Ethics is about doing what is right; it is the question of what is right and what is wrong. How do we tell and know a certain action is right or wrong. The first question that usually came across our mind, does that action violates any law and is it legal? Are we being fair to the peoples who are involved? Is there any sense of pride or honor in our action? These are the question that we often asked ourselves before judging on an action. According to Cornell University Law School,
The word “ethics” is derived from the Greek word ethos (character), and from the Latin word mores (customs). Together, they combine to define how individuals choose to interact with one another. In philosophy, ethics defines what is good for the individual and for society and establishes the nature of duties that people owe themselves and one another.
A very good example that we can relates to ethics is copyright. We all know that copying other’s work or plagiarism is wrong. It is not legal or honorable to copy someone’s work, it is actually stealing! Imagine if someone else copies your work and claimed as theirs, what would you feel? Surely you would be angered and feel the unfairness that is going on. However in some situation, there is an exception where copying is not wrong. For example, you made a backup copy of a CD that you’ve recently purchased. If we relate this to fair use provision, we are not wrong. It is actually legal to make copies for backup purposes however it is solely for our personal use only. We will violate the law if the copy of the CD is given to someone else or is sold to gain profits.
Both ethics and moral has something to do with what’s “right” and “wrong”. However ethics and morals are different from each other. An individual’s own principles about something right or wrong is called moral. On the other hand, following a series of rules that is provided to an individual such as their profession or the law is referring as ethics.
2.0 Factors That Form Individual Ethics
Everyone has the choice to make decision however there are factor that form individual’s ethics and hence influence the decision making. Figure 2.0.1 shows the factors that form individual’s ethics.
Personal Values and Morals
Figure 2.0.1 Factors That Form Individual Ethics
2.1 Family Influence
From the day we were born as a baby, we spend most of our time with our parents. Our parents have become the most socialized peoples to us compared to anyone else. As a baby, we start learning things by mimic everything that peoples around us do. We will mimic everything from eating habits, talking habits up to the way our parents evaluate and sees things. We start develop our own sense as we grow up and every action that our parents did influence us directly, hence forming our personal ethics. If parents explains and punishes their children when they did something wrong such as stealing, the children will come to an understanding that stealing is wrong and we will be receive punishment if we steals. These children will likely to adopt high ethical standards. In the other hand, children that sees their parents doing unethical behavior or didn’t received any punishment when something bad such as stealing will likely develop a lower ethical standards. Below are few of the situation examples.
2.1.1 Example 1
There are a lot of mango trees in my surrounding neighborhood. These fruit trees are mostly planted outside the house by the owner; these mangos can be easily reached and picked by passing peoples. My neighbor Mr. Jason, whenever he passes these trees he would pick up the mango and take it back home. These mangos are not owned by him and he did not ask for permission before even picking them. His son saw what he did and begin to mimic his father. Whenever his son walks pass the mango tree, he would pick up the mango and take it back home. Mr. Jason has directly influenced his son. Result of this, his son has developed lower ethical standards because of his father’s influence.
2.1.2 Example 2
My father is very close to my younger brother, my brother would follow him wherever he goes. My father have a bad habit, he likes to litter. From candy’s wrapper and to empty bottles, he would just throw them anywhere he likes. My brother started to do the same. My brother would just litter around without concern about the surroundings. In my brother’s perception, nothing wrong with littering and it is normal. He adopted this from my father. Result of this, my brother has developed lower ethical standards because of my father’s influence.
2.1.3 Example 3
My neighbor, Mr. Kent is very hot tempered person. Sounds of argument and shouting from the house could be heard from time to time. Mr. Kent always scolds his wife whenever he is unhappy. He yells out loud foul languages towards his wife, and his wife would also scold back at him with cursing words. Their son who always get caught up in the fight between them two, sees everything. Their son soon started to mimic and has learned to speak these foul languages and cursing words. Their son then says a lot of bad words and swearing to the others kids. Both Mr. Kent and his wife have directly influenced their son. Result of this, their son has developed lower ethical standards because of his family’s influence.
2.2 Peer Influence
When children grown up, they start to become more socialize and exposed to more peoples. They start making friends and expanding their social network. Peer influence happens when individuals are surrounded by peoples with the similar age and background, this usually happen at schools. Children are influenced by peers that they interact ever day. Actions that these peers do will cause the child to reason – “Since everyone is doing it, should I follow as well?” Children’s developing mind is very influential to peer’s influence. The individual will likely be encouraged in doing something not ethical that the peer does. Children are likely to develop higher ethics standard if their peer have higher ethical standard and did not involve in any questionable activities.
2.2.1 Example 1
My brother is a very sociable person, he has a lot of friends in school. My brother would be seen hanging around with his friends most of the time. Recently my brother would come back home very late. When I asked where he went to, he would just answered that he is just hanging around with his buddies. However I noticed that his breath smells of alcohol and his shirt have a very strong cigarette smells. I suspect he is drinking and smoking earlier with his friends. One day when I was on my way back from a friend’s birthday party, I stopped by a shop to reload my phone’s credit. There I saw my brother and his friends is drinking and smoking at the corner of the lot. My brother’s friends have influenced him, he was encouraged by his peer to drink and smoke. Result of this, my brother has developed lower ethical standards because of his peer’s influences.
2.2.2 Example 2
My brother is a very sociable person, he has a lot of friends in school. My brother would be seen hanging around with his friends most of the time. His friends like to get into troubles and fights. One day the school principal called my parents and told them that my brother is suspended from school because of he is fighting in the school. It seems that my brother was pressure by his peer to fighting and ends up physically hurting someone. Result of this, my brother has developed lower ethical standards because of his peer’s influences.
2.2.3 Example 3
My sister is a very lovely but quiet person, she doesn’t have many friends in school. Lately she has become friends with a group of girls from other classroom. Her new friends is very polity and respectful to other. Her friends will greet teachers whenever they pass one. My sister who hangs out with them most of the time, started to do the same. She has adopted a habit of being respectful to others. Result of this, my sister has developed higher ethical standards because of her peer’s influences.
2.3 Life Influence
As we gets older, we are exposed to various types of events and these events have become our life experience. Experiencing events such as memorable conquests, accidents, deaths and many other things is something that everyone goes through. We became more mature while experiencing these events. Past experience strongly influences the individual’s ethical standard, and even might resulting the individual’s feels comfortable while committing such certain questionable activities and behavior.
2.3.1 Example 1
My brother is a smoker and a drinker, he become like that due to his peer’s influence when he was in school. His drinking and smoking increases throughout the years, he had become a very addicted to smoking and drinking. One day he suddenly fainted and was admitted to the hospital, the doctor performs diagnostic and found out that his heart is having problem. He is suffering from heart attack! The doctor said that his habit in heavy smoking a drinking is the main reason that causes that. He survived however was warned to stop taking anymore alcoholic drinks and smoking or it will endangered his life. Because of my brother’s near death event that happened, I realized the value and important of life. I started to take good care of my health, I even make a promise to myself never to smoke or drink. Result of this, I have develop a higher ethical standards because of my brother’s near death event.
2.3.2 Example 2
My father always went hanging out with his buddies after working hours, he enjoyed having drinks with them. One day, as usual my father went for a drink with his friends and he seems to be drunk due to over drinking. On the way back home he meets with an accident. His car rammed into another person’s car. Both cars were badly damaged but luckily there were no one hurt. My father was driving his car when he is drunk and has endangered the life of peoples around him. After that day onwards, my father never drinks and drive. Result of this accident experience, my father has developed a higher ethical standards being responsible by not drinking and drive.
2.3.3 Example 3
My sister is a policewomen, she has a very good sense of justice. The reason she choose to be a policewomen is because when she was small, she was inspired by my father. My father once almost involved in bribery and was in the dilemma because his career is at risk. However because my father has a very good sense of justice, he choose to follow the law and disagree to do the bribery. The case went up to the police and my father’s company was fined because attempting to do bribery. My father lost his jobs because of this however he feels no regret because he has done the right thing. My sister, who knows of this, feels very proud of my father and that time she decided that she wanted to become a law enforcer. Result of this incident, it changes how my sister looks at things and she has develop a higher ethical standard by choosing to become a good policewomen.
2.4 Personal Values and Morals
An individual’s ethical standards are influenced by their morals and personal values. If an individual holds an overwhelming desire or ambition, it may become an obstacle that prevents individual to make rational consideration and they are likely to lower their ethical standard hence committing questionable act. Personal advancement and financial gain will be their top priority and the individual may tend to act ruthless regarding the consequences or the cost to others as long their desire is fulfill. However, individual will likely to adopt a different ethical standard if he or she put priority to their family.
2.4.1 Example :
Jason works for Samsung Company, he sell variety of Samsung’s mobiles. One day he meets a client and he attempted to push his new Samsung phone to the client. However the client was not interested on Jason’s company brand product. The client mentioned that he is interested in the new Apple’s IPhone. Jason then contacted his friend who working at Apple Company. Jason agrees to introduce this client to his company’s competitor as long he is getting a portion of payment as introduction fee. Jason was driven to commit such act due to financial gain.
2.5 Situational Factors
People sometimes will adjust their ethics standard when they are desperate. They do so in order to suit certain circumstances they are facing. It drives the individual to do immoral things that they usually will not do.
2.5.1 Example :
Mr. Lim is a lowly general worker, his son is very sick and required urgent medical treatment. However he has financial issue and cannot afford to send his son to hospital. Out of desperation, Mr. Lim steals the office’s money in order to pay for the hospitalization fee.
3.0 Law As A Guide To Moral Choice
The law is a set of rules, these rules is established and created by a society to govern and control the behavior within that society. According to Wikipedia,
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior. Laws are made by governments, specifically by their legislatures. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution (written or unwritten) and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics and society in countless ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people.
When confronted with an ethical dilemma in making decision we should always fall back to the law. The law will be treated as the possible basic in making a decision. No matter what are the circumstances, we should always let the law decide instead of relying on our point of view and moral opinions.
We sometimes face problem or decision which leads us to an ethical dilemma. Below are few examples that I’ve encountered and experienced.
3.0.1 Example 1
I used to be a school prefect during secondary school. I have a very close friend named Lee Hong, we were like best buddies. One day I saw Lee Hong smoking at the back of the canteen. Smoking inside the school is against the rules and it is a prefect’s job to ensure these rules are followed. However Lee Hong is my very good friend and reporting him to the teacher would get him into trouble. Worse case, he would un-friend me. I’m in dilemma and not able to decide between choosing my best friend and my role as the school prefect. Since I was in dilemma and not able to make a decision, I fall back to the law. According to the Law, breaking the rules is wrong and we should follow it. Finally by referring the law as my basic in decision making, I reported my best friend to the teacher about he been smoking in the school.
3.0.2 Example 2
I work as a computer technical support in a bank. I recently face financial issue because of my car. My car has been breaking down very frequent in the past several weeks. Because of this, I’ve used up a lot of money in repairing my car. I was very shortage and limited of cash that time. There was a staff that soon resigning come looking for my help. He offered me a deal requesting me to copy out the data in the laptop to his personal pen-drive, in return he will pay me very handsomely. In the bank, data transfer to removable media such as CD or pen-drive is wrong because these data is very private and confidential to the bank. Normal bank staffs do not have access and the file copying to such media is disable. However for a technical support like myself, I have admin access to enable this function to copy out the data. This access right is given to me only to be used when backing up data to the server and not for personal usage. I was struck by dilemma, it would be very wrong if I have use the access I been granted with to copy the data to the staff’s personal pen-drive. In the other hand, I really need that cash for spending purpose until my next salary pay day which is three more weeks from now. I was in dilemma between choosing financial gain or honest my job and the trust that the bank has given to me. Since I was in dilemma and not able to make a decision, I fall back to the law. According to the Law, breaking the rules is wrong and we should obey the law. Finally by referring the law as my basic in decision making, I decline his offer and reported this incident to my line manager.
3.0.3 Example 3
My father working in a glove product company, he holds the position of a sales manager. Lately sales were not very good and the management has been pressuring him to find and get new customer. There is a business proposal and presentation with a client that is going on. There are several few competitors during the business proposal competing for the project contract. My father’s company management is very desperate in getting a new customer, they instructed my father to bribe the client so they would win the contract instead of other’s competitor. My father is also much pressured as his company warned him that if he doesn’t agree and follow what has been instructed, he will be fired. My father needed to keep the job however he know that bribery is legally wrong. Since he was in dilemma and not able to make a decision, he falls back to the law. According to the Law, bribery is wrong and he should obey the law. Finally by referring the law as his basic in decision making, he declined his company’s management request and reported this incident to the police.
Ethics is about doing what’s right and what’s wrong. It refers to an individual personal belief about what is the right and wrong behavior. There few main factors that effects the decision making and develop an individual ethics standards. Those main factors are family influence, peer influence, life influence, personal values and situational factors.
Family influence plays one of the most important roles in developing an individual ethics standard. It is then follow by peer influence and lastly life influence. These influences factor bring either positive or negative effect during the development of an individual ethics standard. The amount of good or bad exposure on the individuals is what that holds the key of either lowering or raising their ethics standard. The more negative attitude is exposed to the individual, the more likely it will end up lowering the individual’s ethics standards. In the other hand, the more positive attitude which is exposed to the individual, the more likely the individual will increase and raise their ethics standards.
Some peoples strictly follow the law the some does not. Law is needed in a society; human society cannot exist without the law. Human is greedy selfish and aggressive in nature. Without rules there are no boundaries and there would be nothing to hold us back. Society would be very chaotic without the law.
Ethics and the law is a very solid guide when it comes to moral choices. You can never go wrong if you follow the law, the law is always right. Nothing is above the law. No matter what type of situation, dilemma or circumstances you’ve encountered, refer the law as the basic of making the decision will never get you wrong.
Both ethics and law secures the society. The law safeguarding the society by controlling the peoples what they can do and what they are not supposed to do. While Ethics, influences people to make better decision in doing what’s right and what’s wrong. Both good ethics and law makes a solid guide when it comes to moral choice and it is something that humans cannot live without.