If I was teaching a basic Ethics course, I might use the following Tweet as an introduction. It is the New York Times account of what has already become a social media hit or miss depending on your assessment of the president. I would use it in order to clarify the importance of ethics.

Action values

Ethics, after all, is our actions and expressions. Everything we do could and should be an expression of our ethics. I use three action words to suggest the very heart of ethical conduct -- tolerance, helpfulness, and democracy. The basic underlying value that should inform ethics is non-idolatry.

That is to say making a god of no one and nothing.

Be independent and critical in thought.

Now look at this

Where does this act land if we are giving Trump a quiz on his ethical standards? Is it tolerant? Is it helpful? Is it democratic?

Applying values

I doubt that Trump thinks much about what he does. He seems impulsive and almost thoughtless at times. Ethics to me is applying these values before you act. But let's answer anyway. It begs us to be tolerant. It helps broadcast animosity toward CNN. But does a President attacking a medium that actually has rigorous reporting standards help?


Trump's act seems to qualify as democratic, exercising a right of free speech and evoking the atmosphere of WrestleMania. On the other hand, democracy is more than the freedom to make a fool of yourself, Surely one might conclude that the action of a president when one traces its provenance and history, was foolish.

And that is the point

Foolishness is practically a perfect word to describe the ethical climate that characterizes the era of Donald Trump. The impulse of ethics should be and in fact is the achievement of justice, truth, and beauty. Foolishness has little to do with achieving these ends. But every human being should aim at them.

And conscience f the vehicle for achieving an inner understanding of the basic values of ethics.cal

Conscience is our universal vehicle for achieving an inner understanding of the basic values of ethics.


The great enemy of ethics is hypocrisy. Ethics is relatively simple. Hypocrisy is the use of mental stratagems to make the simple confusing, complex and undoable. A deeper dive into the ethics of Donald Trump would need to ask whether we are not in the midst of an environment where double binds are standard, confusion is rife, and conflict is the result. This is the fruit of hypocrisy.

The CNN tweet has little to do with ethics in itself but may illuminate an underlying hypocrisy. That is very serious indeed.