Can We Make Our Own Ethical Code?

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Can We Make Our Own Ethical Code? A Book Review of Ethics for the Real World ROBERTO G MANAOIS

Submitted to : Dr Dennis Gonzales Business Ethics Ateneo Graduate School of Business MBA Regis Program

Ethics for the Real World: Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life by Howard and Korver proposes the drafting of a personalized code of ethics as a basis for ethical decision making in one’s work and life. The book introduces the reader to the need to be conscious about the real life encounters and issues of individuals who desire to learn, understand and practice ethical decisionmaking. They could turn out to be major obstacles resulting in compromises in ethical and moral principles and decisions; as well as transcend all demographics and classes of society in any community. A good start in learning the skill of smart decision making is to unlearn the bad habits and act from desensitized to a sensitized conscience. These ethical detriments are generally categorized as deception, stealing and harming. Of the different forms of deception, lying is identified as the most rampant. This behavioural pathology permeates not only the mind but the whole being of a person. When it has become part of habit, it can be carried on to adulthood making the pathology more dangerous and its negative influence in the society could spread like a metastasized cancer. Stealing and harming both result in exercising abuse of opportunity and power at the expense of other people’s rights. Whatever the magnitude, nature or intent of these compromises, and however people try to shut their eyes from its true colour and formulate self-gratifying justifications for these ethical compromises, the authors explicitly indicated that the resulting consequences far outweigh the benefits from the costs.

The book further proposes that a necessary step to making clear choices for ethical decision making is to understand the similarity or difference in key concepts that are closely related to ethics. These key concepts are: positive and negative ethics, action-based and consequence-based ethics and ethical reasoning and rationalization, and understanding prudential, legal and ethical dimensions of actions. When choosing a response for an ethically confounded encounter, considering the contrasts among these concepts will help build a stronger reflexive skill and a more mature insight in response to a moral dilemma. This is because these distinctions have the tendency to overlap and might confuse rather than clarify ethical issues. By constantly applying and learning these principles we begin to see through a dark glass closely and will be surprised how practical and very clearly confounding issues would give way to a distinct ethical choice. According to Howard and Korver, our experiences, environment and upbringing have exposed us to different principles and values influencing our capability to judge ethically in varied and complex ways. This mixture of influences and principles formed what the authors call “touchstones” or standards that we now use to judge whether something is right or wrong. The challenge is to make an in-depth search of all principles that we know and identify which of these principles are significantly unique and important to us. These will be the foundation of forming the ethical code that we will call our own. These influences come from our religious, secular and work exposures. The authors advocate that the writing of the personal ethical code be done in three steps: the drafting, testing of the standards, and finally the refining of the code. The focus of drafting is on the three common transgressions: deceiving, stealing and harming, with exceptional situations considered. Testing the standards involves checking the logic and focus and test-driving its usefulness. Finally, to refine the code we need to clarify degrees of separation to what is ethical or unethical, draw sharper lines for our positive ethics and...
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