Morality, Ethics and Ethical Integrity

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Introduction

Morality and ethics are two interconnected principles guiding human actions. Morality occurs on an individual level whereas ethics are the mechanics that control morality in a society. When these ethics are implemented with reliability and consistency, they become dependable, giving rise to ethical integrity. For there to be consistency and reliability, there is need to define a decision making process that would give the decision maker the best possible results through the use of the moral questions and theories. These moral theories try to provide the decision maker with the avenues to answer the moral questions. This paper seeks to exemplify the relationships among ethics, integrity and morals and how decisions on ethical dilemma can be made to ensure that ethical integrity is maintained.

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Morality, ethics and ethical integrity

Morality is the rules of behavior accepted by an individual as the basis for their actions and are proposed by the individual, society, or other groups which include but are not limited to religions. It is the behavioral patterns that are guided by specific conditions and which rational people are expected to adopt. These rules of behavior are presumed to be most essential by the individuals or a group of individuals (Gert, 2008).

Morals are used to portray a person’s character. Ethics on the other hand are based on social characteristics in which the morals are applied. They point out the rules and regulations or the expectations of the group the person is a member of.

Ethics therefore are principles or rules that say on what is right or wrong, and good or bad and are used to determine or rate the competing choices. This makes ethics the rules that direct behavior and these rules are timeless in that their changes are gradual. Morality on the other hand stands for a particular instance in time because it changes regularly. Ethics are superior to morality for they often lead to the changes in morals (Desnoyers, n.d). Morals are of individual nature and they form a person’s rule of conduct in a given social setting whereas ethics create the social structure and framework in which the morals are applied.

Integrity can be described as the quality of being honest and truthful or reliable and dependable all the time. Ethical integrity is the unwavering believe in and observance of the moral values and the rules of conducts. Integrity is the reliability or consistency and therefore ethical integrity is the reliability or consistency of the guidelines to morality. It is the standing up to these rules of behavior, no matter what the circumstances may be (Cox, et al, 2003, p. 1).

Moral questions and theory

Moral questions deals with what a person is supposed to do or act whereas moral theory tries to find and explain the ways in which a person may accomplish this. Moral questions therefore deal with the determination of what is good or bad, right or wrong. The main aim of the moral theory in practical terms is to help find the most appropriate decision making model that can be used to steer the decision maker to the proper moral way of thinking about things pertaining morality (Timmons, 2002, p.3).

Standards for evaluating moral theory

Moral theory should be consistent in that, it should offer consistent judgment on morality about the subjects under study. This is by having a clear definition of what it considers ethical and avoid contradiction. Ambiguity leads to inconsistency meaning that the theory gives double meanings on morality hence failing to supply the kind of decision making procedures that was hoped for in the particular cases (Timmons, 2002, p.13).

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Determinacy of the moral theories is the reference to the ability of the theories’ principles to come up with specific moral decisions when used on actual cases. This implies the ability to produce a crystal clear guideline to decision making in which the variables in the guideline well explained. Failure to do this would result in the theory not providing guidance on what to do (Timmons, 2002, p.13).

Theories can also be evaluated in terms of applicability. This is through its structure and requirements. They should be easily understood and the comparative data easily accessed by those to whom they are applied.

Internal and external supports are also methods of evaluating a theory. In the internal support, it is assumed that although human beings have differences concerning moral issues, they at times agree on matters of moral concerns. These may include the issues of rape, murder among others. These are the considered moral beliefs and theories are tested against them to see if they fit together or not. If they fit together the degree of the correctness of the theory is increased and vice versa (Timmons n.d, p.6).

The external support says that moral principles are not exclusive in that they don’t stand alone but they influence and are influenced by other fields of study. When the principles of a theory are in line with the beliefs from other fields, then the theory is more likely to be correct and vice versa (Timmons, n.d, p. 7).

Explanatory power of a theory can also be used to evaluate a theory. This is the ability of a theory to explain what good or bad, right or wrong is and what makes something or a given action so. This means that the theory should have ways of telling why the actions and persons or anything else that may be used for evaluation are good or bad or in other cases right or wrong.

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Ethical decision making procedure

When making an ethical decision, it is imperative to think through the process so that the best possible decision may be arrived at. This process is guided by the theories that seek to offer the answers to the moral questions concerning the moral dilemma.

Identification and the assessment of the problem

In order to make a decision, there must be something that needs to be addressed. The question of whether there is a dilemma should be addressed and if so, the problem is analyzed to determine if it has an ethical bearing. Ethical issues are not always guided by the law or the religion (Swinton, n.d).

Getting the facts

The decision maker should then analyze the information he or she has concerning the issue. The decision made will have an impact on some people so the people to be affected and how should be determined. This helps in making the decisions for the decision maker is able to determine the effects of his decisions. Issues involved should be identified. These may include the laws on the subject. The laws on the issue should be identified and studied. These rules may be state or federal or even institutional. What the law says about the dilemma is important. The decision should be molded to conform to the existing rules dealing with the issue because the rules should be preserved not broken (Swinton, n.d).

After the facts are gotten, the relevant issues are separated from the irrelevant ones so that the attention of the decision maker will be focused on the important issues

Evaluation of the alternative courses of action

The decision maker after reviewing the information has the duty to make the decision most suited for the particular instance and which is ethical. There are many approaches to decision making that guide an individual in making most ethical and more preferable ethical decisions. These approaches include the utilitarian approach.

This is a consequentialist approach that argues that people should act in ways that result in positive results. Using this approach the decisions are made that lead to most good while at the same time causing the least harm (Russo, n.d). The outcome of an action is the sole consideration of this approach. The greatest good in an action defines its ethics.

The rights of all the people concerned should be protected and the rights approach seeks to ensure that. The decisions that will protect the rights of the people are adopted for it is presumed to be most ethical under this approach (Swinton, n.d, p. 2).

Duty is considered as ethical in the deontological approach. The decisions that will allow one to do his or her duties are adopted. This sees individual as having an ethical obligation to do their duties (Rainbow, 2002).

The virtue approach deals with the action that exemplifies the character of the doer. Decisions that are in line with the person’s character are adopted in this approach to decision making (Rainbow, 2002).

Casuistry theory approach is where the past moral dilemmas of the same kind as the one under study are studied and analyzed so that they can give the decision maker an idea of what results their decisions will yield. This kind of approach is best issued when the dilemma involve medical ethics. The decisions on past cases on medicine and their results together with the impact they had on the concerned individuals are examined and this helps the decision maker be able to predict on the likely outcomes of their decisions hence helping make the best decision (Carter, 2002). This method is also known as the case based theory. These alternatives help the decision maker to choose the best possible path to follow in the making and the implementation of the decisions.

Pilot project and implementation

The decision should then be tested before being implemented on the general public. This is to test their applicability and their effects or results and is done on a theoretical manner. If the decision is not applicable there is need to revised it and come up with a more workable option. If it works, action is then taken to implement the decision. There is need for flexibility since the decisions were made using the information available at the time. Due to the changing nature of the circumstances and information, the decision making process should allow for flexibility so that the process can change with the changes in the circumstances (Swinton, n.d, p. 2).

Ethical decision making process should therefore be regulated by the need to attain ethical integrity by ensuring that the decisions made are reliable and consistent in that they should have replicability in different situations as long as the other factors which include but are not limited to the circumstances surrounding the moral dilemma remain constant. The integrity of the ethics should show their universalism in a given area in that the different but related dilemma should be dealt with in a similar way. The defined code of ethics on certain situations should apply to all similar situations without discrimination (Swinton, n.d, p. 2).

Ethical integrity is hard to maintain especially when you are only answerable to yourself or the dilemma concerns the decision maker in a personal way hence may feel inclined to try and influence the results of his actions. There is need to maintain high levels of integrity and the first step is by being honest not only to the others but also to yourself. Ethics are in all human activities and ethical integrity acts to ensure that they are observed and religiously applied without deviations or changes in an effort to benefit some stakeholders in the dilemma at the expense of the others

Conclusion

Morality is the rules guiding an individual’s behavior patterns and these rules originate from the individual, society or a group such as the church or religions. These rules operate in the structures and the framework formed by ethics in the society. Morality and ethics are two interconnected principles guiding human actions. Morality occurs on an individual level whereas ethics are the mechanics that control morality in a society. Questions on Moral issues deal with what a person is supposed to do or act in a given instance whereas moral theories works as a source of guidance to the decision maker on how to effectively answer the moral questions and come up with the best answers.

The applicability, consistency, determinacy, explanatory ability, internal and the external support of these theories are used to evaluate the usability of the theories to solve the moral questions concerning a given moral issue. These characteristics of the theories tell the decision maker what theory will bring about the best results in a given situation. When these theories are consistently applied on different situations to produce reliable results the issue of integrity arises hence ethical integrity. This happens when the consistency of the theories in the mode of application and the nature of the results are in line for different situations but with similar ethical dilemma.

Ethical integrity should be observed for it deals with all the aspects of human life through ethics and it helps the decision maker choose the best alternative of the decisions he could make without being prejudiced by the need for personal gains or giving others advantage at the expense of the others. There is need for the guidelines on the decision making process especially when the decisions being made are of moral nature. Ethics under which the morality is based need to be identified and decisions concerning them made on.

Basis that seeks the best alternative at all the times and this ensures that there is integrity in these ethical decisions and actions.

References

Carter, L. (2002). A Primer to Ethical Analysis. The University of Queensland, Office of Public Policy and Ethics, Institute for Molecular Bioscience. Web.

Cox, D. et al. (2003). Integrity and the fragile self. UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. Web.

Desnoyers, G. (N.d). Ethics and Morality: What is ethics? Web.

Gert, B. (2008). The Definition of Morality, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.

Rainbow, C. (2002). Descriptions of Ethical Theories and Principles. Web.

Russo, M. (N.d). Utilitarianism in a Nutshell: Why No One Likes a Consequentialist. Molloy College: Department of Philosophy. Retrieved April 8, 2010, from http://www.molloy.edu/sophia/ethics/utilitarianism.htm.

Swinton, L. (N.d). Ethical Decision Making: How to Make Ethical Decisions in 5 Steps. 2010. Web.

Timmons, M. (2002). Moral Theory: An Introduction. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Web.

Timmons, M. (N.d). Introduction to Moral Theory: The Nature and Evaluation of Moral Theories. 2010. Web.

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