Basic Moral Skills
MAKING DECISIONS is a pretty basic part of life, and the decisions we make shape the kind of life we end up leading. The purpose of this book is to help people make decisions that lead to a flourishing moral life. This chapter highlights four attributes or skills that contribute to making sound moral decisions: self-control, knowledge of self and others, the ability to make a commitment, and the ability to manage memory and imagination. These four moral skills help us to excel in the moral life and they also help us avoid getting derailed along the way. In terms of the fundamental values, they strengthen our ability to formulate realistic plans and move toward exemplary actions. They also provide a kind of protection, keeping us from engaging in corrosive actions that undermine our ability to reach our ultimate goals.
An essential requirement of the moral life is the freedom to make decisions. We cannot fully exercise this freedom, h owever, i f we are controlled by things, i ncluding our own impulses, that we allow to dictate our decisions. Our make-up as human beings is complex and includes appetites and emotions that are often strong and compelling. Following these impulses is sometimes a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but not always. Our desires can get out of hand, usually through a kind of intellectual sleight of hand that overwhelms the will. As we have seen, when this