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Ethics - Where do you stand

Discussion in 'Open Discussion (Work-safe)' started by buckeyebri, Jul 8, 2004.

  1. RugbyBuck

    RugbyBuck Our church has no bells.

    I have thought a fair amount about this, for better or worse. I taught undergrad philosophy (ethics about a third of the time) while in grad school at OSU. I worked for three different professors during three different terms teaching, supposedly, the same ethics course, but which turned out to be three different courses: Marxism; what I'd regard as a fairly middle-of-the-road survey course; and some weird hodge podge made up by a Professor there, Bernie Rosenberg. What has always concerned me most about this topic is not that there are numerous variations, but that everyone searches for absolute consistency in whatever school of thought you're discussing and then, when you can't establish that, trashes the whole system. It shouldn't work that way. Ethics is not regulation, but principle. It can't specifically answer every question and the results of its application will not always be internally consistent. It has to be an underlying resource that does answer the easy questions, and colors your consideration of the hard ones. Situational ethics as it is commonly understood is flawed, but an ethical sense that supports how you react to various situations, including the interplay with various other ethical systems, is valuable.

    Like personal space, you, like it or not, on some level have a personal sense of ethics. This collides with professional/societal/religious/etc. ethical systems everyday. Sometimes they mesh, sometimes the don't, but your personal ethic, which may be comprised of pieces of others, ought to be as fundamental as it gets and should help you evaluate the world you're in. Otherwise, you're to some degree at the mercy of external stimuli and merely react, rather than choosing a response. All that said, the best ethical reduction I have been able to come up with is, do right by your kids. Sometimes right means a short-term view, sometimes longer, but the underlying principle helps me manage everything whether it has a direct correlation to my kids or not.
  2. buckeyegrad

    buckeyegrad Don't Immanentize the Eschaton Staff Member

    Professional ethics and moral reasoning was one of my favorite courses in graduate school. I know someone said that it is a sad commentary that ethics needs to be taught in an MBA program. I on the other hand think it is sad when a professional program doesn't have such a course because research has shown that most people have trouble even recognizing an ethical or moral problem (see the work of Muriel Bebeau at the Univesity of Minnesota with dental students, which is based on James Rest's research), yet alone how they should react to such dilemnas.

    When it comes to ethics, I truly believe one's personality has a significant impact on what ethical principles you follow. For example, in my profession there are five primary ethical goals we should seek to achieve at all times: respect autonomy, be honest, seek justice, benefit others, and do no harm. However, when you actually try to implement these goals it becomes difficult, especially when two to the goals conflict with each other such as when and how do you intervene with a student who you believe has an addiction problem. You might be seeking to benefit the student if you intervene, but if you do, you are not showing respect to his autonomy. Therefore, how does one rank these five principles as to which should proceed the others. While it may depend on the situation, I would argue that your personality type will natually lead you favor certain principles over others.

    In anyone is interested in moral reasoning, I highly encourage you to read Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning development as it provides a map to understanding how people reason from qualitatively different perspectives. I also recommend James Park's research on what it must occur in an individual's mind for them to act on a moral/ethical judgement.

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