I recently received feedback on one of my recent posts entitled “The Death Of Common Sense.” The writer posed the question to me ” How do we recover common sense?” I want to respond to his question by employing a term (I like to think I coined it) called “ought-ness.” I believe that this idea of “ought-ness” is most vibrant and alive while in our youth. That’s when Jiminy Cricket or the “good little angel” who sits on our right shoulder has the best chance of making a positive influence on our behavior.
It’s in those early formative years when the little voice says to me, “Morris, you ought not do that,” or it tells me “You ought to do this.” I ought to just tell the truth. I ought not tell a lie. I ought not steal that candy. I ought to put that back where I found it. I ought not cheat on that test. I say this concept works best in the early formative years because situation ethics and questions of my rights are not considered so early in this stage of life. It is so much easier to discern the difference between right and wrong.
At some point along this continuum of maturation, Jiminy Cricket becomes old school and outdated and that good little angel (who still sits on our right shoulder–now yelling into a deaf ear) is no longer heard. Although I learned a very long time ago to be careful that coffee in my hands is hot, it doesn’t matter — because in my bone-deep stupidity, selfishness and arrogance I now have a right to sue McDonald’s for the hot coffee I just spilled on myself.
The whole idea of situation ethics combined with the notion of entitlement (my rights) is gross error. A sense of ought-ness is not considered and my nose just keeps getting longer and longer.