I want to talk about something serious today, something that I’ve been reading and that is ethics.

What is ethics?  For some of us, there is a fine line that it’s difficult for us to decide of what to do when facing a decision.  Webster’s Dictionary defines Ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation,” and as “a set of moral principles or values.”  The word moral is defined as “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior.”  Ethics has also been defined as the science of conduct, but ethics is really a philosophy.

The first great ethical philosopher is believed to be Socrates, which Socrates believed that as a foundation, knowledge could provide a system of virtue, and that virtue is knowledge.  I do find fault in this because the belief is saying that a man who knows good is incapable of performing evil.  Of course, most that share this philosophy believe that the most important thing that man can possess is knowledge, and that the most important of all knowledge is knowledge of good.

Then a later group of thinkers came along, they were the utilitarian, and one of their primary focuses was the distinction of law as they felt it should be and law as it actually is.  I do find fault in this because it clearly states the separation of law from morality.

One famous utilitarian named Austin wrote in his “The Province of Jurisprudence Determined” that all human laws, including ethical rules, should conform to Divine law, or what we called natural law.  He wrote further that if humans write laws that don’t conform to natural law, then humans will be punished, as such laws can’t by definition be binding on humans:  “no human law which conflicts with the divine law is obligatory or binding; in other words, that no human law which conflicts with the Divine law is a law…”  The utilitarianism theory is a relatively simple one because they believe the moral, ethical thing to do is the thing that will produce the greatest amount of happiness.  So, when faced with two or more possible courses of action, the utilitarian takes the course that s/he believes will bring about the most happiness for everyone affected by the decision, therefore it is ethical if it brings about happiness.  Reading up to this part, if I may ask, “Are you happy?”, I hope your answer is yes.

Another interesting theory is called psychological egoism, which many professions are binded by this, certain professions are required to comply with ethical rules and that failure to abide by them will result in imposition of sanctions.  Under this theory, all acts are motivated by self-interest, that we might do certain things in order to feel good about ourselves or to achieve public recognition or approval, and what it comes down to is face.  This is a simple way of putting it, but I do have to say that not all acts are like this, just because a person derives some sense of pleasure from his/her actions doesn’t necessarily mean that the action is selfish, then what is the use of doing good deed if you’re going to be judged as a selfish person.  There are many more theories, but I’ll stop for now.

I’ve heard people mentioned that the right thing to do is to abide by the law of the land, but what if you disagreed with the law, but for some, this might not be an option in your way of thinking, and you’ll preach “We must uphold the law!”, but nowhere in the dictionary will you find the definition of ethics as doing that which one is legally obligated to do.  Ethical responsibilities exceed legal obligations in my humble opinion, something to think about when you‘re facing with the choices of having to choose between legal or ethical.

And if all else fail, I often go by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you wish that they should do to you.”, but don’t cite it wrong like I do sometimes as “Do unto others as they had done to us.”