Ethics forms the basis of every decision that an entity or corporate agency makes. Moreover, since it plays a major role in deciding what is right, wrong, acceptable, or unacceptable to society in general, it is the foundation of human morality and conduct. Ethics is characterized as the norms, moral values and code of conduct that society complies with (Kohlberg, 1981). In the decisions we make every day, these norms and principles are also illustrated. Human beings are progressive and dynamic when it comes to morality. This is because ethical development begins in the formative years of human life and progresses during adulthood. Naturally, morality is inherent in human beings as most individuals tend to lean towards the good in preference to evil even at an early age (Kohlberg, 1981). For my case, I developed most of my values and principles at the early stage of my life. In that case, most of my decisions are based on moral obligations.
Various factors influence the ethical conduct and development in an individual as people do not exist in an ethical isolation but within specific and varied moral traditions. As a result, individuals possess different values and norms throughout different stages of life. For example, my current ethics are different from when I was younger and from any other individuals due to various factors which can be grouped into three major categories; inherent factors and contextual factors
Inherent factors refer to an individual’s traits such as age and gender, which influence the evaluation of different people to respond to a similar ethical issue depending on the level of moral development achieved (Kohlberg, 1981). According to Lawrence Kohlberg, there are three stages of development pre-conventional, conventional, and principled stages. The assessment of ethical issues is based on punishment or reward in the pre-conventional stage, which majorly involves children, fairness to other people in the conventional stage, and application of principles in the principled stage.
Moreover, Contextual factors played a major role in the development of personal ethics. They refer to the formal laws and regulations, procedures, code of conduct, rules, and regulations governing an institution. The religious laws, schools rules and regulations, and countries laws all help shape the moral orientation of an individual (Kohlberg, 1981). An example includes the rules and regulations governing learning institutions, which in turn help with the shaping of the morality of many students. Other factors include peer influence, use of technology, and globalization.
Conclusively, personal ethics have developed over the years as a result of inherent traits, society’s norms and beliefs, and institution’s countries laws, which are often influenced by peer pressure and use of technology. However, many decisions are often based on personal ethics and morality.
Ethics greatly influence our choices and, eventually determining who we are and what we stand for as a community. Personally, ethics not only help with the determinations of good decisions but also shapes the future and influences the social environment at large. Diversity is inevitable, and so is the moral diversity. My ethical opinions are usually based on relativity of the ethical issue and the individuals involved.
Many philosophers have tried to explain various approaches to ethics, including teleology, justice, utilitarianism, and deontology (Ferrell et al., 2002). These theories, however, only enhance the moral principles that are universal, perpetual, and enduring. On the other hand, Relativism states that there are no universal principles of ethics and each or group must determine what is right and wrong. Ethical relativism approach states that morality of human actions and decisions varies from one person to the other. In that case, universal and perpetual principles and standards are considered null and void. Therefore morality is subjective and changes over time and across different cultures (Ferrell et al., 2002)
People originate from different ethical backgrounds depending on organizations, religion, culture, and other determining factors. Therefore, it is coherent that what is considered morally right or wrong greatly varies among individuals of varied ethical backgrounds. Various ethical issues are controversial among most societies, what is acceptable in one society may not be acceptable in the other. An example is an abortion, which is considered a norm in some cultures and is a punishable crime in accordance to their laws whereas it is accepted as morally right by a different society or it is considered morally right only if it poses a health risk to the mother. Similarly, mercy killing of individuals suffering from chronic diseases may be morally right to one individual and wrong to the other depending on the different ethical backgrounds. Other controversial factors include sexuality, accidental death, suicide, and among many others.
Relativism as a philosophical approach is relevant and justifiable because it encompasses diversity in the decision-making process and therefore fair to all individuals from different ethical backgrounds. It provides a common justice to all depending on their ethical beliefs. Besides, it increases the moral imagination as one is exposed to varying values and norms. In conclusion, the concept of moral diversity and relativism is essential and should be incorporated in the decision-making process of organizations.
Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays in Moral Development: The Philosophy of Moral Development. (1984). The Psychology of Moral Development. New York: Harper and Row.
Ferrell, O.C., John Fraedrich, and Linda Ferrell. (2002) Business Ethics. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.