Obeying the Law Is Not Always Enough

 

 A common source of ethical insensitivity is a legalistic attitude toward ethics that says that if an action is legal or within some set of “rules,” then it’s acceptable and therefore ethical. The prevalence of this notion explains why so many people accused of wrongdoing hide behind technical interpretations of the law. They boast that they were not indicted or …

Twelve Common Rationalizations and Excuses to Avoid

Rationalizations – The Enemy of Integrity: Twelve Common Rationalizations and Excuses to Avoid

 

 Everyone is ethical in their own eyes. Rationalizations are the most potent enemy to integrity. They work like an anesthetic to our consciences allowing us to avoid the pain of guilt when we don’t live up to our values. We want to think well of ourselves so much that we develop strategies to convince ourselves that we are better than …

When Ethical Principles Conflict

 

 When ethical principles conflict (e.g., when being honest may be unkind) and there is no clear-cut right response, you must choose which principle to honor.  Ethical conflicts are best resolved by decisions-making strategies that help you see the moral implications of diverse choices, sort out competing claims, and evaluate the consequences of each option.  The following methods may help you …

Decision Making Models: Consequentialism / Utilitarianism

 

 Utilitarianism  holds that we should judge the merit of an act by its foreseeable consequences.  Actions are good when they produce benefit or prevent harm.  There are two divisions: Act Utilitarianism – The ethical merit of an act is judged by the immediate and direct consequences of the action. Rule Utilitarianism – The ethical merit of an act is judged …

Decision-Making Models: The Golden Rule

 

 This most basic and useful ethical theory, sometimes called the “Rule of Reciprocity,” has a long history: Confucius (500 B.C.): “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Aristotle (325 B.C.): “We should behave to others as we wish them to behave to us.” From the Mahabharata (200 B.C.): “Do nothing to thy neighbor which …

Decision Making Models: Kant’s Categorical Imperative

 

 According to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the moral character of an action depends solely on the principle behind it – not upon the consequences it produces.  Ethical obligations are “higher truths,” which we must obey regardless of the results. According to Kant, moral obligations are absolute and do not allow for exceptions or extenuating circumstances.  A major virtue of Kant’s duty …