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Professional Ethics and Responsibility Lecture 1

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  1. Professional Ethics and ResponsibilityLecture 1 Website: Paul Tate's ELSI

  2. Ethical Theories • Ethics (sometimes known as moral philosophy) itself is not easily defined and philosophers provide differing explanations of it. It is certainly a subject that is used in discussions about how we should live, what is right and wrong and what we mean when we use words like right and wrong, good and bad. Paul Tate's ELSI

  3. To get an idea about what is involved in the study of ethics, have a look at these questions: • Are some things always wrong, If so what are they?, or does it depend on the point of view or situation? • Can we measure goodness and badness, if so how? • Are humans selfish or kind? • Are some people "better" at morality than others, or is everyone equally capable of being good? • Can we teach people how to be good? • Does anyone have the right to tell anyone else what goodness and wickedness is? Paul Tate's ELSI

  4. Why should you be good? • Is Ethics a special kind of knowledge? If so what sort of knowledge is it and how do we get hold of it? • Is morality about obeying a set a rules or is it about thinking carefully about consequences? • When people say, " I know murder is wrong", do they know it is wrong or just believe it very strongly? • Are moral laws the same as societies laws or are they different and why? Paul Tate's ELSI

  5. As you can see, ethics covers a wide range of topics. The answers to these questions have been hotly debated for thousands of years and are still debated today. They affect every aspect of the way we live. They cover issues as diverse as whether we should pay our taxes to how we treat our pets. • We can make a broad distinction between two different kinds of ethics: Ethical theory and Applied/Practical ethics. • Ethical theory examines the different philosophies, systems, ideas or principles used to make judgements about right/wrong/good/bad things or what we mean by those words. Paul Tate's ELSI

  6. Practical or Applied Ethics is more focussed on subjects that invite ethical questioning such as whether it is right to have an abortion or help someone who is terminally ill to die. Of course the two things are related. The theory we use affects the decision about a particular moral issue. For example, I may believe in a set of principles that include one which states that life is sacred and no one can ever take it. This principle may lead me to think that capital punishment is wrong. So the ethical theory (the principle about life) leads me to a view about the moral issue (the death penalty). Paul Tate's ELSI

  7. Before going any further, some definitions would not go amiss. Ethics comes from the Greek word ethikos which in its root form (ethos) means character or custom. For the Greeks it referred to the appropriate or customary way to behave in society. • Morality comes from the Latin word Moralis and is concerned with which actions are right and which are wrong, rather than the character of the person. Today the two terms are often used interchangeably. Paul Tate's ELSI

  8. Approaches to Ethics • There are three main approaches to ethics: • Normative Ethics • Descriptive Ethics • Meta-Ethics Paul Tate's ELSI

  9. Normative Ethics: • This was the prevalent form of ethics in philosophy until the end of the 19th c. What things are good and bad and what kind of actions / behaviour are right and wrong. It involves how people ought to act on the principles, how they make moral choices, and how rules apply to individual lives. • It includes a consideration of the importance of human freedom, and a discussion of the limits of a human's responsibility for moral decisions and for the consequences of actions. • Consideration for the role of conscience in moral decision making is also a part of Normative ethics. This may come from an established group of culture, such as the Christian tradition, or it may be based on some other way of thinking. This is the traditional way of doing Ethics. Paul Tate's ELSI

  10. Descriptive Ethics: The study of ways in which different people and different societies have answered moral questions. Can be described as moral sociology or moral anthropology, a description of the moral code prevailing in different societies. It involves different approaches inside one society to the resolution of ethical problems. Paul Tate's ELSI

  11. Meta-Ethics: • Sometimes called moral philosophy or philosophical ethics. This group attracts most interest today. It seeks to understand the meaning and function moral language, of ethical terms like good and bad. It looks at the logic used in arriving at the conclusion of an argument that justifies a moral choice. Posing an ethical question illustrates the different ways the two positions respond to it. • If you asked the question "Is pre-marital sex right," a Normative Ethical answer would be more concerned with the reasons why it might be right or wrong, how they relate to certain teachings, or traditions of, say the Christian Church, or some other group. A meta-Ethical response would be more interested in what you mean by right, and what it means by a right sexual action as opposed to a wrong one. Paul Tate's ELSI