The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

My friend, Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage, has a new posting on his web site, entitled: The Ethical Link Between Our Beliefs and Our Actions.

Cognitive dissonance is one of the important concepts in ethics, how so often our actions and ideas are in conflict and how we manage to reconcile what to so many would seem simple hypocrisy. Mintz explains the concept and its significance in a brief and clear essay.

Below are the first two paragraphs from the blog post –

Cognitive Dissonance and Ethical Decision-Making

A highly ethical person knows his or her values, principles and beliefs. Those values, principles and beliefs would then determine one’s actions when faced with an ethical dilemma. A person who does not understand or fully know his or her values, principles and beliefs, might act in an ethical situation without thinking through the consequences to others, known as System 1 thinking, rather than first considering how our actions affect others, or System 2 thinking. Later on, rationalizations may be used to reconcile actions to ethical beliefs and reduce cognitive dissonance, that is, the disconnect between what our belief says we should do and what we actually do.

A person who always justifies or rationalizes his actions has a flexible belief system or is lacking in the moral virtues and consistency in behavior. In effect justifications and rationalizations become the belief system of that person and relativistic’ situational considerations inform decision-making rather than sound ethical principles.

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

As always, in the case of this author, I recommend that you visit his web site and read the full article. And maybe stay and look at some of his other work.

James Pilant

3 thoughts on “The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

  1. Dilemma exists because of the truth. Truth is paradoxical; it contains the opposite values. That’s why Truth is illogical. “Logic” means something, which doesn’t have an opposite, which is straight, which is not paradoxical. Truth is always paradoxical; and so it has opposite values, and therefore there is a moral dilemma.


    When X^2 = 4, what is x?
    X = √4, going further
    √4 = ?
    √4 Ξ ±2.
    Ξ, is a symbol with three dashes meaning – identically equal to. Without this symbol Ξ, the equation is not accurate.
    In this equation X acquires two values that are not just equal but identically equal to +2 as well -2.

    X acquires two opposite “values” and not opposed to each other. They are in the same plane.
    ±are two aspects of a single movement, like a pendulum. One second it could be sitting in one and the next at the other end. When we stand on the equator and look at North Pole and South Pole they are so far apart. But it is no different from a small coin having two sides head and tail, when North and South Poles are watched from the moon. Poles apart, true but Earth is a single indivisible unit. Genghis Khan and Gandhi are in the same plane but with different values. Both belong to the same species. It is like identifying left hand and right hand but they are part of the single inseparable unit. That’s the truth. Truth always and completely involves opposite values, and then only it can be truth.

    Prof. Mintz writes: Q: “What are Donald Trump’s true beliefs? Does he love Mexicans and employ thousands of them as he says even though he will act to build a wall at the border and he disparages a judge with a Mexican heritage? What about Hillary Clinton? She seems to say one thing one day (i.e., supports the Trans-Pacific Pipeline deal) just to change her position on the TPP like a chameleon and pledge to veto it simply because Bernie Sanders adopted a position against it that appeals to the general Democratic electorate.” UQ

    Opposite values give a clue. Illustratively: “I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, now I don’t”. There is something missing in this statement that could give raise to some doubts. When the person is found smoking a few minutes later one can get a reply: “I used to smoke 40 earlier, now I smoke 45 cigarettes a day”. The statement has a shortfall that none of the other reasoning would be able to dig out the truth. Inference would at the most, confirm that this person doesn’t look like a nonsmoker. If a person wants to make certain to the other person to communicate clearly, then he has to say: “I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, now I have given up smoking”. A clarity is clearly evident in the statement without any doubt. In the said statement: “I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, a. now I don’t and b. now I have given up smoking”, ‘giving up smoking’ gives the clarity for the opposite value.

    Let us view the statement: “The fat Mr.X doesn’t eat during daytime”. Though Mr.X does not eat during daytime, he still remains a fat fellow. How? We guess that he must be eating at night. There is something contradictory about an individual not eating and still not being thin. Our guess that he eats at night does not belong to the category of inference. To make an inference there must be a hint or clue in the original statement itself. There must be a “reference” like smoke from fire, thunder from clouds. Here there is no such reference.

    Donald Trump never categorically stated that he hates Mexicans. He only said he would build the wall to protect employment within. Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over civil fraud proceedings against Trump University because he was “of Mexican heritage.” Does it mean Trump says all Mexicans hate USA?

    Jayaraman Rajah Iyer


    1. I enjoy your thoughts. Would it be okay if I make a post out of this clearly attributing to you authorship and adding a link to a site of yours if you would like? jp


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