What are Ethics? How do you Decide What is Ethical?

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  1. AdsenseStrategies profile image65
    AdsenseStrategiesposted 13 years ago

    I've just been doing a bit of, very light, research on different schools of ethics in philosophy.

    There is a bewildering array of approaches to this subject.

    What is your approach to this topic?

    1. profile image0
      Poppa Bluesposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I recently devised an ethics pledge for a board of directors I sit on. Ethics is a rather broad subject so you need to view it in the particular context with which you wish to apply it. Generally, it's about honesty, acting honorably, and appropriately, treating others as you would expect to be treated.

      For example, when you take the oath to uphold and protect the constitution, one would expect you not to violate that oath by signing legislation for that which you haven't been granted power to address.

      1. AdsenseStrategies profile image65
        AdsenseStrategiesposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Here is an example of an ethical controversy in Philosophy of Ethics:

        You are a member of the organization you just referred to.

        You are employed by them, so you have, in effect, promised to act according to their wishes, while within your work role.

        If they ask you to do something you think is unethical, you are in fact nevertheless being unethical by NOT doing it, because you have broken the contract or promise you made by signing on to be part  of that organization (this is a common question when dealing with Kant's ethics... for him, duty always must come first)

        1. profile image0
          Poppa Bluesposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          I suppose technically you would be unethical, however any ethics pledge or contract should never be constructed in a way that would present you with a choice. There should always be a disclaimer. You can't sign an agreement where you are expected to lie to advance the goals of the organization or otherwise violate the law, it would be unethical to sign such an agreement.

        2. profile image50
          The Paulposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          I find that pretty unconvincing.

          Organizations consciously present an image of themselves to those they employ.  When you agree to work with an organization you agree to work with them toward certain goals by certain means.  If they want you to step outside that agreement and pursue other goals or to pursue their goals by other means you haven't agreed to do so and shouldn't feel any obligation.

          Unless you initially agreed to unethical behavior you're not violating any sort of duty or promise by refusing to engage in unethical behavior.

        3. profile image0
          cosetteposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          hmm then you have to come to the conclusion that you can be grandly ethical by being a tiny bit unethical, and in doing so, cancel out being a tiny bit unethical. i mean, say you were a Nazi guy but you decided to not only refrain from shooting any Jewish people, you would also work with them to free them, thereby saving countless lives. ethics and moralty come in many shades of gray.

          1. AdsenseStrategies profile image65
            AdsenseStrategiesposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            Kant is criticized mainly for saying also that your ethical precepts have to apply at all times. In contrast to this you have, for example, 'virtue ethics', that says that to be virtuous is to take each situation on its merits, and decide case-by-case, so to speak.

            The problem is that, in a way, both are important.

            If you have a defence lawyer that throws a case every time he suspects his client is guilty, then the principle that all people have the right to a full and proper defence (because they could be innocent, after all) is out the window.

            In other words, sometimes we are just instruments of the organization we belong to, and sometimes we are free actors.

            Of course, being an instrument like that is something that we Westerners usually have a problem with (or claim to). But, on the other hand, sometimes it is simply true... and necessary

            1. profile image0
              cosetteposted 13 years agoin reply to this

              well, we have to think of defense attorneys as defending the justice system and everyone's right to a fair trial, instead of just that scumbag sitting beside him.

              Kant had kind of a narrow view, IMHO.

      2. livewithrichard profile image75
        livewithrichardposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        I agree with your assessment of ethics except for your example.  I think that by the very nature of government if a piece of legislation comes up you have a most definite obligation to address it.

    2. tantrum profile image60
      tantrumposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Ethics are different codes used by different organizations.
      For example, Doctors can't talk about patients illnesses without their consent, and a director's  personal secretary can't talk  against  her employee, even if she knows he's doing something wrong.

      In some Brazilian Amazon tribes, You have to sleep with the chief's daughter, if you're a visitant, if not it's seen like an offense.

      so I think ethic has to do with codes, more than anything else.
      There are ethics among gangsters as well. And there are ethics of war, military ethics, religious ethics, etc.

  2. Ron Montgomery profile image60
    Ron Montgomeryposted 13 years ago


  3. AdsenseStrategies profile image65
    AdsenseStrategiesposted 13 years ago

    Here's another question.

    In the philosophy of ethics there is a movement called "consequentialism."

    This means, in effect, that the ends justify the means. (To determine whether an act was ethical, you must look at its result, and not the act itself. Therefore homosexual acts, presumably, are not wrong, because there is (presumably) no negative outcome, that harms anyone)

    Do the ends justify the means? Or , could they, ever?

    Are acts neutral, until we see their outcome?

    1. profile image50
      The Paulposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      There's are certain ideals that a lot of people claim to hold, the sorts of things that are the moral lesson delivered at the end of a saturday morning cartoons, that I don't think they really do.  That violence is always wrong and that the ends never justify the means are among them.

      It seems to me everyone who claims the ends never justify the means instead believes the means justify the end.  They seem to think even if you can see the end destination of that famous, metaphorical road to Hell you should walk it anyway because it's such a nice road.

      Drawing a distinction between ends and means doesn't really make a lot of sense.  Actions have consequences, both immediate and far-reaching.  All consequences should be weighed, and all are equally important.

      But taking what is considered an "ends justify the means" approach has the dangers that far-reaching consequences might not be accurately predicted.  No matter how reasonable it seems to think the long term-consequences are important enough to outweigh the short term ones, it's important to remember you don't know what they are with nearly as much certainty.

    2. kephrira profile image60
      kephriraposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Here's what I think: whether the ends justify the means is entirely dependent on how comprehensive the ends are and how they balance up against the means

      For example: Helping a poor person keep their house warm in the winter is a good end, and would justify incoveniencing someone else who has far fewer problems, but burning live babies on a big bonfire would be going too far.

      Generally I think that all ethics must ultimately have an abstract ideal, or coherent det of ideals, which they seek to implement in the actions of the person following those ethical codes. Ethical dilemas come about because their is are very few universally accepted and all encompassing ideals, so most ethical systems are based on a limited ideal which can come into conflict with other ideals. In that case the only solution is personal choice as to which abstract ideal you value more. Which is why different people come up with different answers.

  4. prettydarkhorse profile image55
    prettydarkhorseposted 13 years ago

    "What is ethical is what advances the common good."

    1. profile image0
      Poppa Bluesposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Yes but who then decides what "advances" means or even what is "common good"?

      I believe both are achieved when individuals decide those things for themselves.

      1. prettydarkhorse profile image55
        prettydarkhorseposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        but still we live in a society so common good is still a collection of individual goods hehe, HI POPPA

        1. profile image0
          Poppa Bluesposted 13 years agoin reply to this

          Yes I agree that's how a common good is achieved, when a majority of individuals act in a way that achieves their goals.

          How are you my pretty friend?

          1. prettydarkhorse profile image55
            prettydarkhorseposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            good and i know youre good and alive as usual???

            1. GracieLinda profile image61
              GracieLindaposted 13 years agoin reply to this

              Ethics, like morals can be very personal.  The organization should not have accepted you if you do not believe their tenants and the reverse holds true.

              You make the decisions for which you can stand.


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