Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ethical Reasoning

In one of my posts, I wrote about a super-ethical doctor who refused to issue medical certificate. I asked, “Was he doing the right thing?”

We often confront situations in which there is no right or wrong answer. Instead, there is a huge grey area. How can we make decision? In my MBA program, I learned of Four Approaches to Ethical Reasoning. They may help you make up your mind.

End-result ethics

The end justifies the means.

Example: President Bush did what he could to capture Saddam Hussein, even though, in doing so, many Iraqis and Americans had been sacrificed.

Duty ethics

The rightness of an action is determined by one’s obligation to adhere to consistent principles, laws and social standards.

Example: The Catholic Church has been opposing contraception, including the use of condom. As a result, population of Sub-Saharan Africa has grown in an alarming rate, and many people have contracted HIV.

Social Contract ethics

The rightness of an action is based on the customs and norms of a particular society or community.

Example: The social contract of Malaysia says that the Prime Minister must be a Malay, while the Chief Minister of Penang state must be a Chinese. By comparison, the United States has had a Chinese American governor in the past (Gary Locke, Washington), and an Indian American governor now (Bobby Jindal, Louisiana). We may even see a black President in the near future. Is Malaysia’s social contract outdated?

Personalistic ethics

The rightness of the action is based on one’s own conscience and moral standards.

What ethical reasoning approach are you holding onto?


  1. There's a 5th and most important ethic that is left out.

    Wife-dictated ethics.

    Someday you will abide by this new set of ethics.

    Be very afraid.

  2. shingo t: Are you speaking from experience? :P

    Seriously, ethics really is a confusing subject. Sometimes you just have to feel (not just know) that something is right.

  3. shingo, 宝茹
    I guess a man who holds onto certain set of principles won't be easily affected by the wife.

    The wife must accept the husband as he is, or their marriage will have problem.