How are we as individuals or even professionals to know “the right thing to do?” Unfortunately there is no road map, or tutorial that spells out what is right vs. wrong or how we are to incorporate that into our everyday lives. As a child we are taught values that are centered on the golden rule, and then as we grow older learn about laws and regulations that reinforce what is taught to be right and the repercussions for wrongs. All of these teaching are the foundation we build on as we go through life in understanding the difference between right and wrong. However it is the individual interpretation and beliefs of these differences that creates the variations within society.
It is my individual belief that one makes decisions of right and wrong utilizing their own character and values whether we tell them to or not. For me personally, I know that I am an extremely strong minded individual that views things my way, so I find it hard at times to see it from another person’s perspective when I think they are wrong. That is exactly why I decided that I could never be a lawyer because I would not and could not defend someone that I know was entirely in the wrong. I am a law abiding citizen and I think everyone else has to be too and if they aren’t they need to be held responsible for their actions. However, being a parent, wife and professional forces me to listen to all opinions/ideas even if it means I have to grin and bear it at times.
Ethical relativism is an area that many people tend to interchange with ethical theory or principle, however they are very different and tend to cloud ones judgment in making decisions both personally and professionally. Ethical relativism essentially is the perspective that ethical values and judgments are based upon individual opinion (DesJardins, 2011). The topic of ethics is perceived to be black and white; unfortunately there are many grey areas that prove otherwise which is easy for people to presume that the grey areas are decided by individual opinion. Author Joseph DesJardins makes an excellent point in saying, “Relativism represents a serious challenge to ethics, including business ethics, because if it is correct there is no reason to continue our study of ethics” (DesJardins, 2011, p. 25). To base ethics on ones opinion really opens to door for individual interpretation relative to ones culture or society; thus never creating a baseline across the board.
If people go down the path of ethical relativism they will enter into an arena where ethics is played with individual opinion rather than reason or basis. A great article entitled Public Opinions and Ethics states that, “If ethics were merely a matter of public opinion, all we would have to do is conduct an opinion poll and establish a ‘majority view’ on a matter to find out whether it was morally right or wrong” (Johnstone, 2011, p. 25). That being said, if it ever came to this, we all need to run in the other direction...