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Ethical standards

If ethics are not founded in science, the law, religion, cultural norms or feelings, then what are they based on? Philosophers and ethicists suggest at least five sources of ethical standards. Johnson (2007) provides a framework comprising five sources of ethical standards:

Five definitions are given below that correlate with the named sources above. Read through all five, and try to determine which definition matches which source, before hovering your cursor over the answer key below.

Approach 1: Conditions that are important to the welfare of all and the interlocking relationships within a society provide the basis for this approach to ethical reasoning. Respect and compassion for all, especially the vulnerable, are integral essential components of ethical decision-making. Examples of related initiatives include effective public safety, peace among nations, a just legal system and an unpolluted environment.

Approach 2: Ethical action is that which protects and respects moral rights. Human dignity is based on an ability to choose freely. We deserve the right to make our own choices, to privacy, to be told the truth and to not be injured.

Approach 3: Favouritism benefits certain individuals without a justifiable reason for singling them out, whilst discrimination imposes burdens on people who are no different from those on whom burdens are not imposed. Both favouritism and discrimination are unjust and wrong. Ethical action treats all human beings fairly and equally, and if there are inequalities in treatment, then the inequality is based on a defensible standard.

Approach 4: Certain dispositions and habits enable us to act according our highest potential. This approach to ethics raises the question: is this behaviour consistent with my highest self? Values such as honesty, compassion, tolerance and fairness are esteemed as integral to ethical behaviour according to this approach.

Approach 5: Provide the most good and do the least harm. Warfare is considered ethical in circumstances when the good achieved by the war (such as ending a terrorist threat) is balanced with the harm it did to affected parties. This approach seeks to increase the good and minimise harm done to others.

Select each one to reveal more information.

The Common Good Approach

The Rights Approach

The Justice or Fairness Approach

The Virtues Approach

The Utilitarian Approach