By Robert B Rice –
With our societies undergoing structural and sociological changes, we are facing dilemmas regarding what is right, what is wrong and how to make better decisions. In short, we are facing ethical dilemma. Now, ethics not only concern us as individuals, but collectively too. There is a widespread discussion going on regarding ethical society, ethical government and even ethical business. Before we delve deeper, it is imperative that we define ethics first and then move on to more interesting issues.
What is ethics?
In simple terms, ethics is the behavioral norm that human beings are supposed to follow when faced with different life situations. Ethics is what you ought to do when you are playing different roles like, parents, citizens, employees and as businessmen.
In this regard, it is essential to point out that we tend to identify ethics with our feelings, law, religion or what our culture expects us to follow. In reality, however, ethics encompasses larger values as many philosophers and ethicists have tried to explain.
Here is a brief discussion on sources of ethical standards that will definitely help us in ethical decision making.
Different approaches to ethical standards
There are five sources of ethical standards that are worth mentioning. The utilitarian approach emphasizes doing more good and less harm. On the other hand, the rights approach stresses the importance of upholding respect and moral rights of those affected. In the fairness or justice approach, the rights of the people are given more importance. The common approach speaks of respect and compassion for the members of the society, especially those who are vulnerable. Lastly, the virtue approach defines ethical actions as those that are consistent with ideal virtues, which, in turn, allow development of humanity.
A framework for ethical decision making
Making ethical decisions is not easy considering the fact that you require a trained sensitivity and also a sound methodology to contemplate all the aspects of a decision and then proceed in the right direction. Here is a framework that would help you to identify the ethical dilemmas and identify the right course of action.
Recognize the scope of the ethical issue – you need to recognize how a decision can be damaging to anyone.
Collect facts on the issue – you should collect enough facts about the issue to appreciate the concerns and how the decision would affect individuals or groups.
Evaluate all the options – all the alternatives should be evaluated against the different ethical approaches to help you to arrive at the best possible outcome.
Test your decision – make a decision that best addresses the situation and also reflect how anyone would react to your decision.
Contemplate your act – you should also consider how your decision can be implemented and what you have learned from the entire process.
The process of ethical decision making is not easy but with this framework you can think rationally and follow a process that would definitely help you to take better ethical decisions.
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