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Ethics Case Decision

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Ethics Case Decision Paper

Joy Upshaw

Wesleyan University

Ethics Case Decision Paper

A German nun taking the place of a Jew in the gas chambers; or a soldier taking his own life to avoid being tortured into betraying his comrades to the enemy, is it ethical or unethical? In this world we are faced with these kinds of decisions on a daily basis. Are ethics situational and relative or objective and revealed? To answer this question or form an opinion one must first answer what is the foundation for ethics and how is it related to the nature of truth.

"Ethics is the method by which we categorize our values and pursue them" (Landauer & Rowlands, 2001, para. 1). In order to act, one must choose a course of action; and in order to choose, one needs some reason to prefer one course of action to another. The foundation for ethics has three sources. The first are desires inherent in nature, the second is the state of society, which makes certain rules governing behaviors and interactions. The third, and last to develop, is ones' conscious (Jahn, 1999). A foundation of ethics must have a standard of value to which all goals and actions are compared to (Landauer & Rowlands, 2001). Ethical theories and principles are the viewpoints from which guidance can be obtained to reach ethically correct decisions (Rainbow, n.d.).

To understand situational, relative, and objective ethics one must determine whether truth is objective or subjective. If truth is subjective, every person can create his or her own reality. Two people can each have their own different truths and both are right simultaneously. If truth is objective it is the same for all people ("What is the Nature of Truth", n.d.). Objective ethics believes a morally wrong act is wrong regardless of the society in which it was originated. Objective ethics believe that moral truths are discovered and that they exist naturally. In situational ethics morality of an act is determined by subjective societal or cultural standards. Situational ethics believe that morality is not found, but made.

Relativism takes the position that ethical proposals are relative to social, cultural, historical or personal references, and there is no one way to assess and ethical proposal's truth. There are no universal truths. Objective and revealed ethics would be the position that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context of the act. Morals are inherent in the laws of the universe. Situational ethics does not address rather there are universal truths or not, only that the state of the system at the time of an act must be included in consideration of the act ("Situational Ethics vs Moral Absolutism", 2006). The well-known movie "John Q" is a great example of situational ethics. John Quincy Archibald's son Michael collapses while playing baseball as a result of heart failure. John rushes Michael to a hospital emergency room where he is informed that Michael's only hope is a transplant. Unfortunately, John's insurance won't cover his son's transplant. Out of options, John Q. takes the emergency room staff and patients hostage until hospital doctors agree to do the transplant (Burg & Koules, 2002). This movie was seen as one of the most heartwarming movies made and many Americans rooted for him throughout the film. Given the context of the situation, was it okay for John to take matters into his own hand? John Q was also willing to commit suicide so that his son may live; given the situation does this change the fact that suicide is ethically wrong? Situational ethics look at the context of the act, but what determines if the act was wrong or right. Some philosophers believe situational ethics is that if it was done out of love then it is okay ("Situational Ethics-Contradictory Model", n.d.). It is very hard to say what the definition of love means because each person may have a different view of what love means. Hitler and Ben Laden could probably have classified his actions as loving because in his eyes what he was doing was justifiable. On the other hand you have objective ethics which say killing is wrong regardless of the content of the act; however the majority of Americans can believe in the death penalty. Could it be that the ethics are objective and absolute truths, but because man got a hold of the truths and over time they have become corrupted causing Americans



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