It is truly a quite difficult task to find the exact definition of what ethics is. People’s understanding of what is right and what is wrong differs, and the notion of ethics depends on people’s views and opinions as well. But it would be wrong to define ethics as something that people feel they can do because it is right for them.
People’s understanding of it may be deviated, moreover people cannot judge every situation with a clear head and do it objectively. Some people define ethics as a type of behavior that is acceptable by a society. However that is also not true. The society consists of separate individuals, and they may also have various points of view concerning what ethics is. We can also remember facts from history of the humanity where societies were deceived by the state, and the latter used propaganda in order to create public mood that could be used for state’s own purposes.
Just think of German society during Hitler’s rule. Similar to social-accepted rules, ethics can also be viewed as a synonym of law. However laws can be written by those who are not ethical at all. Laws are often changed which means they are not perfect and constantly need to be improved.
Moreover, as we have already mentioned, people’s understanding of ethics can be deviated, and such deviation can be later result in the laws. Ethics is often identified with religion. However there is one question to ask that will probably prove that this idea is wrong: are atheists ethical? Looking at ethics just from the perspective of religion automatically makes all the other people unethical.
We won’t argue that religion does not encourage people to be more ethical, but if we compare religion and ethics, the latter notion is a wider one.
David B. Resnik defines ethics as “norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior ” (Resnik). He also states that people usually learn moral norms in various social settings, such as home, school, church, etc. However the ethical development of a person is a process that happens throughout the whole life. Some people also consider ethical norms to be common-sense. But there is a question asked by this scientist: “…if morality were nothing more than common sense, then why are there so many ethical disputes and issues in our society?” (Resnik).
The point is that there can be one common ethical norm for at least two people, for example. But their understanding and interpretation of what is ethical and what is not may differ. That’s why people who share similar ethical norms may turn out to act differently in various situations.
That’s why the main purpose of studying ethics nowadays is not to define strict norms for conduct (which, in fact, would be almost impossible), but rather to learn the mechanism of interpretation of these norms.
Reznik D.B. What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important? 2011. Web.
Velasquez M., Andre C., Shanks T., S.J., and Meyer M.J. What is Ethics? 2010. Web.
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