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Welcome to Ethics

Chapter 1: What is Ethics All About?, Sources of Ethical Beliefs, Standards of Behavior

Heath Hesse

on 11 September 2013

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Transcript of Welcome to Ethics

Welcome to Ethics
Key Terms from this section:
ethical principles
universal (principles)
ethical issues
standard of etiquette
standard of law
standard of ethics
You Decide...
If you found a wallet containing $50, would it be wrong to keep the money? Why or why not?
If you could win at a sport more often by cheating occasionally, would it be wrong to cheat? Why or why not?
If a friend got an unflattering haircut, would it be wrong to lie and tell the person that it looked good? Why or why not?
If you dropped your parent's business cell phone, which you were NOT supposed to be using, while calling a friend, would it be wrong to lie about how the phone was broken? Why or why not?
If you found out that a classmate was selling illegal drugs, would it be wrong to keep quiet about what you learned? Why or why not?
Ethical Principles: general statements of how people should or should not act.
Universal: rational people thinking logically would have to agree that everyone should follow them.
Some universal ethical principles:
The "Golden Rule" - you should treat others as you would want to be treated.
People should respect the rights of others.
People should keep their promises.
People should be honest.
People should take responsibility for their actions.
People should act in the best interests of others.
People should help others in need when possible.
People should be fair.
Personal Reflection
In which part of your life do you face the most ethical problems and decisions?
Why do you think that is?
What do your answers say about the kind of person you are?
How many of your classmates do you think answered the questions the same way you did?
What major life experiences have affected your personal ethics the most?
What ethical principle(s) do you see behind the responses you gave in the YOU DECIDE section?
Do you see how one moral decision can have several ethical principles behind it? Understanding principles like those--and learning to apply them to different ethical situations and issues--is at the heart of understanding what ethics is about.
What is Ethics All About?
The Language of Ethics
Ethics: the subfield of philosophy that studies the morality of human conduct,that is, what is considered to be right or wrong, good or bad.
Morality: the part of human behavior that can be evaluated in terms of right and wrong.
Ethical Issues: topics or actions that raise questions of right and wrong.
Stealing, cheating, lying, drunk driving, etc.
Free and open exchange of art (music, movies, etc.)
Do Right and Wrong Exist?
Or are they social inventions to control people's behavior?
Relativism: the belief that because ethical beliefs vary so widely, there can be no universal ethical principles that apply to everyone. After all, no 2 individuals, societies, religions, etc. agree completely on what is right and wrong. Since this is the case, the argument continues that moral right and wrong cannot be anything more than personal opinion.
Legalism: the belief that because there are laws and policies to cover issues of right and wrong, ethics is irrelevant. Therefor, if an action is illegal, it must be wrong.
LEGAL is not the same as ETHICAL.
Personal Reflection
List 2 important ethical issues that you see society or your community wrestling with and debating...
For example....

Ethical Issues #1 _______________________
Personal Ethical Judgment (Do you think the action in question is right or wrong?)

Ethical Principle (What makes it right or wrong?)
How would you respond to the following skeptical claims about ethics? Write whether you AGREE or DISAGREE; then explain your answer...
People cannot agree about what actions are right and what actions are wrong.
Unless everyone agrees completely on what actions are right and what actions are wrong, the concepts of right and wrong cannot exist.
Because ethical decisions are based on individual beliefs, no one can judge anyone else's actions as being right or wrong.
Ethics are not necessary because laws prescribe what is right and what is wrong.
The following facts should not be surprising...
Everyone has ethical beliefs.
Not everyone has the same beliefs.
Everyone gets his or her ethical beliefs from somewhere.
Not everyone gets his or her ethical beliefs from the same source.
Sources of Ethical Beliefs
Authority: an action is right or wrong because "someone important said so."
Often seen in religious ethics, but other moral authorities in history have included political leaders.
Authority sources can include governments, parents, teachers, religious leaders, even supervisors at work.
When one says, "stealing is wrong because the government made it illegal," they are relying on authority.
Culture: the idea that the morality of an action depends on the beliefs of one's culture or nation.
This approach says that cultures and nations, like individuals, have different values and principles based on their different experiences in history.
Because this view assumes that there are no UNIVERSAL moral principles (remember relativism?), one logical conclusion would be that no nation or culture is able to judge the moral beliefs or actions of another nation or culture.
Culture can also influence people on a smaller scale. A business has a distinct culture, and its employees are often strongly influenced by the culture of the company. What about a classroom?
Intuition: the idea that principles of right and wrong have been built into a person's conscience and that he or she will know what is right by listening to that "little voice" within.
This source is common. People often seem to know instinctively whether actions are right or wrong..... gut feelings anyone?
However...a person's moral intuition can become desensitized. The result is that the person isn't offended anymore by actions that once bothered his or her conscience.
Reason: the idea that consistent, logical thinking should be the primary tool used in making ethical decisions
According to this approach, if stealing is judged to be wrong, then there should be solid arguments and logical principles that back up that judgment.
In other words, the arguments against stealing are stronger than the arguments for stealing.
An action is not wrong JUST because an authority says so, JUST because it is unpopular within a culture, or JUST because someone's inner voice warns against it... Instead, this approach suggests that a person look open-mindedly at the arguments on both sides of an issue, then use reason to carefully choose the strong arguments.
Reason is not necessarily superior to the other sources, but reason is the tool that allows people to keep others in check
"Somone important said so"
"Morality of an action depends on the beliefs of one's culture or nation"
"Principles of right/wrong have been built into our conscience."
"Consistent, logical thinking should be the primary tool used in making ethical decisions."
Personal Reflection
Which of the sources of ethical beliefs has influenced you the most?

Which of the sources has influenced you the least?
Write 1 specific action you could take to make reasoning more of a factor in your ethical decision making.
If you lived alone on an island somewhere, the only ethical code you would be concerned about would be your own.....
...but life doesn't work that way. The truth is that life is more or less a group project. You experience life through your family, friends, neighborhood, school, city, culture and country....
Therefore, you must concern yourself with the effects of your actions on others and the effects of their actions on you. You can't think about ethics only in individual terms. You are forced to consider standards that may apply to everyone.
Standards of Behavior
Standard: an accepted level of behavior which people are expected to conform.
A standard may be set low (minimum standard), in the middle (average standard), or very high (standard of excellence).
Whatever the level, all standards involve some kind of expectation.
People's actions can be evaluated according to many standards; but 3 of the most common standards are those of: etiquette, law, and ethics.
1: Standard of Etiquette: refers to expectations concerning manners or social graces.
(Other types of standards include professionalism, athletic, academic, corporate, and community.)
Most societies and culture have their own rules of etiquette that their members are expected to meet. Most people understand their social etiquette standards and try to live up to them...
...thus, a person knows to knock before entering someone else's home and tries to remember their "please" and "thank you's."
What are some other standards of etiquette?
People who violate the standard of eti
People who violate the standard of etiquette run the risk of being embarrassed or having others look down on them.
Some companies even send their employees to etiquette class!
The standard of etiquette reduces social friction and makes it easier for people to live together as a community. There is an important difference between the standards of etiqutte and ethics; that difference is SERIOUSNESS.
2: Standard of Law: deals with rules of behavior imposed on people by governments.
Like ethics, this legal standard can be serious... Yet while legal and ethical standards are serious, there is an important difference....... VALIDITY
What makes a law valid is different from what makes an ethical principle or judgment valid....

Have you ever wondered what makes a law valid?
Assume that the speed limit in front of your house is 25 mph. What might make that law valid???
Can laws be valid if they don't seem to make any logical sense?
Lawrence, KS It is illegal to walk through town with bees in your hat.
Brooklyn, NY It is illegal to allow a donkey to sleep in your bathtub.
Augusta, GA It is against the law to steal other people's garbage.
Andover, MD The use of "space guns" is legally forbidden.
Iowa A kiss lasting more than 5 minutes is illegal.
Louisiana It is illegal to hunt lizards at night.
Massachusetts Dueling with water pistols is against the law.
Helsinki, Finland Instead of giving parking tickets, police deflate tires.
Florida It is illegal to bathe in your bathtub naked.
The only factor that matters in determining the validity of law is whether the person who proclaimed the law had the legitimate authority to do so. With the ethical standard, however, authority is not what matters.
Standard of Ethics: refers to social expectations of people's moral behavior
The ethical principles and rules making up this standard are made valid by the reasons and arguments supporting them.
For example, if you stated, "the death penalty is morally wrong," what you're really saying is that the reasons and arguments supporting that statement make more logical sense than the reasons and arguments on the other side of the debate.
Authority is not the issue. For ethical statements to be valid, they must make logical sense. Because of that crucial difference, legal standards and moral standards do not always agree. As a result, actions can be described in four ways....
Legally AND Morally right....examples?
Legally wrong BUT Morally right....examples?
Legally right BUT Morally wrong....examples?
Legally AND Morally wrong....examples?
As a result, people sometimes have to choose between obeying the law and doing what they believe is morally right. Many people in history have gone to prison - and even to their deaths - rather than violate their ethical beliefs and principles.
Also, legal standards (based on authority) may change as authorities change....but ethical standards (based on reason) change only when new information causes people's thinking about the standards to change.
An ethical standard requires the honest questioning that comes with independent thinking, for that is the only way a society can continue to learn and find better answers. Whereas a legal standard discourages people from questioning and challenging it, since those actions are often perceived as threats to authority.
What do you think now?
Personal Reflection
1: Give an example of a situation in which the standard of etiquette turned out to be important to you.
2: Describe a situation when you were confronted with the importance (and potential consequences) of the legal standard.
3: Provide an example of a time when you had to make a difficult ethical decision. How did the concept of the ethical standard apply to your situation?
Legal & Ethical
Illegal & Ethical
Legal & Unethical
Illegal & Unethical
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