "looking to the future," a future about which we should all be very concerned. In addition to being worried about simply the presence of life on Earth, I am worried about the status of individual freedom in our lives, as we keep in mind Muller's concept of the "tragic sense of life." We need to improve the planet Earth in so many ways.