Ethics: More Than Just Good vs Evil.

This blog was created for the sole purpose of talking about ethical issues and organizational social media policies. In future posts, we will talk about heavy topics like privacy, astroturfing, brandjacking and so much more. In some posts, we will cover a few case studies to really emphasize each situation. At the end of each post, there will discussion questions so we, as philosophers, can gain a better understanding of each topic. However, before we can even step into the arena of these ethical issues, there are some basics we need to cover.

In my research of ethics, or sometimes referred to as moral philosophy, has multiple definitions. It isn’t just about the study of right from wrong, there are subcategories including: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.

Metaethics is all about questioning our motives of moral philosophy. They try and get to the root of each ethical principle we, as humans, have and decipher whether or not they are just social norms or extend from a higher power. An example of this could be a girl saving herself for marriage. Does she do this because she wants to or is there an underlying reason? Perhaps she does it for God or possibly her family. Metaethics really digs deep into the meaning behind every decision we make in life.

Normative ethics are a more practical type of approach to ethics. It just accounts for the daily decisions we make in our lives and whether they were good/bad or right/wrong. An example of this could be someone who dropped a $20 bill on the ground. Do you pick it up and keep it for yourself or do you give it back to its rightful owner? In a way, normative ethics are the obvious decisions we should/shouldn’t make.

Our last subcategory of ethics is applied ethics. This is the study of controversial topics and examining them. Applied ethics is probably the subcategory of ethics we will be discussing the most because it involves business ethics as well. Another example of this type of ethics could be the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military. This is a very current controversial topic in today’s news and can be debated on both sides.

Now that you have a better understanding of the subcategories of ethics, we can now go more in depth on ethical issues in future posts.

Here is a video segment done by 60 Minutes on an applied ethics topic. They discuss the “Don’t, Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. They sit down with many gay men in the military and ask what they have to say on the subject. The two videos are linked together as the same segment.

Take a look. The reason this is an applied ethics topic is due to its controversial nature. Watch as each man has a different experience with the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

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  1. #1 by Lauren Pezze on October 5, 2010 - 11:51 PM

    I really enjoyed reading your post, and am looking forward to more to come.

    Normative ethics make a company or corporation ask what are our moral obligations. I think this is very important because so often, people believe that corporations are only set out to make money. If a company shows that they look into and think about ethical issues, they will become more trustworthy to the public and their customers.

    To answer your second question, an example of applied ethics is one that my father deals with on a normal basis. He is an environmental consultant and was in the application process of approving a power plant. Building new power plants are quite controversial because many people believe that if they live close to one, they can be harmed in some way. Although this is true of some power plants, others are very clean for the environment–even helpful to the environment. In dealing with issues like the one I just stated, people really have to consider the ethics of all parties involved.

    • #2 by Shane Garvin on October 6, 2010 - 3:48 AM

      Thank you Lauren and I look forward to hearing from you in the future. I believe you are spot on about normative ethics. I believe you were talking about how ethics can really translate into transparency of the company. When you are open and honest with your stakeholders, then they can put all of their trust into your company.

      It seems that your father has a lot of responsibility. The situation can also translate back to transparency. If you are honest about the dangers, when they are present, then stakeholders or even your own neighbors will be able to trust you more. Again, thank you for commenting and I look forward to more of them.

      Shane

  2. #3 by Kimberly Lofgren on October 7, 2010 - 1:41 AM

    Great introduction to the topics you’ll be discussing later on. I think normative ethics are learned when we are children, like stealing is not OK. I think we know that when making any kind of decision the outcomes for each side should be looked at before a decision is made. This is important for companies to understand and show their customers that they understand. Customers don’t want a company to make a decision without thinking about what will result from that decision. In Lauren’s dad’s case he should take into account what other people feel about it before signing off on a power plant if he wanted to be ethical.

    • #4 by Shane Garvin on October 7, 2010 - 4:55 AM

      That is a really great point Kim. I never even thought about the different types of ethics being learned as we grew up. Normative ethics are definitely the ones we are taught at a young age. And when it comes to the case of what Lauren’s father should do in this case, it all comes back to transparency. He should really open up and let others participate in what he should do about whether signing the power plant or not.

      Your comments are deeply appreciated and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
      Shane

  3. #5 by Julia Rubel on October 10, 2010 - 1:33 AM

    This post gives me a different view on ethics. I didn’t know there were so many different kinds. To answer your questions, as students, I think a main issue we all deal with ethical issues in the classroom such as plagiarism and cheating. I think applied ethical issues are more apparent and noticeable on a college campus. There is such a mixture of people from all walks of life. Judgments of other people with differing beliefs and attitudes are made on a daily basis in politics and other issues mentioned on the encyclopedia website. Personally, I have experience applied ethics in choosing not to partake in arguments where my friend and I have had differing opinions about religion.

    In relation to corporate communications, companies need to have an ethical standard for all employees and work to apply to. It is very important in order for a company to be trustworthy.

    • #6 by Shane Garvin on October 10, 2010 - 2:04 PM

      I’m pleased that I could change your views on ethics Julia and I, myself, did not know there were so many types. A college campus is definitely a huge host for applied ethical issues. I believe we all have experienced or witnessed cases of plagiarism or cheating. Whether it be ourselves or people we know. It all boils down to how we feel at the end of the day about what we did. Did I cheat? Do I care? I personally know of people who cheat and not only is it unethical for them to get away with it, but it is unethical of me to not report it.

      Thank you so much for your comments. They are much appreciated.
      Shane

  4. #7 by Phillip George Mike on October 10, 2010 - 5:52 PM

    Not to sound like a broken record, but I also didn’t realize there were different kinds of ethics. I took an ethics class and high school, and it was very much focused on normative and applied ethics.

    Metaethics struck me as particularly interesting. It seems like it really gets to the core of the way we think, feel, and act, and a thorough understanding of metaethics can really help you out down the road if applied properly.

    Of course though, the business world is riddled with ethical situations, and although everyone has different views, it is important to take time to not just acknowledge ethics, but to try to understand them to avoid risky situations down the road.

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