Laws and Ethics; What are they? Who do they affect and how do they affect me in my everyday life. The definition of “law” is a system of rules and guidelines that are enforced through a set of institutions. The law shapes everything from politics, economics, and our society in a number of ways and as well serves as a social mediator of relations between people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law). The definition of “ethics” as well known as moral philosophy that addresses questions about morality – the concepts such as good and evil, right from wrong, our virtues, values we learned from our families, mentors and society that of which contributes to our cores beliefs, ideas and or opinions of what is right and wrong. In a short review of ethics and law, we will discuss some historical views of ethical decision making. Next we will discuss the correlation between law and ethics, with examples found in business and legal precedents. In conclusion, we will explain why an understanding of the juxtaposition of law and ethics is important for us as a society today.
What is Law
Throughout the course of history, laws have been defined through the course of time, changing thoughts, and beliefs amongst other things. The definition of law is “a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority” (Law, 2011). Some may think of law as just a structure or set of guidelines that we have to abide by. Laws can be viewed primarily in two ways. One view is the more positive view where there is no judgment in regards to the quality of a certain law and whether it is good or bad, and the other view is natural law. Natural laws are the “standards that govern human behavior and are derived from the nature of human beings and the nature of the world” (Himma, 2001).
Some may feel that laws aren’t needed and that everyone should act according to how they feel they should morally live. Our animal nature could never stay within the confines of self-law so establishing laws and enforcing them are important so that the appropriate behavior has been set and so the general population of society has a required set of standards they must follow. If laws didn’t exist, the common thought of an anarchist environment would surround us.
Ethics and its Meaning
When most people think of ethics they think of the rules and morals for determining what is right and what is wrong. One of the most popular phrases in ethical terms is the Golden Rule, or treat others the way you would want to be treated. Although most people will acquire their root of right and wrong during childhood development, moral development can occur throughout the human life. People may consider ethical choices to be nothing more than common sense, but if that were the case why do we have so many ethical disputes and problems in today’s society. To fully understand ethical decision making one must first consider and evaluate the ethical choice or problem. If someone was do consider the ethical norms for supply and demand or the causes of the recession one may take on the ethical perspective of any economist. Many different cultures and backgrounds have their set of norms and behaviors that suit their particular aims and goals.
Correlating Laws and Ethics
Each one of us has a set of standards we live by that influences the choices that we make. The moral relativism view is an “ethical standard, morality, and position of right or wrong which is culturally based and therefore subject to a person's individual choice” (Moral Relativism, 2002-2005). In other words, we decide what is right for ourselves. Based on these set of standards, each of us is able to incorporate ethical relativism which is the “tendency to make ethical choices only on the basis of what looks right or reasonable according to one’s own belief or value system” (Ethical relativism, 2011).