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Diagnostic Essay

haidt-coverBelow are two very short stories taken from Jonathan Haidt‘s The Righteous Mind. After you read them, write an essay in response to this question:

Did anyone in these stories do something morally wrong?

In the first sentence or two of your essay, give a short answer to the question. Yes, no, maybe, or whatever. That’s your topic sentence or thesis statement.

For example, “No one in either of these stories did anything morally wrong, but ….” 0r “In the story about the chicken, what the man did was not morally wrong.” or “In both these stories what the people did was morally wrong, but at least in the dog story, the family ….”

The rest of your essay should explain and elaborate on that response. Also, deal with the opposite response. For example, if you think he did nothing morally wrong, then to deal with the opposite response, you might write something like, “Those who think that the man did do something morally wrong are probably assuming that the chicken …”

These stories were carefully worded so that nothing anyone does is illegal, nor do they specify where these people live. And note that in both stories, nobody saw the actions described. Thus, you can ignore those distractions and concentrate on the actions. Were they morally wrong?

Story 1

A family’s dog was killed by a car in front of their house. They had heard that dog meat was delicious, so they cut up the dog’s body and cooked it and ate it for dinner. Nobody saw them do this.

Story 2

A man who lives alone goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a chicken. But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Then he cooks it and eats it. Nobody sees him do this.


Story 1 dog –

your class: 95% wrong, 5% not wrong
past classes: 75% wrong, 25% not wrong

Story 2 chicken –

your class:  95% wrong, 5% not wrong
past classes: 65% wrong, 35% not wrong


Those who think this behavior is morally wrong reason that if the behavior is disgusting and not common in their experience, then it violates social norms, and that is morally wrong. To them, society determines morality, which explains some of the power of peer pressure. People are looking to the people around them for guidance.

Those who think this behavior is not morally wrong agree. They find it disgusting and not common. However, no person or animal was harmed, then it is not morally wrong. To them, the individual determines morality.

Here’s an example of that kind of reasoning.

After reading the two stories, I feel that they were both kind of disturbing, but not morally wrong.

None of the people in these stories did anything that was against the law or do anything to hurt anybody, so it makes it okay to do even though most others wouldn’t do things like that. Just because one person thinks it’s morally wrong does not actually make it that. It is honestly just a matter of opinion. So, my opinion is that people are free to do what they please no matter how strange it may be to others.

The family with the deceased dog may have just been curious to try dog meat, or maybe they did not want to have to bury the dog or pay for cremation. That was just their way of “disposing” the dog.

As for the man with the chicken, maybe he just… is lonely. Or he just decided one day that he wanted try what he does and just stuck with it.

People who think that the family who ate the dog is morally wrong, they probably think it is disrespectful to the animal after its tragic death of being hit by a car. Or maybe they just would never eat dog meat. The same goes for the people who think the man with the chicken is morally wrong, they probably would not do something like that or think it’s not right. Maybe to them it isn’t but to the people in the story it was.

All in all, the people in the stories were not morally wrong, they were just doing things that they thought/think are okay to do. There is no shame in that.