Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Jerome Soneson


Social action; Social ethics; Applied ethics;


In the realm of interpersonal interactions, there are many pieces of conventional wisdom that dictate how most Americans ought to behave. One such example of this is that Americans ought to “do good” in the world. This could mean simply acting kindly to others, but more often it is meant as taking explicit action to promote positive change in the world. Another social norm is that Americans, particularly Iowans and other Midwesterners1 , ought to “avoid causing offense.” It is not difficult to see how these two norms sometimes collide, since positive change often entails the transformation of social norms that some deeply value. In this paper, I will examine the question of whether “doing good” in the sense of social activism may sometimes necessarily entail offense. I will argue that it is indeed the case that social activism and causing offense are typically linked, and more importantly, that a deeper understanding of this conflict of norms will provide a framework to guide those who wish to engage in social justice activism.

Year of Submission



Department of Philosophy and World Religions

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (25 pages)