Your Ideals

One of the values that shape your life

By Arlene Harder, MA, MFT and John Fabian, Ph.D.


This group of questions revolves around what we might call “convenient ethics.”

For example, several years ago, a writer to The Los Angeles Times wanted readers to boycott the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibit of “Old Masters, Impressionists and Moderns.”

Apparently a major part of the exhibit was know to consist of paintings seized from two Russian collectors after the Communist Revolution. He felt museums should not profit from stolen property and that attending such exhibits was morally wrong.

Then there is the matter of sharing files of copyrighted material on the Internet, which most of us have probably done, telling ourselves no one will know and it is a “minor ethical offense.”

The questions below explore just a few of the ways we can sometimes find ourselves in conflict with what we claim to believe—for example, never steal—when it is convenient to do so.

Topic Stimulators

  • Under what circumstances would you go to an exhibit if you knew it contained stolen paintings?
  • If you believe a thief is one who steals something that doesn’t belong to him or her, and if you download music from the Internet—music for which you know you’re supposed to pay—do you call myself a thief?
  • How do you justify your actions when you take something from a motel or business that you know is not really yours to take?
  • If you say you are opposed to violence, but watch movies with excessive violence in them, do you feel that you are encouraging violence?