Introduction to Ethics

Introduction to Ethics

Introduction to Ethics Definitions, moral theories and principles Presented by Dr. Paul Voakes at CSMA Winter Thaw 2017 What is Ethics, anyway? Three serviceable definitions (New Oxford American) Moral principles that govern a persons or groups behavior

(Random House): study dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness or wrongness of certain actions . . . And the motives and ends of such actions. Paul Voakes: The process of making rational choices between what is morally justifiable and unjustifiable What Ethics Isnt Its not intuitive its deliberate, rational

Good ethical decisions are based on evidencebased reasoning, not gut feelings We try to do ethics, not have ethics A code of ethics is NOT a legal code What Ethics Isnt Ethics is not the same as morals Morality: a set of beliefs one embraces, to provide the basis for right/wrong, good/bad distinctions Ethics brings morality into real-life dilemmas*,

concluding with what ought to be done *Why are they dilemmas? Because two or more moral values are in conflict So, whats the correct answer? Usually, multiple justifiable decisions Lets teach tools for ethical reasoning, not simply dos and donts Each situation is different, to be sure But our system of thinking about doing the

right thing should be consistent And beyond journalism: It doesnt hurt to be able to apply the tools to teen life Lets not confuse Law and Ethics Law Rights, requirements, prohibitions that are enforceable by government Must, must not, can, cannot . . . Lets not confuse Law and Ethics

Ethics Seeking morally justifiable behaviors Ought, ought not In an ethical dilemma, dont stop once youve discovered what the law says Its OK legally, but is it ethical? Why moral principles?

Certain principles have withstood decades centuries of scrutiny Principles underlie and help justify the ethical decisions we must make Principles provide continuity In one persons job Throughout one persons life Through an organizations life Throughout a culture or society

The great moral theories: Deontology The Categorical Imperative Immanuel Kant Embrace any moral rule that should be applied universally A moral rule NOT subject to conditions or special circumstances (examples?) And . . . human beings are never treated as a means to an end, but as the end, in and of themselves

Deontology, contd. Deontologists have duties Strict duties (prohibitions) Meritorious duties (positive acts) Even consequences are irrelevant! Categorical imperatives for journalism? Advantages of deontology A code of ethics! But . . .

Disadvantages of deontology Utilitarianism A strain of Consequentialis Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill Focuses not on the act itself, but on the likely results of the act

Goal: Result produces the aggregate good the greatest good for the greatest number And yes, occasionally some must be harmed in order to benefit the many The important converse: Minimize the harm to those who will probably be harmed Utilitarianism contd. Hedonism: Is everybody happy? Pleasure now taken to mean high-order

goods: Freedom, justice, knowledge, prosperity Act Utilitarianism: Stop to analyze likely outcomes of each decision Utilitarianism is fundamentally more democratic Utilitarianism, contd.

So how does it work? (back to lying, Robin Hood) For Journalism: The sharing of important information is a commonlyinvoked greater good Advantages? (Crystal Ball? Judge the intentions of my greater-good forecasting, not the accuracy!) Disadvantages? (The Crystal Ball again!)

Hybrids of these two? Mixed-rule deontology (e.g. Lying to protect? Robin Hood thievery?) Rule Utilitarianism: Know that certain acts tend to consistently produce desirable outcomes A third tried-and-true approach

Aristotles Golden Mean Virtue lies in the moderate middle between excess and deficiency Between stinginess and wastefulness? Between cowardice and foolhardiness? Between bashfulness and shamelessness?

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