This was the rhetorical question posed musically back in the anti-establishment Sixties. Then it had to do with feelings of love; but now researchers at the Harvard Business School are posing it in the case of what they call the Cheater’s High. With the rate of cheating on the rise in America, they want to know why so many cheaters feel good as well as guilty from cheating.
Cheating comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. On income taxes…on golf scores…on test exams. Seems traditional moral guilt is less apparent in these days of moral neutrality. In an article in the New York Times, researchers said, “We were a little appalled.”
I would think so.
Our traditional Judaic-Christian morality has in our utilitarian times been often replaced by Situational Morality. That’s when you don’t feel so bad because the situation can be used to make you feel rather good. In effect, how can you be expected to stand by some rigid, right/wrong religious absolute when each situation is so different? If my cheating doesn’t hurt anyone [my white lie protects their feelings]…if my cheating is for a good reason [it will right a previous wrong]…if my cheating is insignificant compared to the other party [making this claim from an insurance company that already has billions of dollars]… under such circumstances there’s no real reason to feel guilt much less bad.
So then to the core question: Is cheating always bad? Author Susan Sontag used to put is this way:”The only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions.” With that in mind, here’s an answer:
“If you have to ask that question, you’re already hedging on your answer.”
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