Legalities and The Theories to Use.
Class For this first module, I want to make something clear regarding the relationship and the differences between what is legal and what is ethical. The premise that I want you to always remember is that if it is illegal it is inherently unethical by definition or rule. Anytime someone breaks a law or policy, that action is unethical. Let me explain why.
When a law is being discussed and is not yet a law or policy, there are ethics involved. Each side of an issue will argue why the law should be one way or another. There are many examples we could use to show this relationship such as marijuana use or speed laws. For our purposes, lets focus on speed laws.
In my community, there are many houses with children living in those houses. There are schools and pets. And there is a major road which commuters habitually take to get to or from work. The speed limit desired by the community is 25 miles per hour. The commuters who do not reside in the community prefer 40 MPH. The pros and cons of these issues and various other topics such as sidewalks, gates, fences, parking, and others were debated between these two groups until the town decided on a 25 MPH speed limit. Signs went up and the issue was resolved. We had a law.
Breaking that law is inherently unethical. Therefore, if I go 27 MPH on my road, I am acting outside the law and I am being unethical. Now some may say that I may have a good reason to go 27 MPH. These reasons may range from a car malfunction to a need for speed to get to a very important event or to hurry an injured passenger to the local hospital. I would argue that each of these arguments is good for defending myself from the consequences of breaking the law. But my original act to go over the speed limit is inherently unethical. It is wrong in all cases to break the law.
My sentence or punishment from the judge is a matter of ethics by the judge to determine what is fair, just, right, wrong or utilitarian in my case. The judge has an ethical concern within parameters on what punishment should be handed out. However, as long as the facts are that the speed limit is 25 MPH and I was going at 27 MPH, there is no debate on whether I broke the law or not. I did. And breaking the law is unethical.
During this course, please do not present an argument for why you or anyone else who broke the law or policy was acting ethically. When a law or policy exists and one goes against it, they are acting unethically. There may be valid and good arguments for why they acted against the law. However, the action of breaking the law itself is unethical.
Deciding to break the law based upon your values, principles, personal concerns, or other reasons may be an ethical argument for you personally. However, once you break the law, that act is an unethical one. For example, lets go back to our speed limit case. If I exceed the speed limit knowingly in order to get my wife to the local hospital because she is in pain, then my personal value to reduce pain and suffering for my wife overrides my knowledge that speeding is illegal. I do an unethical act for an ethical reason (at least in my mind it is ethical). However, if during my speeding to reduce suffering for my wife and get her to the hospital quickly, I accidentally hit a parked car and did damage to it, my ethical reasoning is now marred. Heaven forbid I hit a person while speeding and the illegal act has now increased its unethical nature because of the consequence, regardless of my personal rationale for speeding as an ethical act to get my wife to the hospital quickly.
Do you see where the distinction lies?
In this first discussion problem, I would like you to share a recent ethical dilemma you encountered at work or within your life experiences. I have found that reflecting on personal experience is often valuable to the discussion of how ethics theory can change your perspective of a situation. For this activity, consider a recent time when you have struggled with an ethical dilemma. In your post, please include these elements:
– Tell us your approach to the ethical dilemma. What were you considering as the event unfolded? What was most important to you?
– Based on your description of your approach, identify which ethical theory best matches your approach. The ethics theories you should consider are:
– Utilitarian Theory
– Virtue Theory
– Duty Theory
– Divine Command Theory
– Choose another theory that takes a different view and reevaluate the situation by applying this theory.
– How does each theory create a different perspective of the situation, and what impact does this have on your decision? Does one theory work better to identify the right answer?