What is Ethics? The answer to this question varies depending on to whom you ask the question. When asking this question, one person may define ethics using their own beliefs and values as a guideline while another person will answer differently depending on their beliefs and values. The following paper will define the major theories of ethics, apply the tools of critical thinking to ethics analysis, compare and contrast ethics, values, morals, and beliefs, and discuss written and unwritten codes of ethics.
Major Theories of Ethics Definition.
Ethical Relativism This theory believes that morality is comparative to the norms of a person's culture or that an action is right or wrong depending on one's society to which they belong. This theory supports a belief there are no universal moral standards that can be applied to people from different societies at all times. To resolve disputes or reach ethical agreements can be judge only by the society's own standards (www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/ethicalrelativism).
Because they claim the underlying principles from one society to another do not differ even if their moral practices do differ, most reject the ethical relativism theory. For example, how one cares for their parents differ from society to society, but the underlying principle is the duty to care for parents. Others argue that universal standards govern customs such as dress, torture, political repression, or slavery depending on local customs. .
When a member of a society believes certain practices are acceptable behavior, some argue that this promotes social conformity because generations pass down values and traditions to the next generation. This practice leaves no room for moral reform or improvement. Another argument against Ethical relativism is its implications for individual moral beliefs. Some philosophers state that if the rightness or wrongness of a person's action depends on the society's values and traditions, that to act differently would be immoral.