Ethics shape the way we live our lives. Ethics define us as a human being; it determines what we decide to do, how we handle difficult situations, and what we make the world,. The term ‘Ethics’ is defined in the Oxford American Dictionary as the ‘moral principles that govern a person or group’s behavior.’ There are multiple ethical systems that describe the principles behind an action when presented with a difficult ethical dilemma. Personally, I define ethics as a set of standards which we ultimately determine as right or wrong, good and evil.
Ethics is an example for an individual to emulate. My personal ethics are a huge part of my personal and professional life. I believe that life experiences and our upbringing are responsible for shaping our ethical system. In this paper, I will describe my own personal ethical system and tie it with a philosopher we covered in class. I will be listing my morals and connecting them all together in order to decide which one is more important to me and why.
I will describe my goals in life and explain why I seek to accomplish those goals.
My personal ethical system is based on ‘do not lie, cheat or steal.’ Although, this is not something I rigidly follow every day. There are times when it is beneficial to omit some elements of the truth. I make my decisions based on how I feel that day, my habits, social pressures, how it will affect me and others in the future, and I like to understand my options and listen to all sides before making my own decision.
My ethical system can be said to be a mix of Utilitarianism by Mill and Virtue-based approach. But these systems are just my preferences, it is not something I follow rigidly every day in order to make my decisions. Utilitarianism favors ‘actions that produce the greatest amount of happiness.’ Virtue ethics is based on emphasizing personal character rather than ethical duties, consequences of actions, and rules. I employ virtue ethics where my actions are based on what I feel and what I think is most in line with what is right according to my assessment of the situation. In applying virtue ethics, one is encouraged to cultivate virtues resulting in happiness and the greater good of one’s soul. I view the combination of virtue ethics and utilitarianism as a comprehensive effort towards the happiness of humanity.
My adaptation of utilitarianism and virtue ethics has assisted me through numerous critical decisions. Utilitarianism considers what results in the greater good and then acts accordingly to promote this. Utilitarianism is most applicable in circumstances where the consequences of an action result in different outcomes, where a decision has a significant impact on the individual and the society (Perry & Fisher, 2015). However, it may be difficult to apply in situations where there is a thin line between right and wrong, and either action does not make a significant impact on the individual or the society. For example, I am a pro-life advocate that takes into consideration the circumstance of the situation. If a female was a rape victim, she has the right to want to terminate the pregnancy and avoid the consequences of a terrible incident. I will not force a woman to give birth to a child conceived by rape. In such cases, utilitarianism may not regard such a decision as an ethical dilemma, which may be argued to propagate immorality as one may justify even a wrong action. There are numerous cases of such ethical dilemmas in every day situation and the use of utilitarianism alone may be insufficient. I therefore apply virtue ethics to cover the loopholes which may be present in the utilitarian theory.
Virtue ethics involve making decisions based on what brings about the greater development of the person. This means that any decisions made must also reinforce my personal disposition of what is right. My decisions should result in greater achievement of virtue and progression towards achieving individual thriving. One may argue that virtue ethics is unreliable as an ethical system because of its individual nature. What may be virtuous to me may not be so highly regarded by another, resulting in conflict as to the very definition of virtue. Virtue has been described as a Golden Mean and involves achieving a balance between two averages or means. It differs in every individual and is dependent on circumstances.
The use of virtue ethics is based on the assumption that the individual is innately good and does not take into consideration that an individual’s interpretation of virtue and good may vary. This has presented a challenge in the application of virtue ethics as a co-system to utilitarianism. In trying to address this challenge, I propose the use of moral examples where one may learn and imitate the application of virtue. Virtue is an example of the demonstration of various values which include truth, patience, honor, and others.
As a psychology major student, my first goal in life is to graduate college and hopefully commission in the United States Marine Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant. My second goal in life is to have a career and do 20 or more years in the Marine Corps while going to school on the side to attain my master’s degree in child developmental psychology. The choice to undertake the two courses I have mentioned above is to help me attain a successful career in the future. In order to succeed, I have to prepare myself for the emerging situations physically, mentally and emotionally. Though, definition of success varies from individual to individual, depending upon a range of factors like ambition in life or the circumstances under which the individual has been brought up. In my opinion long-term success means recognition as a dedicated individual to the cause and an expert in the field of my choice. As a Marine Reservist, the Marine Corps has opened so many opportunities for me and I hope to give back to the organization by serving some time as an active duty officer in the future. Because of the Corps, I became a naturalized U.S citizen, I can go to college and stay debt-free, and I have the opportunity to travel the world for training if available. I seek to accomplish these goals, so I can provide for my family in the future and give them a life they deserve.
An ethics system is one which outlines the underlying system behind one’s decisions especially in the case of an ethical dilemma. My ethical system is a derivative of the utilitarian and virtue ethics system. The utilitarian system advocates for actions which result in the greater good while virtue ethics attempts to address the loopholes in the utilitarian system. Admittedly, the virtue ethics system does not address fully the differences in values amongst different peoples, where virtues and values are individual and thus not the same for everyone. It assumes that everyone is innately good. My personal code of ethics has guided me through some of the ethical dilemmas I’ve experienced in life so far. My values, conducts and ethics are ingrained in me by my mom and grandparents. Through my short experience with the Marine Corps, I have encountered new ethical dilemmas that could not be resolved through my previous ethical system, but the Corps has taught me to adapt, overcome and expand my ethical system.