Monday, April 9, 2012

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

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

Main Entry ethics

Pronunciation e-thik

Cheap University Papers on How can we know, if at all, that our behavior is ethical?

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Function noun

Etymology Middle English ethik, from Middle French ethique, from Latin ethice, from Greek EthikE, from Ethikos

Date 14th century

1 plural but singular or plural in construction the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

a a set of moral principles or values

b a theory or system of moral values

c plural but singular or plural in construction the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group

d a guiding philosophy

The earliest record of ethics as a discussed subject dates back to ancient Greeks, as can be seen from the etymology of “ethics” � it originates from greek word Ethikos. Great philosophers, such as Aristotle, have wondered at the subject of “good and bad” and what sets the guidelines.

When a child is first borne into the world, the newborn mind is as clean as white slate. The child does not know how to behave right away, and only with time the child will learn and navigate the abstract realm of ethics. Massad Ayoob (84BC - BC) once said “Youre born with intelligence, but not with ethics “. Massad was a greek philosopher, who was born and who died in the same years as Aristotle.

With time the child learns to apply the vaguely explained but firmly memorized guidelines of ethics, much like the child learns to speak bit-by-bit. As the child learns, his actions are judged by the rest of the world his family, friends, people he knows. This constant control ensures that the learning, or development of ethics if you will, goes on normally and according to accepted norms. By accepted norms I mean generally accepted ethics in this particular time and space. As the child grows up and becomes a teenager, he realizes that sometimes the actions dictated by ethics and actions dictated by logic and laws (the ones set by government) are mutually exclusive or go in different directions. Take an example a lost purse full of money is lying on the street and a homeless person is nearby. In the purse you find a business card of a rich businessman, who, in my opinion, would not really miss the lost sum of money What do you do? You can pick it up and go to the police to hand it in. Or you can pick it up and give it to the homeless person. First is dictated by your logic and laws lost property must be returned to its rightful owner. The later is dictated by your conscience help the poor man who cannot fend for himself. So what do you do? Be a law-abiding citizen and hand the purse back to its owner? Or giving the money to those who really need it, earning the goodwill of your conscience and the gratitude of the suffering? Well, it isn’t easy. Some would do one thing, some other. After all, as Aristotle (84BC � BC) said “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen”.

People doing different things suggests that people do not interpret ethics and laws in the same way. Or that there is a slightly (or completely) different set of ethics in people’s minds. Both things can be explained by differences in upbringing and culture.

So how does one decide whether one’s behavior is ethical or not?

In the case of only one person the answer is easy that which the person thinks is ethical, is ethical. But what about an event where many different ethical norms are present, such as war? One example can be this you cannot feed the prisoners of war, so what do you do? You kill them so as to be rid of the “problem”? Or you send them back to the enemy, so that in the future they might kill you? Some culture’s ethics would dictate killing as the right way, some would dictate sending back as the only ethical way. However, having ethics at all is better than having none at least if you have ethics (however different they might be) you have something to base your actions on, and if you have none than you lose a cornerstone of your consciousness, that which defines us as human and that which elevates us to beings above animals. In the words of Manly Hall (101 � 10), Canadian philosopher “A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world”.

I suppose one always judges whether an event is ethical from one’s own perspective first. Than one applies more general ethics of one’s society, and that makes his opinion, along with logic and intelligence. Sometimes the public opinion is not your own, but you go along Most of the things we decide are not what we know to be the best. We say yes, merely because we are driven into a corner and must say somethign. It was said by Frank Crane, in his “Essays”. I tend to agree with it, because every decision is a compromise between your ethics and the rest of the world, and I doubt there is a single action anybody has taken which fully satisfied one’s consciousness.

I think individual’s actions are considered to be ethical or unethical by the group, the society as a whole. No single individual can judge the society on his own without support, and the society can (and does) judge the individual according to ethics. The decision is made easier for the group by the laws, which more or less show the direction to look at, so to speak. But than again, laws are not perfect a man caught killing a baby was set free because of a technicality in a law. Next day parents of a baby come back and see that a man has killed the baby and is sitting next to it on the sofa. However, laws are working in general just fine, regulating and guiding our everyday lives.

On the other hand, take animals. They have absolutely no quarrels about whether their actions are ethical or not they do what they have to do with out any regret or remorse. So what makes us different from animals? Our intelligence. So with greater intelligence comes greater responsibility judging our actions according to the norms set by all of us.

Judging an individual by society is easy society wins always. No single man can be just and all the others completely wrong. Take a thief, for example he is convinced that what he does is justified (difficult life, no job, etc.), but take all the other people and they will tell you that thief is wrong.

Judging an individual by an individual is more difficult, though. Without the support and backing of all those people in the society you cannot be sure that the actions of a person are this or that. You doubt yourself, and you cannot judge the other with absolute certainty. But you judge other people nonetheless, and you judge them according to yourself.

My opinion is that people judge whether an event is ethical or not first by their own ethical understanding and secondly by the ethics of the society as a whole. Also I think that people judge basing their decision partly on laws, but every person interprets the law in their own way. (online)

and other online websites linked to above.

Online dictionary (online)

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