Many people tend to equate ethics with their feelings. But being ethical is clearly not a matter of followings one’s feelings. Ethics, however, cannot be confined to religion nor is it the same as religion. Being ethical is not the same as following the law. The law often incorporates ethical standards to which most citizens subscribe. 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 ethical. But standards of behaviour in society can deviate from what is ethical. An entire society can become ethically corrupt. Nazi Germany is good example of a morally corrupt society. What then, is ethics? Ethics is two things.
First, ethics refers to well based standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of one’s ethical standards (Williams, 2010, pp. 2-4). Cheating is defined in the dictionary as, to deceive by trickery; swindle, however the dictionary fails to tell you if it is right or wrong to cheat. People have many different beliefs when it comes to cheating; some think its fine to do while others completely disapprove (Sullivan, 1992). Consequentialism/Utilitarianism:
Utilitarianism is the best known version of consequentialism. According to Mill, “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” (Mill, 2003) So the ultimate aim of each person is predominantly, if not exclusively, the promotion happiness (pleasure).
Is it ethical to cheat?
According to a study of Washington Post conducted over the last year, 64% of high school students have cheated on a test and 38% did more than two times. “Though 64% of high school students said they cheated, 93% said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character.” (Boenisch, 2008) Whether an act is morally right/ethical, it depend consequence of the act and/or on related things such as motive behind the act or a general rule requiring acts of the same kind. For example; if we ask people if it is ethical for a wife to have a baby from other man while live with husband. Most people would say it is not ethical. But if we look at the story; in the book of Eat Pray Love (Gilbert, 2006); the writer met a Balinese healer who used to treat people for physical, mental, and social illness with the knowledge of healing, goodness, and ethic. Women, who cannot make baby, come to healer to have baby. After examine healer finds no problem with wife but the husband. Blame always goes to wife even beaten by husband. Not only is that, wives threaten to divorce. So, only solution to live together is to have baby. Healer arranges young man from village to live with the women. Most of the cases healer was successful. Now I believe many people might thing that action is right because of related thing and the consequence of torturing.
Is it the ethical obligation to report cheating?
Let’s look at our question from the utilitarian point of view. If someone reports cheating it’ll create problems for the cheater and he’ll be unhappy, so here we can’t talk about promoting happiness and pleasure. But at the same time the person who reports will feel happy because he acted according to his conscience. And also the act of reporting cheating can change the cheater and while it isn’t late make him stop doing it. As a result he’ll become a better person. In the situation if we report cheating we see that amount of happiness created is more than amount of unhappiness.
Now let’s see what will happen if we notice cheating and don’t report it. The cheater will be happy because he wasn’t caught and will get a good mark. But at the same time will be made great harm to the college or school where he studies because his grades will be good but this good transcript won’t be a fair one. It’ll be the one which was earned by a dishonest way. When this person gets a job his employer will come to know that actually he doesn’t know anything and if there isn’t only one cheater the reputation of the college will be spoilt, it’s rate will go down and fewer students will want to study there. The result as we see will create more unhappiness than pleasure.
In this situation according to utilitarianism the one should calculate what will create the maximum amount of happiness and then act. As we already saw more happiness will be created if we report cheating. Finally we can say that according to utilitarianism in their actions people should promote happiness and pleasure. So in our case to follow this principle we have to report cheating.
According to Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is obligation or duty of every person based on some values, beliefs or ethics. His theory is emphasizing on morality of duty. It focuses on the morality of action irrespective of the consequences of an action. In simple words we can say that one person should judge his/her action on the basis of moral principle related to that action and upon the results or consequences arising due that principle or the number of persons going to be benefited with that action. According to Kant’s principle of categorical imperative what is wrong is wrong no matter how many persons are going to be benefited with that. Perform only those actions which you want that everyone should follow that.
Is it ethical to cheat?
Now about the action of cheating in exam or in class according to categoricalism is that its’ not ethical to cheat in exams or in class. No matter what consequences a person is going to bear if he/she does not cheat or whatever are the consequences like teacher was not good, the person was having a problem just before the exam, he/she may fail the course or may be fired from the job. According to principle of universalism moral duty of a person could be revealed through reasons, objectively. Kant said that to act morally is one’s moral duty and one’s moral duty is to follow innate law. Under Universal law he said that all moral statement should be general law for everyone under every circumstance and there should be no occasion under which exception are made.
If anyone allow a person to cheat due to any reason and tries to prove that it is ethical than that should be applicable to every member in the room because every person is having some problem with in their personal life and this will also create a sense of discrimination among other members. Kant said that you should never treat people as a means of some ends. People should always be treated as ends in themselves; it promotes equality among human beings. So at last we can say that according to principle of categoricalism doing wrong thing or action is always wrong no matter what ever will be the end or doing wrong thing would benefit how many people. Cheating in class or exam is wrong and one person should not do that (rsrevision/kantandthecatimp.htm). Is it ethical thing to report the cheating?
Different beliefs, from different perspectives of people, and also intent on proving which beliefs have the strongest and weakest arguments may also be discussed. An ethical egoist could argue that we have an obligation to cheat. Ethical egoists maintain the belief that we should act selfishly. We should do things that we believe in our self-interest, which is our own genuine interest. Egoist would cheat to benefit themselves, they believe that their own interest receives much more weight than everyone else’s interest. Egoist realizes that we are solely responsible for their own life; therefore if cheating would benefit their lives then cheating is acceptable. However, it could also be argued by ethical egoist that we do not have an obligation to cheat. Egoist would agree that morality is about overcoming our selfishness and living our life with positive concern for the well being of others.
Cheating is not looking at the well being of others, but rather doing the complete opposite. Unless everyone in the country had the answers to the test, then it would be considered good to cheat. Ethical egoist also like to think of themselves as good people, therefore they would want others to regard them in the same way. A cheater would not be regarded as a good person but rather, a bad person and a liar. Again, categoricalism asks to group events according to certain predetermined, outcome-determinative lines and prohibits weighing of interests at individual level. Categorization, therefore ‘binds a decision maker to respond in a determinative way to the presence of delimited triggering facts’. Categorization corresponds to rules, balancing to standards. As such, we may conclude that, reporting cheating is a moral obligation for all of us; but that should to be done without being biased and without categorizing the persons being reported upon.
Boenisch, D. (2008, December 1). Is Cheating Ethical. Retrieved January 14, 2012, from School House Talk: http://schoolhousetalk.wordpress.com
Gilbert, E. (2006). the Persuit of Balance. In E. Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love (pp. 215-273). New York: Penguin Books.
Mill. (2003, May 20). Consequentialism. Retrieved January 25, 2012, from Stanford Encyclooedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu
rsrevision/kantandthecatimp.htm. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2012, from www.members.fortunecity.com.
Sullivan, K. M. (1992, na na). The Justices of Rules and Standards. p. http://scholarshi.law.duke.edu. Williams, W. R. (2010). Ethics and Law: Basic Concepts, Cases and Dilemmas. Zicklin School of Business.