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Ethics Paper

Essay by   •  January 11, 2011  •  1,352 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,113 Views

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Abstract

Ethics or morality poses questions about how we ought to act and how we should live. It asks, "According to what standards are these actions right or wrong?" It asks, "What character traits (like honesty, compassion, fairness) are necessary to live a truly human life?" It also asks, "What concerns or groups do we usually minimize or ignore? And why might that be?" Admitting our blindness is the beginning of vision.

Dealing with these moral issues is often perplexing. How, exactly, should we think through an ethical issue? What questions should we ask? What factors should we consider?

In this paper, I will be discussing these issues in further detail.

Ethical Decision-Making Paper

Moral issues greet us each morning in the newspaper, confront us in the memos on our desks, nag us from our children's soccer fields, and bid us good night on the evening news. We are bombarded daily with questions about the justice of our foreign policy, the morality of medical technologies that can prolong our lives, the rights of the homeless, the fairness of our children's teachers to the diverse students in their classrooms.

If we were to ask people what ethics means to them most of their replies would that ethics has to do with what their feelings tell them what is right or wrong. Some might say that ethics has to do with their religious beliefs. Others might say that being ethical is doing what the law requires or that is consists of the standards of behavior our society accepts. Some might simply respond that they don’t know what the word means.

These replies might be typical of our own. The meaning of "ethics" is hard to pin down, and the views many people have about ethics are shaky.

Many people tend to associate ethics with their feelings, but being ethical is clearly not a matter of following one's feelings. A person following his or her feelings may withdraw from doing what is right. In fact, feelings frequently deviate from what is ethical.

Also, we should not identify ethics with religion. Most religions, of course, advocate high ethical standards. Yet, if ethics were confined to religion, then ethics would apply only to religious people, but ethics applies as much to the behavior of the atheist as to that of the saint. Religion can set high ethical standards and can provide intense motivations for ethical behavior. Ethics, however, cannot be restricted to religion and it is not the same as religion.

Being ethical is also not the same as following the law. The law often incorporates ethical standards to which most citizens abide by, but laws, like feelings, can deviate from what is ethical.

Finally, being ethical is not the same as doing "whatever society accepts." In any society, most people accept standards that are, in fact, ethical. However, standards of behavior in society can deviate from what is ethical. An entire society can become ethically corrupt. Nazi Germany is a good example of a morally corrupt society.

Moreover, if being ethical were doing "whatever society accepts," then to find out what is ethical, one would have to find out what society accepts. To decide what I should think about abortion, for example, I would have to take a survey of American society and then conform my beliefs to whatever society accepts, but no one ever tries to decide an ethical issue by doing a survey. Further, the lack of social agreement on many issues makes it impossible to associate ethics with whatever society accepts. Some people accept abortion but many others do not.

What, then, is ethics? Ethics is two things. First, ethics refers to well- based standards of right and wrong that lay down what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. Furthermore, ethical standards include standards relating to rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by consistent and well-founded reasons.

Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards. As I have mentioned above, feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical. So, it is necessary to constantly examine one's standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well founded. Ethics also means, then, the continuous effort of studying our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct,

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