John Mizzoni, Ph.D.
What can anyone learn about ethics from a song by Guns N’ Roses? Or Santana? Or Jimmy Buffet? A lot, according to Neumann University philosophy professor John Mizzoni, whose new book, Ethics: The Basics, is peppered with references to popular music as tools for understanding ethical concepts.
Written in language that is straightforward and, according to Mizzoni, “genuinely introductory,” the book addresses three theoretical problems (Where do ethical standards come from, are these standards relative, and what is human nature?) and one very practical issue: What makes something morally right or wrong?
It’s the last question that generates excitement among his students. “I want my students to use their critical thinking skills and apply abstract principles to specific examples,” explains Mizzoni, who began teaching at Neumann in the fall of 2000. In addition to following each chapter with a discussion question that involves popular music, the professor also uses local and national news stories as illustrations of ethical issues that range from capital punishment and fetal alcohol syndrome to euthanasia and civil disobedience.
In the introduction, Mizzoni writes, “What I am offering is a framework to help you organize a truly bewildering array of philosophical questions about ethics.” He reminds students that ethical questions are not avoidable. “You are living a life right now, so you have no choice but to attempt to deal with the problem and answer the questions: How should I live my life? What makes an action morally right or wrong? And how should I determine the right thing to do?”
Mizzoni is also a singer-songwriter and uses one of his own songs, Should I Do It?, to illustrate thought-provoking ethical questions. A fusion of pop, rock and folk, the single is from Mizzoni’s forthcoming CD, Lose My Cool. The song is available for sale at www.myspace.com/johnmizzoni. The book, published by Wiley-Blackwell, can be purchased in the Neumann University store or through Amazon for $29.95.