Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

Three Types of Moral Thinking: the moral visionary, the moral judge, and the moral assessor.

Posted Oct 29, 2013 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, No Comments

            The moral visionary says, “We have this vision of what we should do and what kind of person or organization we should become, and we must do these things to realize our vision.” Not everyone is a moral visionary, but we all probably do have aspirations for our lives, and when they serve as guides for our choices, then we are thinking like a moral visionary.


            The typical saying of the moral judge is quite different than that of the moral visionary.  It goes something like: “You cannot do that because it is unfair and it violates human rights.”  The moral judge seeks to protect people’s dignity.  He or she only allows those actions that pass the test of the universal moral law.  Keeping promises regardless of consequences is a good example. Protecting human rights is another.  Instead of using one’s aspirations to determine the right choice, the moral judge uses the rational principle of consistency.


            The moral assessor also has a different voice.  It may sound like this:  “You need to consider the total impact of the proposed policy on others, before you can decide what to do.”  The moral assessor examines the consequences of different policies on selected groups, and then assesses what policy will bring about the greater good.  The greater good could be defined as the most pleasure or happiness, the maximization of value, or the satisfaction of preferences.  In any case, the assessor uses the tools of comparison and contrast among different policies to determine which one is right.


            We may find ourselves more comfortable with one type of thinking than another, but most of us have some experience in all three.  Understanding their differences will help us develop solutions to disagreements that will find support from various types of thinking, instead of just our own.



Leave a Reply


Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

Adam Smith Atlantic trade banks biosphere citizen Citizens United city civic civic conversations civic economy civic membership civilizing the economy common citizen Commons corporate citizen corporation as property corporations democracy disagreement economics of dissociation economics of provision Egypt future health care reform invisible hand John Locke Kant libertarianism membership money moral equality ownership property property relations protection reciprocity Scotland slavery Smith and slavery Smithian economics sustainability taxes the civic tobacco trade Wall Street

Cambridge University Press
Local Bookstores
Barnes & Noble