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How can we know, if at all, that our behavior is ethical? Essay Sample

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How can we know, if at all, that our behavior is ethical? Essay Sample

Ethics and morality are strongly debated topics in the world today. Peoples ethical and moral behavior is constantly questioned and people often constantly question their own ethical behavior. The most relevant dictionary definition of ethics is ‘A set of principles of right conduct’. The 2 most relevant dictionary definitions of morality are ‘The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct’ and ‘A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct’. For an action to be considered ethical, it should have 4 main characteristics. You must believe your action is right and be prepared to justify it as such, the interests of someone other than yourself must be involved, you must act of your own free will and your action must be deliberate. Its very important that the interests of people other than yourself are considered because you are not responsible and you do not have the right to inflict consequences of your own decision on others, if it affects them negatively.

There are a few different ways of ‘knowing’ (in this situation, to know if our behavior is ethical) and those different ways are personal, impersonal and instinctive. Ethics deals with all of them. Personal knowledge includes conviction (belief/faith), practice, introspection, and empathy. Impersonal knowledge is knowledge by description, logical, authoritative, empirical and memory. Instinctive knowledge is knowledge where your subconscious and instinct make you aware of what it is. Personal knowledge in ethics is very important in terms of conviction and religion. Impersonal knowledge is also very important as logic is a systematic, correct way of knowing, empirical evidence is justification by your senses, memory is a reliable source of justification and authority is what will judge your decisions.

I will go on to talk about ethics in real situations which affect us and our world, I will talk about 5 different kinds, Bioethics, Personal Ethics, Social justice and Equal Opportunity, Business Ethics and Environmental Ethics.

Bioethics means ‘life ethics’ but the term is usually related to ethical issues and practices in the life sciences e.g. medicine. Some of the most ethically controversial issues in the world today come from this field such as abortion and euthanasia. There are 2 main branches of bioethics, and those are clinical ethics and health care policy. Clinical ethics deals with interaction between the employees in the health care profession, and their patients. Health care policy deals with the general rules and regulations which govern medical practice. The main ethical issues which arise from this field are euthanasia and abortion. Active euthanasia is basically ‘mercy killing’ when you give a good or merciful death, and passive euthanasia is allowing a person to die.

This is a very big issue for doctors as active euthanasia is contrary to what the medical profession stands for. In my opinion I think that both passive and active euthanasia are ethical. I think it is more wrong to prolong someone’s suffering than to let them die, or mercifully kill them however I can also see the side of the doctors where active euthanasia IS wrong. Abortion is another issue however. Abortion is the termination of an unborn fetus inside a woman. I think this is wrong in most cases such as teenage pregnancies or too many children. People should take responsibility for their actions and not take another human’s life however in the case of a severely retarded child (where the mother is aware that the child is going to have major defects) I think abortion is not as wrong as it is more merciful letting the child be aborted, than to make them live a tough life.

Personal ethics are very important to individuals, but not generally to society as a whole. Personal ethics depend on the individuals themselves, not on more than one person but sometimes peoples moralities can clash and this could indirectly lead to conflict perhaps.

Personal ethics include sexual ethics, drugs, alcohol, lying, stealing and many other issues. I personally believe that personal ethics are the most important of all types of ethics. Sexual ethics are a big issue to individuals and they come under the heading of personal ethics. There are a number of issues discussed in sexual ethics, such as when is it morally right to have sex, is homosexuality immoral, is pornography immoral, and sometimes even abortion and women’s rights can come under this heading. Every society has taboos involving sex and to me sex is a big issue when it comes to my personal morals.

I think that sex and sexual acts before marriage in most circumstances can be considered immoral. If one has been in a relationship for a long time and they know they are going to marry their partner, I think sex in that situation is not unethical. Homosexuality is also not considered immoral to me however it is one of the biggest taboos and sexual issues in the world today. I believe that every human being has some kind sexual desire and some people have different desires to others, and we shouldn’t ostracize them from society because of this, that is immoral on our part. In the example of paedophilia I don’t think its wrong for people to be attracted to children but I think it is wrong for them to act on their desires.

Social justice and equal opportunity include things like ethics at work, discrimination against people in society for being different in ways such as ethnicity, race, handicap or gender. Another issue which comes under this title is one of the disparity of wealth between developed and undeveloped nations. An example of equal opportunity is lets say, an African American who wants to attend medical school submits his application and it was denied (even though several other minorities were admitted even though their applications were not as good as his). This is a case in which a person was denied something which they deserve, due to their ethnicity.

In my opinion, the man has every right to sue the medical school as they are the ones who are being unethical. Social justice is an attempt to determine how benefits and disadvantages should be distributed throughout a society. Everyone knows that some people have vast fortunes while others suffer from dire poverty. Even in the United States, the financial upper 5% of the population has more wealth together than the remaining 95%. I believe this is grossly unfair and unethical and something should be done about it however it is difficult to determine what exactly should be done about it.

The last two, important cases of ethics in real life are business ethics and environmental ethics. Often, the expression ‘business ethics’ is thought to be a contradiction as business is generally not an ethical profession. However, business practices ARE governed by special rules and laws which means breaking those could perhaps be considered unethical. To judge if one’s behavior has been ethical in business, it is important to refer back to the rules and laws which govern business activity unless it is an activity which is beyond the rules, but obviously unethical and harms the business in some way or another.

In the case of environmental ethics, many laws have also been passed regulating treatment of the environment, in industrial production, the use of land and the elimination of waste. All these things are more important to us than we realize and we take the fact that they will ruin our world, for granted. Now many actions are being taken to prevent pollution of the environment and the waste of natural resources. Taking care of the environment becomes an ethical issue when a lot of people start to suffer from a polluted environment and it is a social issue which applies to everybody’s well being.

I conclude for actions to be considered ethical they should have the 4 characteristics which are very important to ethics. Those 4 characteristics are that you must believe your action is right and be prepared to justify it as such, the interests of someone other than yourself must be involved, you must act of your own free will and your action must be deliberate. I only looked at 5 types of ethics, Bioethics, Personal Ethics, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Business Ethics and Environmental Ethics but there are many more to consider, but I believe those were the most important.

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