This paper will describe the four different types of ethical perspectives. We will start by describing my ethical perspective; which I found out to be “character” from my results on the Ethical Awareness Inventory Assessment. We will then evaluate the four types of ethical perspectives. Which include character/virtue, obligation/deontology, results/utilitarianism, and lastly, equity/relativism. Then we will conclude with a brief discussion on issues one is likely to encounter dealing with ethical dilemmas at Bank of America.
The four ethical perspectives include character/virtue, obligation/deontology, results/utilitarianism, and equity/relativism; thus, making up CORE. These different ethical perspectives help to explain what drives an individual’s decision when faced with an ethical dilemma. It is easy for someone to say what they will do when faced with an example of an ethical dilemma; however, it is another thing to make that same decision when faced with an actual real-life dilemma. By understanding what perspective compels someone to make an ethical decision, it will be easier to make that decision when one really has to.
I have found that my ethical perspective is character/virtue. I was not surprised when I got my results. I have always done my best to live a life of integrity, which is very important to me. The people in my life would agree. Character is a very, if not the most, important part of a persons make up. Without character you have no solid or clear foundation. Without character you most likely with not possess strong morals naturally. Character is the beginning building block of a successful and trustworthy person who is dependable and values integrity.
The properties of a virtue are very different from that of other moral concepts, such as value. Virtues are something that you possess only if you practice them. Values are what is important to people. I may value honesty, but not always tell the truth. I cannot possess the virtue of honesty without telling the truth (Ciulla, 2004). Aristotle once said, “Virtues are good habits that we learn from society and our leaders.” People must practice virtues while being fully conscious that what they are doing is morally right. One thing about the Greek concept of virtue (areté), which is also means excellence, is that it does not separate an individual’s ethics from one’s occupational ability. Both Plato and Aristotle used many examples of doctors, musicians, coaches, rulers, etc. to talk about the relationship between moral and professional excellence. Aristotle wrote, “Every excellence brings to good the thing to which it is the excellence and makes the work of that thing be done well. . . . Therefore, if this is true in every case, the excellence of man also will be the state which makes man good and which makes him do his work well.” (Ciulla, 2004)
Deontological ethics or deontology, which means obligation or duty in Greek, is an approach to ethics that focuses on the right or wrong of actions themselves, as opposed to the consequences of those actions. It is sometimes described as “duty” or “obligation” based ethics, because deontologists believe that ethical rules “bind you to your duty”. Deontological ethics is commonly contrasted with consequentiality or teleological ethical theories, according to which the rightness of an action is determined by its consequences. Deontologists, such as W. D. Ross, hold that the consequences of an action, such as lying, may make lying the right thing to do (Ross, 2002). Many people feel obligated to do what is right just because of their ethical practices. I feel that no matter what, you should be ethical in everything that you do.
Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility, that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all persons. It is therefore a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. Utility has been defined by various people as happiness or pleasure, though preference utilitarians, define it as the satisfaction of preferences. It may be described as a life stance with happiness or pleasure as ultimate importance (Wikipedia 2008).
Utilitarianism can be contrasted with deontological ethics (which disregards the consequences of performing an act, when determining its moral worth) and virtue ethics (which focuses on character), as well as with other varieties of consequentialism. Supporters of these opposing views have extensively criticized the utilitarian view; though utilitarians have been similarly critical of other types of ethical perspective. In general, use of the term utilitarian often refers to a somewhat narrow economic or pragmatic viewpoint (Broad, 1930).
In philosophy, moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical, or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition’s truth; moral subjectivism is therefore the opposite of moral absolutism. Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries (cultural relativism), or in the context of individual preferences (moral subjectivism). An extreme relativist position might suggest that judging the moral or ethical judgments or acts of another person or group has no meaning. Though, most relativists advocate a more limited version of the theory. In moral relativism, there are no absolute rights and wrongs, only different situations (Wikipedia 2008).
Some moral relativists hold that a personal and subjective moral core lies at the base of individuals’ moral acts. In this view, public morality reflects social convention, and only personal, subjective morality expresses true authenticity. Moral relativism differs from moral pluralism, which acknowledges the co-existence of opposing ideas and practices; but accepts limits to differences, such as when vital human needs are violated. Moral relativism, in contrast, grants the possibility of moral judgments that do not accept such limits (Wikipedia 2008).
Working in a banking environment, I believe having the ethical perspective of character is very important. Naturally having a moral and ethical character places confidence and trust in my superiors that I will do what is ethically right in every situation. I do not see many issues arising in my organization because Bank of America places our Code of Ethics as a priority that each associate must abide by. Understanding character, we see that ethical decisions are made naturally because it is right. I do my best to uphold Bank of America’s code in everything I do.
In conclusion, there are many differences to the types of ethical perspectives with few related qualities. Individuals from diverse walks of life and belief systems come to their own ethical perspective conclusion in many different ways. My personal ethics perspective is character. I believe having good character is a vital part of one’s life. It will not only lead to success, but earn people’s respect along the way. The admiration of others, and the trust and confidence they will feel from one that has great character is priceless. My father has always taught me that “you can never be wrong doing the right thing.” I live my life by this and encourage others to as well.
Broad, C. (1930). Five types of ethical theory. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co.
Ciulla, J. (2004). Ethics, the heart of leadership. Connecticut: Praeger.
Ross, W. D. (2002). The right and the good. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Wikipedia. (2008). Retrieved September 17, 2008 from http://www.wikipedia.org
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