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Communication Ethics

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  1. Communication Ethics COMM 4020 Week 3

  2. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  3. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  4. Why study ethics? • Law, rules, policies vs. ethics • How do you decideright vs. wrong?

  5. Practical Ethics • Codes of Conduct • Five ethical principles • Ethical obligations for communicators • The “well-lit room” test • For quadrants of ethical decision making

  6. Codes of Conduct • Ethical codes of conduct for professional organizations • Codes go above and beyond the rules, laws and policies • IABC Code of Ethics • “Engage in communication that is not only legal but also ethical and sensitive to cultural values and beliefs” • http://www.iabc.com/about/code.htm • “Engage in truthful, accurate and fair communication that facilitates respect and mutual understanding”

  7. Ethical Principles • Autonomy (let others have control) • Nonmaleficence (do no harm) • Beneficence (do good) • Justice (be fair) • Fidelity (do what you say)

  8. Ethical Obligations for Communicators • Accuracy • Completeness • Speed in disseminating important information • Storage and archiving of communications

  9. The “well-lit room” test

  10. Four quadrants of ethical decisions

  11. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  12. Ethical Paradigms • Ethics is best viewed as a process of decision making. The factors used in this process tell us how an issues manager views the issue, as well as what he or she deemed an important consideration in deciding the issue. Therefore, we can discern the primary ethical decision-making model for a manager based on his or her description of the decision making processin an ethical issue. • Shannon Bowen, University of Houston, 2002, emphasis added

  13. Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  14. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  15. Utilitarianism • Motive is unimportant – outcome matters • “We must act in a way to produce the best possible outcomes for as many people as possible” • Right vs. wrong?

  16. Utilitarianism • Forms of Utilitarianism • Hedonic (pleasure over pain) • Rule-based (“useful rule” standard) • Ideal • Private ethics (happiness of the actor) • Criticisms • What are consequences and their value? • Happiness vs. “preventing suffering”

  17. Ethical Systems Rachel visited her friend Sarah in the hospital. Sarah had been badly burned and blinded in a car accident and seemed most concerned about how disfigured she might look. She asks Rachel how awful she looks. Rachel lies to Sarah and tells her the effects of the burn are not bad at all. System: Utilitarianism Reasons: The decision was based on the best consequence for Sarah.

  18. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  19. Deontology • Duty (deon) and study (logos) • “We must do the right thing, no matter how morally good or bad the consequences may be.” • Introduced by Immanuel Kant in the late 18th century • Right vs. wrong?

  20. Deontology • Proposes there is a “truth” to actions • “If your action became a universal law, would it still be good?” • Trolley dilemma • “Threshold” Deontology avoids the issue of moral absolutism

  21. Ethical Systems Ted, an insurance agent, receives a phone call from a fellow agent who works in the same office, asking for a ride to work because his car has broken down. Ted had intended to use the drive to work to view some property he would like to buy but picking up his co-worker would not leave him time to do this. He decides not to refuse the co-worker's request. System: Deontology Reasons: The decision was based on duty - Ted would want his decision to be universal.

  22. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  23. Divine Command • God’s will is the foundation of ethics • “We must act in a way that follows the commandments of God” • Right vs. wrong?

  24. Divine Command • Being moral does not always equal happiness, unless one believes in an afterlife that rewards goodness • Answers the question, “why be moral?”

  25. Ethical Systems Rachel has fallen in love with Nathan, a schoolmate in a small religious school set up by a Christian sect. Her parents forbid a marriage with Nathan and make arrangements for Rachel to marry Peter, another youth in the church. Rachel followed her parents wishes and married Peter. System: Divine Command Reasons: The decision was based on one of The Ten Commandments - honor thy mother and father, for instance.

  26. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  27. Ethical Relativism • One’s culture and environment determine morality • “We must act in a way that is right for us. What is right for you may be different.” • Right vs. wrong?

  28. Ethical Relativism • Protagoras: “While whatever anyone believes is true, things that some people believe may be better than what others believe.” • Explains differences in cultures, norms, and societies • “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” • Cannot pass judgments on the actions of others. What is right is right for me.

  29. Ethical Systems Enu, the old grandmother of an Shoshone tribe, could no longer chew the buffalo hides to make them supple enough for making items of clothing. When winter came and food supplies were not sufficient for all, it was decided by the tribe that Enu would be left alone on a nearby hill to die. System: Ethical Relativism Reasons: The decision was based on the mores or traditions of the tribe.

  30. Agenda • Practical Ethics • Overview of Ethical Paradigms • Utilitarianism • Deontology • Divine Command • Ethical Relativism • Virtue Ethics

  31. Virtue Ethics • Motives should drive our decisions • “We must act like a virtuous person would act in a similar situation” • Right vs. wrong?

  32. Virtue Ethics • Aristotle: “Ideal character traits make a virtuous person” • You will do the right thing because you’re trying to be the right kind of person • Challenges: • Virtues take time, reflection and experience • Is it too self-centered?

  33. Ethical Systems Thomas, a missionary doctor in El Salvador, was told by the government to abandon his work and return to the United States. Thomas doesn't even consider stopping his work with the poor people of the countryside. System: Virtue Ethics Reasons: The decision was based on wanting to continue doing good.