How Different Moral Perspectives Have Influenced the Practice of Youth and Community Work

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Virtue ethics Pages: 6 (2002 words) Published: February 10, 2011
The essence of morality is ‘concerned with the principles or rules of rights and wrong or conforming to standards based on those principles’ ( However differing models for living morally, resulting from the diversity of experience, will conflict in how they determine what these principles are. Thus, these ethical frameworks will hold different conceptions of ethical practice and what services such as Youth and Community work should deliver. This essay will attempt to show the importance of understanding how different moral perspectives have influenced the practice of Youth and Community work, before describing three contending ethical frameworks of deontology, consequentialism and virtue ethics; assessing under what conditions, circumstances or criteria would each of these view these practices as a moral activity. Morality

A moral principle is essentially one that distinguishes between right and wrong behaviour. When someone holds a coherent and compatible set of moral principles it can be considered an ethical framework, which provides the foundation for how people understand or explain social reality. Thus, it is the basis from which they choose to conduct their lives and interact with others. Such a ‘code’ will be constructed from, and determined by all manner of life experiences, social environments and circumstances, and therefore will vary greatly. Some of the most common factors that contribute towards an ethical framework are personal or religious beliefs and cultural standards. The nature of Youth and Community work entails working closely with in both individual and group settings, where diversity of these moral values is inevitable. Different moral perspectives will necessarily emphasise different roles and purposes for these projects and organisations. As informal educators, there are no ‘ready-made guidelines’ on what constitutes good and bad practice; instead practitioners will have a set of ‘core values’ that they strive towards (Jeffs and Smith 2005). However, it is important, to understand different conceptions of what moral practice entails in order achieve social inclusion, develop practice and interpersonal skills.

Blackburn argues these premises of a deontological approach to morality ‘take us to thoughts about what is due, they take us to demands” (2001: 60).The framework asserts that social reality is objective and the capacity for human autonomy is limited by ‘the recurring pattern of human behaviour [that] determines the nature of human action’ (Parker, 2000: 125). Thus, the perspective is concerned notions of justice rights and ‘duty’ or responsibility (Blackburn 2001: 88) to act in accordance with rules, as the rightness of an action is inherent and independent of the consequences it brings about. To illustrate, the killing an innocent man would be wrong because he is innocent, not because of the pain and sense of loss that his loved ones will experience. This concept can be primarily accredited to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, a key figure in the development of early deontological thought. As a rationalist, Kant argued that the moral value of human behaviour can be revealed ‘a priori’ or through pure intellectual reason. Thus, as these principles are theoretically available to all, regardless of personal circumstance, they must have a universal applicability, which leads Kant to an essential condition for moral action, the categorical imperative: ‘Act only on the maxim whereby thou can at the same time wish it to become a universal law.’ (Kant [1785] 2003: 6)

Taylor (1975) contends that for this each individual would treat others as ends, rather than a means and that it must be ‘self-imposed by the will of each person’. However the ‘interest’ ethics of Machiavelli, Hobbs and Burke also accommodate power as an inevitable factor of human interaction and organisation. They argue that the nature of humanity is inherently weak and immoral,...

References: Banks, S. (1995), Ethics and Values in Social work (3rd ed.): Hampshire: Pelgrave Macmillan
Blackburn, S. (2001), Being Good: A short introduction to ethics: New York: Oxford
Hobbes, T. ([1651] 1996), Leviathan, Tuck, R. (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. (1997) ‘Living with Values’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 02/11/2008]
Kant, I. ([1785b] 2003) ‘Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals: Second Section, Transition from Popular Moral Philosophy to the Metaphysic of Morals’, Abbott,T.K. (trs.), [Online] Available from: [Accessed 05/02/2008]
Machiavelli, N. ([1518] 1969) The Discourses: Crick, B. (ed.): London: Pelican.
Parker, J. (2000), Structuration: Buckingham: Open University.
Smart, J.J.C. and Williams, B. (1973), Utilitarianism for and against: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tam, H. (1998), Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics and Citizenship: Basingstoke: Macmillan Press.
Taylor, P.W. (1975), Principles of Ethics, Belmont; California: Wadsworth.
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