Can Ethics be Taught? an Examination of Ethical Development and Moral Reasoning

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Can Ethics be Taught? an Examination of Ethical Development and Moral Reasoning

This essay will delve into the debate on whether ethics can be taught, examining the theories of ethical development and moral reasoning. It will explore various educational approaches to ethics and how they influence behavior and decision-making in professional and personal contexts. More free essay examples are accessible at PapersOwl about Code Of Ethics.

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Chapter Overview

According to our book “Business Ethics Now,” ethics is the study of how we try to live our lives according to the standard of “right” or “wrong” behavior (Ghillyer, A. W. 2018). Everyone’s “right” and “wrong” behavior can be interpreted in different ways. It can depend on their moral standards, like how they grew up, the religion they practice, the schools they attended, and their role models or mentors. All of these play a factor in how someone defines ethics.

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While we all have our own definitions of ethics, we can come across a value conflict that tests our personal value system. When it comes to ethics, there is a lot of challenging situation that can tempt our values. Not only can value conflicts get in the way of testing our personal value system, but even ethical dilemmas can occur in which there is no noticeable right or wrong answer. When we run into an ethical dilemma, we follow Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Ethical Reasoning to assist us with resolving this issue. This chapter discusses how one defines the meaning of their definition of ethics, ethical relativism, and ethical dilemmas and breaks down the stages of ethical reasoning.

Summary of Article

In the article “A Model for Ethical Reasoning,” Sternberg writes about the ethical reasoning stages and illustrates a model that contains multiple ethical behaviors which can be applied to numerous ethical problems. Sternberg states that “enacting ethical behavior is much harder than it would appear to be because it involves multiple, largely sequential, steps.” (Sternberg, R. J. 2012). The article discusses how one needs to go through all the stages of ethical reasoning to come to an ethical conclusion, and none of the stages can be skipped. One could be aware of and understand all the ethical stages but needs to be prepared for all the challenges as well. Knowing about the different challenges that could arise can help you when facing a value conflict that could change your ethical standards. Ethical drift is one challenge that was discussed in this article. It “is the gradual ebbing of standards that can occur in an individual, a group, or an organization as a result of the interaction of environmental pressures with those subjected to these pressures.” (Sternberg, R. J., 2012). It’s when your ethical standards change, and you’re not even aware it’s happening. The article also discusses a few things people can do to help prevent an ethical drift.

Article Related to Chapter

The article, A Model for Ethical Reasoning, and Chapter One of Business Ethics Now cover the topic of ethical reasoning and provides examples of situations that can arise that places your moral standards to the test. Our book breaks down the different stages of ethical reasoning. There are three levels (Pre-conventional, Conventional, and post-conventional) and six stages (Obedience and punishment, Individualism, instrumental and exchange, Good boy/nice girl, Law and order, Social contract, and Principled conscience). The article describes the Ethical Reasoning stages similarly but in an eight-step model. Some argue that you should go through all the stages to come to a resolution of an ethical dilemma, and some argue the opposite (not going through all stages). Both readings provide examples of ethical dilemmas that can change your ethical standards without even realizing it.

Chapter One in Business Ethics Now only discusses the basic steps one needs to consider when resolving an ethical issue. In “A Model for Ethical Reasoning,” Sternberg provides a different outlook on ethical reasoning and discusses how there is more to the process than just the basic steps mentioned in Chapter One of Business Ethics Now. One challenge that was mentioned in the article was one that could arise for a typical college student. The article lists all steps the college student needs to take, like needing to recognize there is an event to react to, defining the event as having an ethical dimension, deciding whether the ethical dimension is significant, coming up with a solution to the problem, figuring out what ethical rule might be applied, figuring out a concrete solution, preparing for consequences of acting on it and acting on this situation. Both discuss some dilemmas that can occur and steps that should be taken to resolve them.

Article Learning

After reading the article, are all the steps one goes through to behave ethically. One should follow a process to determine the decision they are going to make. While one is going through an already difficult decision, more challenges can arise, like an ethical drift. Normally, someone does not realize their ethical standards have altered until it has already happened. An example of ethical drift, given in the article, was demonstrated in the film Lifeboat by Alfred Hitchcock. It was also mentioned in the article that ethical reasoning should be taught in school rather than ethics because ethics can be taught at home or other places. I agree ethical reasoning should be taught in schools because people should be able to make wise decisions in difficult situations. One also needs to be vigilant about other challenges that one can face.

Chapter Learning

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve never realized how much of our background defines what we see as “right” or “wrong.” Each of us decides what “right” and “wrong” means to us depending on how we grew up, our past, and our present lifestyles. For example, the family we grew up with, friends, schools, and our religions can all play a role in our personal set of morals. As we grow older, we come across many decisions that can change our morals. Also, reading this chapter helped me learn a lot of definitions that I didn’t know regarding ethics. For example, an ethical dilemma, as mentioned earlier, “is a situation in which there is no obvious right or wrong decision.” Ghillyer, A. W. (2018). Of course, we have experienced this situation at least once in our life, and I was unaware of the term for it. I didn’t know this particular situation was called an ethical dilemma.

A principle that is explained in the book is “The Golden Rule.” This has always been my goal for living an ethical life. I know not everyone goes by this rule, and I don’t expect others to, either. One example in the book was if I found a wallet on the sidewalk, I would try to return it to the owner. But if I lost my wallet on the sidewalk, I would not expect it to be returned. Because as mentioned earlier, not everyone follows “The Golden Rule.” There are a few other terms that I learned from reading this chapter, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

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Can Ethics Be Taught? An Examination of Ethical Development and Moral Reasoning. (2023, Jun 19). Retrieved from