On NPR some days ago, I heard a speaker say that there were a lot of reasons for closing the US prison at Guantanamo, but that "the most important of them is that it’s the right thing to do." He said it twice.
(I was already amused by the idea of closing Guantanamo because people there carried out policies decided on in Washington DC. The logic could be that guilt adhered to the place itself; or that guilt could be made to adhere to it and then be done away with, as with a scape-goat. If it worked with Jesus, why not with Guantanamo?)
But the idea that "being the right thing to do" is a reason rather than a conclusion is more intriguing. Is this just circular logic? I don’t think so.
Recall the Pope’s statements about reason vs. faith. In this view, morality is associated with faith, which is contrasted with reason. That’s the worldview America grew up with.
Take away the faith. (This is NPR, after all.) What happens? After thousands of years of being attached to faith, does morality attach itself, in the minds of the public, to reason? Or does it just become detached? I think that the latter model explains the speaker’s statements: "The right thing" is something you just know – a support, not a conclusion.