Ethics is concerned with distinguishing between good and evil in the world, between right and wrong human actions, and between virtuous and non-virtuous characteristics of people. It is the study of basic concepts and fundamental principles of decent human conduct. It includes the study of universal values such as the essential equality of all men and women, human or natural rights, obedience to the law of land, concern for health and safety, and, increasingly, also for the natural environment.
Read and View:
- Introductions to ethics
- A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions
- Born good? Babies help unlock the origins of morality (Are we born with a sense of ethics?)
- What is Ethics to You as a Person? (1)
- What is Ethics to You as a Person? (2)
- A Framework for Thinking Ethically
- Kant’s Moral Imperative (Telling the truth is universally accepted)
After doing all the readings (both themes) and watching the various video clips, think about what ethics is. Before you start writing for your first Learning Activity, reflect on your understanding of what ethics is, and how you could describe the difference between ethics and the law.
Your first learning activity will require that you respond in writing to the following scenario:
Your boss has asked that you give a written presentation detailing the major difference between ethics and the law. He is concerned that, although a certain practice is not illegal, it might be considered unethical by your customers (if they ever found out). At the same time, however, the practice will give your company a significant competitive advantage. There is no requirement that the company divulge the fact that it is engaging in this practice, and there is no reason to believe that anyone outside the company would ever find out. Don’t get bogged down in factual questions or issues, but for purposes of this Learning Activity, you may assume that the ethical issue is one of “humane” sourcing of meat for a restaurant chain. There is no issue of direct misrepresentation – it’s a sourcing question. It looks at moral responsibility.
Your boss wants to understand how law and ethics relate to one another, and how one truly “knows” whether something is unethical. He asks whether corporate compliance with the law is all that is required, or whether individual ethical considerations must also guide corporate action. He directs you to prepare a short memo summarizing the difference between law and ethics, addressing the above concerns and giving him advice as to what course of action the company should pursue in this case, and why. If the law does not require the use of only ‘humane’ sources of meat (whatever that means), does ethics require more? Why or why not?
After doing the readings and watching the various video clips, note in your memo what questions still remain outstanding. Feel free to supplement your memo with any additional [properly cited] material you uncover in your research and additional readings.
The memo should be at least 250 words.