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What Is Ethics?

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A woman gets assaulted by a drunkard in front of a crowd. As a person in the crowd would you help or stand by and watch the woman as she screams for help? Your decision to this incident would be led by your moral principles. Ethics are moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity (). Ethics is the whole domain of morality and moral philosophy (Pojman, 2006:2). Morality is the certain customs, precepts and practices of people and culture (Pojman, 2006:2). For example, when a person says “Stealing is bad” or “killing is wrong” the statements he’s claiming should be true independently. Moral philosophy is the philosophical or theoretical reflection on morality (Pojman, 2006:2). It allows for a person to understand moral concepts and justify moral principles and theories (Pojman, 2006:2).

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Questions that an individual asks themselves such as “Should I tell mom that my brother took the car without permission?” and “Is premarital sex morally permissible?” are moral precepts. They concern not what is but what is probable. Morality has a distinct action- guiding, or normative aspect which it shares with other institutions such as religion, law and etiquette (Pojman, 2006:3). Ethics is defined by conscience is right or wrong. For example, stealing is wrong and asking for money instead of stealing it is right. Religion as defined by religious authority is right or wrong (sin). For example, if you follow the Ten Commandments is right and if you disobey them you are wrong. Law is defined by the judicial body to an act being legal or illegal. For example, driving above the speed limit is illegal. Etiquette is defined by culture. It is having proper or improper according society. For example, having good manners is behaving properly. Morality differs from law and etiquette because it goes deeper into the essence of our social existence (Pojman, 2006:6).

As we know, moral principles guide a person’s behaviour. There are five important traits of moral principles. Firstly, prescriptivity, which is the practical or action guiding nature of morality (Pojman, 2006:6). For example, “Do not kill” which intends to advice an individual. Secondly, universalizability, which refers to moral principles must apply to all parties who are in the situation (Pojman, 2006:6). For example, “Do to others what you want them to do to you” which means that there should be fairness in the consequences of a behaviour to everyone. Thirdly, overidingness, which is hegemonic authority (Pojman, 2006:7). For example, a principle overrides the others in a specific, “should tell the truth even though it ruins my reputation”. Another one, publicity which refers to moral principles being made public in order to guide our actions (Pojman, 2006:8). Lastly, practicabilty which refers to a moral theory must be workable (Pojman, 2006:8).

Ethical assessment has four domains which are, action, consequences of that action, character of the individual and motive of that action. In conclusion, ethics are rules that guide our behaviour and are set out by different normative. They either make a person feel guilty or confident about their decisions or actions and will often lead them to consequences that will not harm them in anyway.

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