Thursday, September 07, 2006

Am I Ethical - Part 3

Our values are what we prize and our values system is the order in which we prize them. Because they rank our likes and dislikes, our values determine how we will behave in certain situations.The above i discussed in my last post.To make any decision or justify any decision as being ethical, we usually follow one more step. We translate values into principles.This is done subconscioulsy. This we believe helps us in guiding and motivating ethical conduct. For example, honesty is a value that governs behavior in the form of principles such as: tell the truth, don’t deceive, be candid, don’t cheat. In this way, values give rise to principles in the form of specific "dos" and "don’ts."Now, do we we relate these principles to ethics? Ethics is about putting principles into action. Consistency between what we say we value and what our actions say we value is a matter of integrity. That alone determines whether we are ethical in our thoughts and deeds. Consider the following points

  1. Not doing what you have the power to do: An act isn’t proper simply because it is permissible or you can get away with it.

  2. Not doing what you have the right to do: There is a big difference between what you have the right to do and what is right to do.

  3. Not doing what you want to do: In the well-worn turn of phrase, an ethical person often chooses to do more than the law requires and less than the law allows.

Ok, the biggest question we should have answered is why be ethical at all? At the end of the day what is that i achieve in this whole tiresome process?Here are some of the reasons i found convincing. You may add your own or disapprove the below. Nevertheless, i found them useful motivations for being ethical:

  1. There is inner benefit. Virtue is its own reward.

  2. There is personal advantage. It is prudent to be ethical. It’s good business.

  3. There is approval. Being ethical leads to self-esteem, the admiration of loved ones and the respect of peers.

  4. There is religion. Good behavior can please or help serve a deity.

  5. There is habit. Ethical actions can fit in with upbringing or training.

But seriously, what stops us from being ethical. Again, i found two interesting points:

  1. The ethics of self-interest.When the motivation for ethical behavior is self-interest, decision-making is reduced to risk-reward calculations. If the risks from ethical behavior are high — or the risks from unethical behavior are low and the reward is high — moral principles succumb to expediency. This is not a small problem: many people cheat on exams, lie on resumes, and distort or falsify facts at work. The real test of our ethics is whether we are willing to do the right thing even when it is not in our self-interest.

  2. The pursuit of happiness.We have often heard this idea that happiness is a basic right of free men. But is this pursuit a moral end in itself? It depends on how one defines happiness. Our values, what we prize and desire, determine what we think will make us happy. We are free to pursue material goals and physical sensations, but that alone rarely (if ever) leads to enduring happiness. It more often results in a lonely, disconnected, meaningless existence. The morally mature individual finds happiness in grander pursuits than money, status, sex and mood-altering substances. A deeper satisfaction lies in honoring universal ethical values, that is, values that people everywhere believe should inform behavior. That unity between principled belief and honorable behavior is the foundation for real happiness.

Now to answer the first question about my friend's policy of pre marital sex. In my world, i do not have any issues. But perhpas in his world, he needs to make an ethical decision and not simply rant ethical decisions tipping down from the whims and fansies of his parents or society.

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