Ethics: where do we learn what constitutes right or wrong?
Under the three schools of ethical thought, Utilitarianism, Deontological and Virtue Ethics, you will find that there are varied and different views of how we come by our value systems and how we determine right and wrong. However, in all three of these schools of thought there is one underlying commonality: ethical relativism deems that a person’s values and judgments are based upon their cultural and societal influences and their personal feelings. (DesJardins, 2011)
Ethical relativism simply stated, is that our upbringing and the culture we are raised in influences how we make a judgment with regards to what we deem to label with the titles right and wrong. Due to the fact that each person is entitled to their own opinion, we cannot state with absolute certainty that something is right or wrong and as such this places involved parties in a dilemma in many situations. No place is this truer than in the business world where on a daily basis people from countries all over the world are completing transactions with one another and must be wary of the cultural differences they have. However, this is not always the case and many miscommunications occur due to ethical and cultural differences.
Society and Cultural Influences on Our Value Systems
In an article by Professors Lin and Ho of Chang Jung Christian University, Taiwan, the authors describe the Multidimensional Ethic Scale (MES) which denotes that ethical decisions are made based on four categories: ethical awareness, ethical judgment, ethical intention, and ethical behavior. (Social Behavior and Personality, 2008) In each of these categories, an individual must call upon what their cultural upbringing and societal station deems as acceptable, in order to develop an opinion and take action regarding the situation that must be addressed. Which action is taken will largely depend upon whether it is believed that the outcome will be beneficial to the greatest number of individuals, such as Utilitarianism suggests; or whether the outcome is appropriate based on the duties one has to those around them as is suggested by Deontology, or in the case of Virtue Ethics, is it not necessarily about the rules and principles of what should be done, but rather what one wants to become?
Utilitarianism ethics values living based upon the motto that the end justifies the means, particularly when the ends benefit the majority rather than the minority. One who follows this school of thought will when forced to make a decision that requires them to determine the right or wrong of their actions will follow the belief that their actions must benefit the largest segment of a group in order to be the right decision.
Deontological ethics, in comparison to Utilitarianism, follows the prescription that in order to decide whether something is right or wrong, duty to those around you as well oneself comes first. In the book, An...