Ethics play an integral and necessary part in our lives. An individual’s course of action is dictated by which ethical model they adhere to. Ethics answers the question, “What do I do? ” It is the study of right and wrong. “At a more fundamental level, it is the method by which we categorize our values and pursue them. Do we pursue our own happiness, or do we sacrifice ourselves to a greater cause? Is that foundation of ethics based on the Bible, or on the very nature of man himself, or neither? ” (Hursthouse, 2012)
A proper foundation of ethics requires a standard of value so that an individual can compare their goals and actions to it. This standard of value allows us to achieve happiness as it provides a measurement of what is right and what is wrong. This standard is our own lives, and the happiness which makes them livable. This is our ultimate standard of value, the goal in which an ethical man must always aim. It is arrived at by an examination of man’s nature, and recognizing his peculiar needs. “A system of ethics must further consist of not only emergency situations, but the day to day choices we make constantly.
It must include our relations to others, and recognize their importance not only to our physical survival, but to our well-being and happiness. It must recognize that our lives are an end in themselves, and that sacrifice is not only not necessary, but destructive,” Landauer & Rowlands, 2001). Ethics has always been a cornerstone for personal life, but recent years have seen an increase focus on ethics in business. There are many who believe that their actions in business are separate from their home life and should be held to a different standard. This learner does not believe this is a good practice.
Adults spend the majority of their working hours in their business settings. It would be highly dangerous if individuals behaved in one manner and work and a different one at home. How can one consider themselves honest if they engage in dishonest practice five days a week? In order to determine which ethical model is most effective, this learner did research on several. Those that will be discussed in this paper are Ethical Relativism, Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics and Divine Command Theory. Proverbs 3:1-6 speaks of the importance of getting wisdom and understanding.
This passage also speaks of the importance of having a set of guidelines to follow and how it will enhance a man’s life. It states, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,” (The Holy Bible).
The ethical relativism ethical model asserts that there are no universal principles, and moral standards are set by the rules of society. “Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that morality is relative to the norms of one’s culture. That is, whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. For the ethical relativist, there are no universal moral standards — standards that can be universally applied to all peoples at all times.
The only moral standards against which a society’s practices can be judged are its own. If ethical relativism is correct, there can be no common framework for resolving moral disputes or for reaching agreement on ethical matters among members of different societies” (Valesquez, et. al, Ethical Relativism). This learner does not agree with the principles of ethical relativism as a valid ethical model. It is true that many customs, such as the expected style of dress or the traditional age of marriage, vary according to cultural practices.
However, basic principles that guide human behavior should be universal. This learner believes that respect for human life should be expected and encouraged in any society, regardless of the normal behavior. Another flaw of this model is that moral behavior is considered only that behavior which is most commonly practiced. Under this school of thought there is very little opportunity for a society to evolve or advance because any deviation from the norm would be frowned upon, rejected and deemed immoral. 1st John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever,” (The Holy Bible). This passage encourages us to follow and love God above all other influences. We should not simply go along with what is expected of us or model our behaviors after those around us. We are to act as Christ would and as directed by Scripture. Perhaps the strongest argument against ethical relativism comes from those who assert that universal moral standards can exist even if some moral practices and beliefs vary among cultures. In other words, we can acknowledge cultural differences in moral practices and beliefs and still hold that some of these practices and beliefs are morally wrong. The practice of slavery in pre-Civil war U. S. society or the practice of apartheid in South Africa is wrong despite the beliefs of those societies. The treatment of the Jews in Nazi society is morally reprehensible regardless of the moral beliefs of Nazi society” (Ethical Relativism).
While this learner does not think the ethical relativism school of thought thoroughly addresses ethical issues, this model does have some redeeming qualities. This model encourages study and understanding of different cultures. It also allows opportunity for practitioners of other schools of though to examine their beliefs and determine if they are valid or simply carry-overs from previous generations. The next ethical model this learner will discuss is the Utilitarian Model. Under Utilitarianism, an action is judged as right or wrong based on the resulting consequences.
Right actions are considered as those that produce the most happiness for the population. “Jeremy Bentham was the first to formally write down ideas about utilitarian theory (Shanahan & Wang, 2003). Bentham’s original views were influenced by his background in economics and government. Several key assumptions are characteristic of Bentham’s views. First, he believed that pleasure and pain influenced human behavior and human decision-making. Consequently, what is good or bad is related to what is pleasurable or painful, the hedonist principle.
His simple view of ethics was that good or bad is a function of differences in the amount of pleasure or pain between courses of action for all individuals involved (Shanahan & Wang). Second, Bentham believed that good or pleasure as an outcome for all affected by a circumstance could be quantified. Specific amounts of pleasure could be attached to an action for an individual affected by the decision, and a total amount of pleasure could be calculated by summing values attached to everyone affected (Shanahan & Wang).
Bentham proposed the principle of utility, which states that whenever there is a choice between several options the ethical choice is the one that has the best overall outcome for all involved,” (Utilitarian Ethics, 2006). Utilitarian theorists have differentiated between two types of utilitarian theory: act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Under act utilitarianism, the ethical act would be determined by comparing both acts and deciding which would do the most good. This decision would have very little implications on future ethical decisions, unless the circumstances were identical.
Under this practice an action deemed unethical in comparison with one act, can be determined as ethical if the situation changes. Rule utilitarianism states that there are general actions that allow the most good. Under this school of thought the rule should be followed regardless of other considerations. This learner thinks one of the fallacies of this school of thought is that it seems to assert that the ends justifies the mean. Under this belief, any number of immoral acts would be ethically acceptable, as long as the end esult was positive. I would like to again mention the institution of slavery in Pre-Civil War America. While it is the general consensus that slavery is a blight on the history of the United States and a horrible example of systematic mistreatment and abuse on a national level, there are some who believe that the economy and the infrastructure of the United States benefited from this gross misuse of human life.
In light of these benefits, is should slavery be considered ethical? Absolutely not. What about “lesser evils? Many employees find themselves in positions where telling a white lies, a half-truth, or outright cheating would result in positive outcomes. Are these actions justified because they benefit the company? This learner does not thinks so. As Christians we should consult God in all we do and His will should determine if our actions are right or wrong.. If we hold ourselves to the standards of man, who then do we serve? While the Utilitarian Model encourages actions for the greater good, man is not our God and should not be our moral compass. We do not exist to make each other happy, but to please God. nd Corinthians 4:1-18 states, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake,” (The Holy Bible). The deontological theory states that people should adhere to their obligations and duties when analyzing an ethical dilemma. This means that a person will follow his or her obligations to another individual or society because upholding one’s duty is what is considered ethically correct. For instance, a deontologist will always keep his promises to a friend and will follow the law.
A person who follows this theory will produce very consistent decisions since they will be based on the individual’s set duties. Perhaps the most significant thing to understand about deontological moral systems is that their moral principles are completely separated from any consequences which following those principles might have. This learner believes that this theory encourages individuals to consider themselves and their personal preferences above all other considerations. While the individual may experience positive results, no thought is given to their fellowman, society or the environment.
If one only focuses on themselves, dishonest and unfair practices are considered ethical, if they result in a positive outcome for the individual. Consider this example: A lawyer who has had some difficulty in the past vows that he will win the very next case he tries. While this is an admirable and understandable goal, to what ends is the lawyer willing or allowed to go to achieve this goal? Under the deontological theory the lawyer may employ all available tactics, regardless of their legality to win the case. The lawyer can ignore the ethical restraints that previously agreed to adhere in an effort to win.
Also consider that this is a case that the lawyer should not win. Maybe there are representing a client that is guilty and deserves to be punished. The deontological school of thought does not consider any of the issues previously discussed. The primary concern is the individual’s personal beliefs and what is best for them. This learner believes that it is important to consult Scripture in the analysis of these ethical models. Philippians 2:4 states, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” (The Holy Bible).
The Bible further states in Luke 6:30-36, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ” These Scriptures serve as reminders of how we are to treat and relate to our fellowmen. If each person only concerned themselves with the wellbeing of themselves and those closest to them we would be left with an a selfish, elitist society. Wealth would change hands only within from family to family. There would be little incentive to donate to those less fortunate. The Virtue Ethics model focuses mainly on the character of the individual. It asserts that the character of the individual will determine what actions are best for them.
It also holds that if an individual is good than his actions will be good. It focuses on what the individual should choose for his/her own personal inward behavior (character) rather than the individual relying solely on the external laws and customs of the person’s culture. “Aristotle describes ethical virtue as a “hexis”(“state” “condition” “disposition”)—a tendency or disposition, induced by our habits, to have appropriate feelings (1105b25–6). Defective states of character are hexeis (plural of hexis) as well, but they are tendencies to have inappropriate feelings.
The significance of Aristotle’s characterization of these states ashexeis is his decisive rejection of the thesis, found throughout Plato’s early dialogues, that virtue is nothing but a kind of knowledge and vice nothing but a lack of knowledge. Although Aristotle frequently draws analogies between the crafts and the virtues (and similarly between physical health and eudaimonia), he insists that the virtues differ from the crafts and all branches of knowledge in that the former involve appropriate emotional responses and are not purely intellectual conditions,” (Kraut, 2010).
This learner sees one major flaw with the Virtue Ethics Model. It places the power to determine what is good and evil in the hands of the individual. Christians understand that the measure of what is right and wrong can only come from God. Philippians 4:6-7 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (The Holy Bible).
The divine command theory of ethics asserts that the only way to determine if an act is either moral or immoral is if God either commands us to or prohibits us from doing it. This learner believes that this form of ethics requires individuals to look at situations from a Christian worldview, and is the surest way to make the best possible decisions. God encourages love, compassion and charity. These things are surely good. It also encourages us to treat others fairly and to pay our debts. The Christian worldview provides practitioners with a clear set of instructions on how to live our lives.
The Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20: 3-17, an entire book of Proverbs and the New Testament all provide valuable information for Christians and is sure to address many of the ethical conflicts that often arise in business. Proverbs 2:1-5 of The Holy Bible, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. It is important that as Christians we practice our faith in the workplace as well as home. “One of the greatest hindrances to the gospel’s effectiveness is Christians who act one way at church and another way elsewhere. The way we live for God should permeate all areas of life. The workplace is no exception. The way we act reflects our faith. So if we claim to be Christians, our coworkers, bosses, and employees will equate our attitudes and actions with Jesus,” (Stanley). Of the five ethical models discussed, this learner wholeheartedly believes that the Divine Command Theory? Christian worldview is the ethical model to follow.
- Manuel Velasquez, M., Andre, C. Shanks, Myer, Michael & Myer, S.J. Ethical Relativism. Retrieved from: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/ethicalrelativism.html
- The Holy Bible
- Houser, Rick, Wilczenski, Felicia L., Ham, MaryAnna. 2006. Culturally Relevant Ethical Decision-Making in Counseling. Sage Publications, Inc. Retrieved from: http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/10976_Chapter_4.pdf
- Rainbow, Catherine. 2002. Descriptions of Ethical Theories and Principles. Department of Biology, Davidson College. Retrieved from: http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/kabernd/Indep/carainbow/Theories.htm
- Cline, Austin. Deontology and Ethics: What is Deontology, Deontological Ethics? Ethics as Obedience to Duty and God: Is Being Ethical just Being Obedient?. Retrieved from: http://atheism.about.com/od/ethicalsystems/a/Deontological.html
- Hursthouse, Rosalind. Virtue Ethics. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/
- Kraut, Richard. 2008. Aristotle’s Ethics. Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/#EthVirDis
- Stanley, Charles. How Should Christians Act in the Workplace? Retrieved from: http://www.jesus.org/following-jesus/evangelism-and-missions/how-should-christians-act-in-the-workplace.html