What’s Your Ethical Theory?
Ethics is the philosophical consideration of what might constitute morally good or bad behavior. Ethics focuses on personal judgments and attempts to determine the value in terms of relative desirability (Feezell and Hancock, eds., How Should I Live? Paragon House, 1991). In most cases, ethical theory is an attempt to systematize moral belief. When seeking to inform our ethical practice, we normally examine choices within normative ethics and attempt to develop practical moral standards for our actions. The selection of an ethical theory will then impart to our practice certain habits, duties, orientation for particular consequences.
We select an ethical theory to inform our practice based on a number of beliefs and judgments. Our choice of an ethical theory will rest in large part on our beliefs about the nature of the world around us and is often shaped by our religious values. A selection of ethical theory will also depend on our judgments concerning principles and specific methods of action. The result is that each person selects a preferred ethical theory to inform his ethical practice as a guide to action, not a set of fixed rules. It combines all that we have learned, our beliefs about the world around us, and assumptions about the future to help guide us in our decisions.
In order to be useful, ethical theory must be congruent with the individual’s values and broad enough to provide a guide for unexpected situations. Ethical theory establishes a common frame of reference, including methods for solving ethical problems. It offers practical options based on experience. By establishing common approaches to ethical situations, ethical theory informs our practice by providing mutual understanding leading to shared ethical culture.
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