What is Ethics?
What is the origin of ethics? What are the different approaches and teachings of ethical reasoning? How are these approaches used to make an ethical decision? How are ethics relevant to both an individual and a corporation?
The origin of the term ‘ethic’ has been around for centuries. The word ‘ethics’ is from the Greek word ‘ethos’ which is translated to equate to English as ‘character’ or ‘custom’. Furthermore, the first recollection of the term ethics was first introduced by the Greek philosopher ‘Socrates’ in approximately 470- 399 B.C. Ancient civilizations and religions incorporated the analogy of ethics, this is evident as religious scriptures pose ethical questions to their followers, such as; “do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”.
The term ethics is commonly described as a system of moral principles that influence a person or group’s behaviour. The principles illustrate to society the standards of what is right and wrong, good and bad. Furthermore, these principles directly influence how people choose to carry out their lives along with the choices and decisions that they make. With that said there are many diverse opinions in relation to what is morally right and wrong; the main factor that differentiates people’s opinions are differences in cultures and beliefs. Upon investigating the topic of ethics, I found there to be three operational areas; meta-ethics, applied ethics and normative ethics. With that said; this essay will mainly focus on the approaches and teachings of normative and applied ethics. When we discuss the term normative ethics, we are discussing and evaluating the standards of what is morally correct.
The normative ethical system can be sub-divided into three categories, they are; deontological, teleological or consequentialist and lastly, virtue ethics. Throughout this essay, ethical approaches and teachings will be analysed and explained giving real-world contextual examples, along with reasonable justification of why ethics are not only important for individuals but also for any corporation.
Deontological ethics is best described to explain the “relationship between the duty and the morality of the action” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2012); this ethical approach is suppose to calculate and steer our choices in the direction of what we morally ought to do. In other words, the right has overriding priority over the good; irrespective of the consequences that might that will be incurred; these principles are seen as an obligation that must be fulfilled. For example; as a parent you have an obligation to look after your children, to feed them, protect them, care for them; however, not looking after or caring for your children might be a benefit for the parents financially with increased financial savings; neverless it is still wrong.
Consequentialist ethics is defined to be “an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favourable than unfavourable” (James Fieser, 2009, p.g 4). Thus; the good outweighs the bad; if the good outweighs the bad usually, the action is seen to be morally acceptable.
Philosophers have determined that there are three main subdivisions of consequentialist ethics; they are ethical egoism, ethical altruism and utilitarianism.
Ethical egoism is best defined as, “an action is morally right if the consequences of the action are more favourable than unfavourable only for the person whom is performing the action” (James Fieser, 2009, p.g 4). This method is only beneficial or favourable for the one person whom is performing the action. An example this theory is found in any action a person undertakes for self-interest; so this could entail, going for a job interview and getting the job over the other candidates.
Ethical altruism occurs when, “an action is morally right if the consequences of the action are more favourable than