Deep Philosophical Ethics Stuff

ethicsDilbert

One of the best courses I ever took at university was Bioethics. It was an elective that had nothing to do with my major, but it looked interesting.  I was quite taken with the notion of “ethics” as something beyond a person’s morality or feelings – the idea that you could make decisions about the concepts right and wrong in certain situations based on a standard that it in place long before the situation arises.

Over the years I’ve taken other ethics courses. Ethics has become one of my favourite topics to read, think or talk about.  The most difficult thing to wrap your head around is defining ethics to yourself. The best way, I think, is to understand what ethics is not:

  • Feelings: Following your feelings will not always lead you to do what’s right. Feelings, in fact, will often cause you to do things that are quite, quite wrong.
  • Religion: Most religions set high ethical standards and can provide motivation for ethical behaviour, but ethics are not just religion and not the same as religious beliefs.
  • The Law: Like feelings, the law does not always proscribe what is right. Apartheid was a law; slavery was a law.
  • Social Acceptability: Most societies have an acceptable standard of practices that are ethical, but societies and aspects of society can become corrupted.
  • Morality: It’s sometimes said that ethics is the philosophical study of morality. So, something may be ethically wrong, but not immoral by most people’s standards. Likewise, something you believe to be moral can be ethically wrong.

Ethics usually come in to play when there is a serious personal, business or other dilemma over which you have to make a decision. There was a good example on Criminal Minds the other day.

There episode concerned some nut who was sprinkling anthrax around in public places – parks, subways, malls, etc.. No one knew how or why or where he would strike next. People were dying. The FBI was frantically investigating but couldn’t warn the general public without causing massive panic. Those closely involved with the investigation were given a vaccine that might protect them if they came in contact with the anthrax, but that wasn’t even certain because the particular formula being sprinkled around was heretofore unknown.

The youngest FBI investigator, Jennifer,  has a young child who spends his day at home with the nanny. Jennifer wants to call the nanny to tell her to keep the son inside the house no matter. Jennifer’s  boss,  Aaron (ably portrayed by Thomas Gibson formerly of Dharma and Greg fame) tells her she can’t do that without arousing suspicion and potentially harming the investigation. After all, who wouldn’t panic a bit if an FBI person tells you not to take her child out of the house, but won’t tell you why?

So, throughout the entire episode the young mother is frantic. She is torn between making sure her child is safe and the greater good of society at large and the job to which she’s pledged her primary allegiance.

Using ethical standard what would you do in a similar situation?

The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics suggests there are 5 basic questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are living and making decisions within an ethical framework:

  1. Did I practice any virtues today? Virtues are the good things we learn throughout our lives: integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, compassion, etc…
  2. Did I do more good than harm today? Or did I try to? Consider the short term and long-term consequences of your actions.
  3. Did I treat people with dignity and respect today? All human beings should be treated with dignity simply because they are human. People have moral rights, especially the fundamental right to be treated as free and equal human beings, not as things to be manipulated, controlled, or cast away. How did my actions today respect the moral rights and the dignified treatment to which every person is entitled?
  4. Was I fair and just today? Did I treat each person the same unless there was some relevant moral reason to treat him or her differently? Justice requires that we be fair in the way we distribute benefits and burdens. Whom did I benefit and whom did I burden? How did I decide?
  5. Was my community better because I was in it? Was I better because I was in my community? Consider your primary community, however you define it–neighborhood, apartment building, family, company, church, etc. Now ask yourself, Was I able to get beyond my own interests to make that community stronger? Was I able to draw on my community’s strengths to help me in my own process of becoming more human?

Hello? Is anyone still reading?

_______________________

 Disclaimer: Sorry. It’s been dark and gloomy and rainy for 3 days now. I tend to crawl up my own ass when I’m deprived of sunshine for too long.

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37 responses to “Deep Philosophical Ethics Stuff

  1. Gee. I hope the weather clears soon, XUP!
    Deep points and worth pondering.
    Being an atheist, I am free to choose my ethical standards from a selection that has evolved from my own upbringing, observations and culture. I am happy with most of my choices on any given day but, being human, I occasionally stray.
    And how do I know I done something that isn’t kosher within my self-established system of ethics?
    I feel like crap. I really do. I feel physically and emotionally horrible.
    That is my way of knowing if I decision that I have made is outside my parameters.

  2. We need to live “within an ethical framework”? Geez. What happened to just getting through the day without killing or being killed? Isn’t that good enough anymore?

  3. Personally, if I was that FBI investigator, I would have kept my child inside anyways. Better safe than sorry, as they say and if anyone asked, I would just make up some excuse as to keep the child inside. (Just a little fib, not an “unethical” one)

    I definitely agree that ethics are not necessarily religion. Some religions are hypocritical and some religious leaders get their followers to perform all sorts of heinous and horrible acts, like rape, murder, genocide, torture, etc as well as discriminate against those outside their particular sect.

  4. LOL, I read this post and then yesterday’s Celebrity Freakshow and I just have to say: you are awesome. I love the way your mind works. Plus, your tags … you’ve got the best tags … They’re like the icing on the XUP cake … 😀

  5. Most ethical decisions come down to whether it is good for me or bad for me. And no immediate gratification issues need to be raised – they are usually “bad for me” even in the short run. You have to look at short and long term implications. If your decision has an effect on other people, it will still relate back to being good or bad for you. If I run into an entirely new situation, that is the touchstone or starting point for me, when I analyze how I should act. It may look simple but it can take quite a while to work out some problems.

  6. I can’t believe you took bioethics! I lusted after that course! I couldn’t squeeze it in, but I read the textbook anyway.

    Anyway, the young mother should give her head a shake and hire a mathematician to calculate the odds of her child falling victim to the anthrax-sprinkler. There’s only one anthrax-sprinkler, and there are millions of people living in that city. Her child’s odds of getting hit by a car while out with the nanny are probably higher than his odds of ingesting anthrax.

    (That being said, I do believe there are situations where it’s okay to violate your own ethics because of something you value higher than your ethics.)

  7. I haven’t seen this show/episode, but judging from your description, the young mother did the wrong thing.

    Your (well-written and thoughtful) post reminds me of the sign outside of St Giles’ church in the Glebe. It says “Law tells us not to be bad; faith tells us how to be good.”

    That sign pisses me off, because it suggests that ethics are derived exclusively from religion.

    (Hm… I’m going to an even there tomorrow. Maybe I’ll make myself a t-shirt that says “ATHEISTS ARE GOOD” in big letters…)

  8. Actually I really enjoyed this post. It was informative, and it got me thinking. How do you try to live an ethical life? Do you have a code of ethics that is fixed in stone, or is it fluid? Does it change in your personal versus professional life?

    Interesting.

    What would you have done, XUP, if you were the FBI mother? What do you think was the best course of action?

    Personally, I can see that the FBI does not want to create panic but this is a situation where people should know. I can’t believe they tried to keep this from the public — it’s a real danger that anyone could experience. So I would have called the babysitter and maybe the media too.

    But if, as an FBI agent, I really felt that it was unethical to alert the public, then I would have asked to be excused from that case, take the day off, pull my kid out of daycare and then stay home with him.

  9. Trashee – I know, I’m tired of all this rain, but it looks like it’s going to go on through the weekend. That crap feeling, I think is more your conscience than your ethics. A lawyer has an ethical responsibility to defend even the most revolting client. It will make him feel like crap, but he’s done the right thing, ethically.

    Tom – Whatever works for you, dude

    Hannah – As a mother, you would have kept your child inside. As an FBI investigator the question becomes more difficult, I think.

    Olivia – Gee thanks. You’re pretty awesome yourself. If I could take photographs like you I wouldn’t need to think up all this stuff to write.

    Julia – Doesn’t there have to be something outside of yourself that you have to consider sometimes? Aren’t there sometimes completely selfless decisions to make? I’m not sure. Like people who run into a burning building without a second thought to save a child and end up dying themselves. Their ethics couldn’t allow them to do nothing even knowing they were risking their own lives, even knowing it could effect their own family if something happened. Ethics are cool.

    Zoom – It was an amazing course. I remember the first few assignments we all bombed because we didn’t get it. Then I had a chat with my English prof about ethics and he was able to explain the process to me and it was literally like a big light going on in my head. I aced it after that. And, okay the TV show ethics case might not have been the best example. The park where the first anthrax appeared happened to be the park where the nanny took the kid most often which upped the odds, I guess. But, I would really like to hear an example of violating your own ethics for something you value more?? Something like this Criminal Minds case, I would assume? She could have put an entire city in jeopardy, messed up the case to the extent that they never caught the guy and he could have gone on to kill hundreds/thousands all for the off-chance that her kid would get infected. In the show she did call home, but no one answered – so she was fully prepared to violate her ethics.

    Grouchy – I didn’t even tell you what the young mom did. See my comment to Zoom for more info. It’s kind of a cop out where she gets away with being unethical. The problem with religion is that it dictates values that are based on a lot of fantasy and illogic. I suspect even the most religious person has ethical standards developed at least in part outside of their religious dictates.

    Lynn – No – they couldn’t inform the public because people would freak out and try to leave the city and the killer guy would have just hung around the train station or whatever and killed everyone. Also, they couldn’t conduct an investigation under those circumstances. Creating chaos, confusion, misinformation and widespread panic is never a good policy. At one point they even had to lie to the neighbour when they finally found the anthrax guy’s lab and the neighbour came out wonder why all the HAZMAT guys were there – should she be evacuating, she wondered? “No”, they said, “it’s just a lot of mould. And the FBI agent couldn’t take the day off because they were in high alert, all hands on deck mode. They had literally a few hours to find the anthrax guy and shut him down and she was integral to the investigation. The whole point of ethics is that it’s not as simple as doing the thing you really feel you need to do – you want to be with your family and protect them and to hell with everyone else. That’s the heart’s reaction. Ethically you have to consider the greater good.

  10. Trashee is right. If there is no God, then ethics is just relative. What is ethical for you is not ethical for me. Conversely, if you believe in a Universal ethic then logically you have to believe in a greater intellect or ethical force/being than man.

    An anarchist does not believe that any one else (especially a government) has the right to impose any ethical or legal law upon him. Yet, he would be upset if someone slept with his wife and stole his car. He really shouldn’t since in his belief system, he has no right to impose any morality or ethical standard on the man who slept with his wife and stole his car. The fact that he is upset means that he believes in some Universal ethic.

    I am a believer.

  11. I’m confused as usual. I thought there was really only 2 ways to think about ethics.
    In Canada we have the multi ethics and when ethics come here they get to remain ethics.
    In the states they have the melting pot theory where the ethics have to become like all other Americans and stop being ethics.
    AM I missing something?

  12. My ethical question of the day is whether I should kill all my colleagues or let them live another day. The FBI chick’s ethical dilemma ain’t nothing compared to that.

  13. Whoa! Number 3 there at the end has been on my mind all day. Stranger knocks on door and asks to give me an estimate to knock out the dent in my truck. This has happened many times by various people in the past, and I never liked the price. Yesterday I agreed. While this stranger is banging away on my truck, the wife with tiny baby approaches me in my open garage where I am watching the man work and tells me her baby’s belly button fell off and asks if I have alcohol. I tell her to wait. I go inside for witch hazel, neosporin, and q-tips. It was hot. I “doctored” the baby and we continued to stand there in the hot garage and talk about babies (and my neighbor has also shown up to see what’s going on). I have two small chairs in the garage and didn’t think to invite her to sit down with the baby and I certainly was not going to invite her into my house. Today I feel a little bad, but am still undecided if I should have invited her inside to cool off. As for offering a chair outside, that just didn’t occur to me, but the decision to not invite her indoors was actually a choice. She left after a few minutes to go back and wait in her husband’s truck.

  14. XUP – I should certainly hope so. The idea that some people (claim they) don’t do unethical things merely because they are told not to scares the willies out of me. Like the ONLY reason people don’t murder other people is because it’s illegal? *shudder*

    Bandobras – Yes, you are missing something. That all changed when Barack Obama got elected president. Now it’s only unethnical if a Republican does it.

    – RG>

  15. Honestly, I’ve never given much thought to ethics. And it’s boiling hot here today, rain would be a blessing. Too hot to wrap my brain around ethics.

  16. Most of my reading is about whether God exists or doesn’t. One week I am reading Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and the next week I am reading Plantinga, Keller and Strobel. I have my own opinion about God, but I just like reading, listening to people talk about God, how they act to even the thought that there are those that believe in such a thing as a God.

    Oh and Lone Grey Squrriel according to Richard Dawkins…you do not exist…Scientist that believe in God? No, no no.

    However I have to ask the question if morals and ethics are not ultimately rooted in our religious past what are they rooted in? Are human’s basically good and ethics and morals well up from that goodness; or is it a basic instinct for survival? Knowing what is ultimately right for the tribe is what is ultimately right for oneself? It was the age of enlightenment that started the questioning of God’s existence and began the age of reasoning and situational ethics wasn’t it? Maybe we just need an age of aged scotch and the age of wisdom will begin.

  17. P.S.

    I really liked this post…and I also really like how your mind works and I am hardly scared at all….well maybe a little…

  18. I think that sometimes instinct trumps ethics and people just react. Like the mother in the tv show. Her instincts as a mother were stronger than her ethics. I don’t know if mine are, but I suspect so. I hope I never have to test the theory.

  19. LGS – God is relative. Your concept of God may not be the same as your neighbour’s or the dude half way across the world so of course ethics is relative. We in the western world place a much higher value on human life, for instance, that some other cultures – that will impact our ethics. I don’t think I said I believed in a universal ethic. I think the 5 questions can be universal and interpreted differently by different people. Sleeping with a man’s wife may upset some people, but not all people in the world. For some people that would not be a big deal.

    Bandobras – You are missing everything. I’m sure there’s a government grant for people like you. I would be more than happy to help you fill out the grant application. Bwah-ha-ha
    Jazz – Well, ask yourself this: Will this do more good than harm? Will my work community be better because of it? Is there a way to kill them humanely and respectfully? If you can answer yes to one or more of these, please go ahead. Then take a drive to Ottawa (I’ll put you up in the spare room and feed you) and apply this wisdom to one or two of my colleagues.

    Geewits – So, people just come door to door with their families offering to do auto body repair work down where you live? I think I can safely say that doesn’t happen around here. But anyhooo – that’s not really an ethical question, just a Martha Stewart question. I don’t think you were under any obligation of any ilk to invite this person and her newborn infant into your home. I don’t understand why the man is driving around in the blistering heat with a newborn to begin with, nevermind stopping to offer his services. Do they not have a home? But, if the guy was going to be a long time, a chair and cool drink might have been nice, but certainly not obligatory. What I really want to know though is: Where are you going to rest your grocery cart now?

    Grouchy – I’ve often wondered what pops people over that line. I’ve really not liked people before, but I’ve never even come close to contemplating murder – and legality has nothing to do with that. What kind of headspace does someone have to have to think it’s okay for them to just kill someone?

    Charlene – Well, I appreciate you reading all the way to the end, including the disclaimer, anyway. I would gladly send some rain your way.

    Cedar – Very interesting questions. I think there is some sort of religiosity in every human. Whether they believe in God or Mother Nature or a non-descript life force. Your ethics are based on values you were raised with combined with values you developed as you evolved. If you want to talk about a primitive tribe perhaps their ethics involved not harming each other, but other tribes and other creatures were fair game if it meant survival. BUT, if no food was available, perhaps the ethics stretched to include killing off and eating a tribe member for the greater good of the entire tribe. Your morals, Christian or pagan, would balk at that, but ethically it’s a good decision. It would be fun to really get into this with you over a bottle of wine I think.

    Alison – The TV show chick was in a very unique position which you and I would never find ourselves, probably. Let’s suppose a plague descended upon the land and it was discovered that one of your children was the only known source of an antibody to that plague. In order to extract the antibody your child would have to be sacrificed and/or put in grave danger of death. BUT without the antibody millions would die. What would you do? Would the certain death vs grave danger influence your decision? What if it was you who had the antibody? Would you sacrifice yourself, leaving your kids without a mother?

    Addendum – Once, not too long ago, I was in a position to be privy to the information that one of my very good friends was going to be terminated from her current position. I knew she was just about to buy a house and pregnant with her first child. The information regarding her termination would have been critical to her house-buying plans. On the other hand, my position demanded that I kept confidential this information. What should I have done?

  20. As to your addendum the confidentiality problem should only be of concern if your blabbing would hurt someone else as opposed to hurting some organization.
    Never forget corporations are in fact only a legal construction.
    Your duty to people outweighs your duty to an organization.

  21. Bandobras – No, but my confidentiality agreement (spoken and unspoken) was not so much with the organization as with my boss. He put his trust in me, not some faceless organization.

  22. So all you have to do is decide whether your loyalty to your boss is worth more than helping your friend save her ass.
    You could tell her in confidence and put the problem on her shoulders to protect you since you helped protect her.

  23. DD took a number of ethics courses in university and, like you, loved every minute of them. I did not, so I don’t always get it when she tries to engage me in a discussion that involves ethics (and I have to be honest, I don’t try very hard. She’s just too logical and her thinking is too methodical. I guess she got that from her father, because it’s certainly not me!). That being said, I actually DO understand how you’ve broken down the concept of ethical behaviour and explained it, almost step by step. On behalf of DD, thank you for helping her mother learn something today.

  24. Your cannabalism statement reminded me of that rugby team that slammed into the Andes and everyone thought they were all dead so the survivors stayed up on the mountain for 70 days. There were 32 people who originally survived, 13 who died on impact 16 who ultimately were rescured because they ate those who had died, 16 additional died from starvation because they refused to participate in cannabalism. They were Catholic, the church ultimately pardoned the people who ate the dead and those who starved to death (because some said it was suicide) the church said that neither side had commited a sin in their actions. I am pretty sure I would have had at least a finger sandwhich.

  25. I like to think I’m ethical and do kind things everyday. I sure have met a lot of people who weren’t. They probably think the same thing about me.

  26. this is a fucking brilliant post and my god i’m glad you wrote it. i do not believe i’ve pondered ethics this way and now i probably will.

    as for the fbi situation, i would by all means protect my child. i may not reveal the truth, and i’d try and be calm about it but i would come up with SOMETHING for the love of god. my next thought after writing this is, gee what about all the other kids and people in the world? i know i’d feel guilty but i would do anything in my power to protect my child.

    the five basic questions is excellent and i think more folks should give this a try.

    as an active member in AA we have steps and traditions that are much like this. it is suggested that we do an “inventory” at night before retiring to see what we could have done better or if we owe an amends to someone.

    our traditions are an excellent way to run a business, a group, government, etc. our traditions, in a way protect us from ourselves. there are certain principles we must live by if we wish to stay sober. and not only sober as in no alcohol or drugs but as in a person who regularly “checks” in with themselves.

    so, having said all of that i was a big fan of dharma and greg.

  27. Bandobras – Putting your breach of confidentiality on her shoulders would certainly not be ethical. Telling my friend would have been acting out of feelings of sympathy, not an ethical act. It would not have been fair to the other people who were also on the termination list. It would not have been ethical to breach the trust of my boss whose claim to my loyalty is greater than my friend’s claim to my loyalty. He has depended on my confidentiality many times in the past and will again in the future. He would not be able to conduct business if he can’t trust me. Telling my friend would result in her maybe deferring a house purchase. But would have an enormous impact on the working relationship I have with my boss. Not telling my might get her into some financial difficulty. And what if I’d told her and 3 weeks down the road the termination plan was cancelled? New problem.

    Pinklea – That’s what I love about ethics. It’s a problem solver that doesn’t depend on “opinions”, “feelings”, “laws”. It’s about rights and obligations; doing good and doing harm and weighing all those things dispassionately to arrive at the best conclusion.

    Geewits – NOW you have a dilemma!!

    Cedar – I read that book. And it turned out they were just a couple of miles from civilization the whole time but didn’t know it because of all the snow. I liked the part about their poo coming out as hard as marbles since they were eating nothing but human flesh — no fibre. I certainly would have tried to choke down some fat or something and maybe tried a little harder to find town.

    Linda – You can be kind and still not be ethical though — like not telling someone something they need to know because you feel it would hurt them. That’s when it gets tough to kind. But we all just do the best we can, right?

    Leah – Thanks haircut girl. I can see a lot of the same sort of philosophy in the 12 steps. Like trying to live ethically, it means living a conscious life — thinking about the things you do and say every day, not just going through the motions and going with whatever the wind blows you.

  28. Let’s just suppose that 15 years down the line your friend is in a position of trust and your daughter little xup is about to buy a house during her first pregnancy.
    Do you really suggest that the friend screw your daughter over in order to stay in good with her boss.
    Telling your friend of her impending problem does not make life worse for anyone else getting laid off. Therefore some good can be done with no harm to others.
    If you want to suppose you owe your boss more than you owe your friends I suppose that is an ethical decision.
    Just one I wouldn’t make.
    There is also no reason to believe that telling your friend would in any way harm anything other than your desire to be loyal to your boss.

  29. Bandobras – No, no, you’re not getting the ethical dilemma here. To you it’s a straight forward thing of giving your friend the heads up and that’s probably the nice thing to do, but it’s not the ethical thing to do. I used the example to try to illustrate that ethics are not always as simple as doing what you feel is right. Ethics is philosophical/head related rather than gut related. Of course my first instinct would be to warn my friend, but ethically I have more of an obligation to my boss than my friend. And why do those other people on the termination list not deserve the same consideration as the friend, in your opinion? They may be in more dire circumstances than the friend who foolishly decided to buy a house while on a term contract that could be terminated at any time? Ethics involves considering more than your own insular little world.

    “There is also no reason to believe that telling your friend would in any way harm anything other than your desire to be loyal to your boss.” Do you believe that? You’re assuming that he won’t find out, right? So as long as the person being betrayed doesn’t find out, it’s okay to betray them then? It’s not just about my desire to be loyal but my obligation to not breach the trust this person has put in me. A married couple have a legal and moral understanding that they will be loyal to each other, too. One person betraying that trust whether or not the other finds out is unethical. There may be some very good reasons — some very deep feelings which would compel one person would like to betray that trust. It may even seem like the right thing to do, but it’s still not ethical.

  30. You see ethics is not actually about anything other than what the community considers to be right or correct.
    It is not about higher moral values it is about the community spirit. The ethos of the group.
    If your ethics are to be loyal to your boss over helping your “very good friends” then so be it.
    If you feel that is the community take on such a question then ok.
    I on the other hand never found a boss who deserved my loyalty more than my friends.
    I never lived in a community nor do I want to where that would be the case.
    Kant suggested only doing that which you would command everyone to do.
    Following that idea I’d rather live in a group that valued each other over their business/ career obligations.
    However if you prefer the other community where job obligations take precedence over your friends that’s fine.
    And as for others perhaps deserving a heads up too, maybe they do but you aren’t harming them because you help your friend you are merely helping her.
    The help is not devalued because it isn’t shared equally with everyone it is still help.

  31. I loved this post, it made me think a lot. I’m probably wrong but my simplification of ethics is: western thinks of the greater good of 1 (the one closer to your heart), and easter ethics thinks of the greater good for the group.

    So the solution for the FBI mother is save her kid, whatever it takes. The solution for the friend/boss conflict is save the friend. I’m always torn apart between 1 or many.

    In the FBI case I would have invented something silly to keep my kid at home, but I would have avoided to tip the nanny. On the friend, I would have discussed her temporary situation, I would have suggested to hold on her decision, but I would have not tell her she was on “the list”, there’s always a good personal reason why a person shouldn’t be dismissed, so if I’m not telling everybody in the list, then I’m not telling anybody, otherwise the whole purpose of a confidential list, for whatever “greater good” they were expecting from that decision, is lost. The problem is we usually can’t see the good on dismissing people.

  32. Bandobras – Ethics is not about the society/community we live in. Once upon a time a community decided it would be a good idea to get rid of Jews. That wasn’t ethical. Let’s say I were married to an RCMP guy who was involved in an investigation where he knew the possibility existed that my life and the life of our kids were in danger. Warning me, however, would create a situation that would seriously compromise the investigation. Sure I would be pissed that he chose “the greater good” over his own family. BUT on another (ethical) level I could understand the decision. I would still be pissed though. One of the most interesting bioethics cases we had was about a woman who was gestating twins. There were some difficulties and the solution was to abort one of the twins so the other could survive. Left as is, the possibility was strong that both twins wouldn’t make it. Very close to a Sophie’s choice scenario.

    Carola – Ethics is a tricky business. And you’re right. Ethics are fluid between cultures. I chose not to tell my friend though, as you suggested, I did have conversations with her about perhaps waiting until she was made a permanent staff before buying a house. It was a tough decision, but there were so many considerations. My boss’ trust, my position and what would happen should it be discovered that I could no longer be trusted to keep a confidence. I could lose my job. My child would suffer. I would have difficulty finding other employment. I would do tremendous harm to someone (my boss) who had been very good to me and trusted me. I had no such tacit understanding with the friend other than the universal “friends have each others’ backs'” understanding.

  33. Yeah – I’m trying;-)
    I’m taking a PMP certification class and ethics is one of the core parts… but I get the feeling that they’re more concerned with upholding their standards to not reduce their good name than ethics in general. I suppose that makes sense, but doesn’t really match the list of 5 you listed at the end…
    It was interesting to read those.

  34. I love reading this kind of thing. Love it. I love questions. I love the whole issue of ethics. I love having to think about right and wrong and good and bad and true and false.

    This was a great post.
    ~Lorna

  35. Ian – Well, these are personal ethics I’m talking about, which are different than business ethics. Business ethics are often more about optics than real eithics. They’re still fun to study and talk about though. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the course.

    Lorna – Thanks for the comment, Lorna. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thinking and talking about this stuff is what helps keep us human, I think. Following instincts is easy and seems to serve some people well, but sometimes you have to use your brain as well as your heart/guts to figure things out.

  36. Nice post.

    addendum–you warn her. mankind before office politics, unless your job is world peace.

    Geez, it’s all I can do to keep from driving to AT&T headquarters and banging heads together for incorrectly billing me for 9th consecutive month. What do I know about ethics? But I do think of each of your numbers on a regular basis. Does thinking count?