1. (philosophy) The study of principles relating to right and wrong conduct.
3. The standards that govern the conduct of a person, especially a member of a profession.
Hillary and I were chatting today about ethics. “So what else is new?” you may ask. Isn’t that, um, your job? Well, not necessarily. We discuss whatever dilemma the world has chosen to present us with on that particular day – personally or via CNN. We discuss our individual responsibility in these matters, and we consider what both our hearts and minds are telling us.
However, when I wrote my post last night on the Savages, a couple who decided to carry a pregnancy to term even though the embryo wasn’t theirs, it really struck me how subjective ethical behavior could be. The Savages’ actions seemed completely ethical because their moral standard in this situation aligned with my own, and also because I felt that their actions were innately kind.
But kindness and feelings have very little to do with ethics. Ethical
behavior means vastly different things to different people at different
times and in different cultures. Take, for example, one response to my
question, “Whose life would you save?”
Charles Cosimano said, “I have an obligation to my wife and myself. I
have absolutely no obligation to the strangers.” Based on Mr.
Cosimano’s comment, one could hypothesize (though, please note, I don’t
want to put words in his mouth) he’d find the Savages’ actions
completely unethical, since they made a decision that affects, oh, about 9 months of their life for a child that is not theirs.
So, back to our discussion today, we wanted to ask you, the reader, to define ethics for us. What does it mean to you personally?
Is it a life governed by your gut feelings of right and wrong? Is it a
life based on logic and critical thinking? Does it change with every
situation? Is it based on religious principles? Societal mores?