On Being Stuck: Looking for the Limits of Ethics in the Built Environment

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Kirkman, Robert
Noonan, Douglas S.
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We seek here to lay the groundwork for a multi-disciplinary inquiry into one aspect of the phenomenology of moral experience, which is a general project of elucidating what it is like for people to make ethical decisions in particular contexts. Taking urban and suburban environments as the context for decision making, we focus in particular on the common human experience of being stuck. Just as a person can get physically stuck while trying to crawl through a hole that is too small, people can get ethically stuck when some feature of their relationship with their context blocks or deflects their efforts to make good decisions and to do the right thing. We develop a preliminary typology of stuckness for ordinary residents of urban and suburban environments, and suggest ways in which various disciplinary perspectives might be brought to bear on each type. We close by looking ahead to two possible extensions of inquiry into stuckness: a consideration of how people and groups who have some power in shaping the built environment (e.g., developers, planners) may be stuck, and a consideration of when and under what circumstances people might get unstuck.
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