Ethics: Need for Ethics, Ethical Dilemma

Ethics in AuditingEthics can be defined broadly as a set of moral principles or values. Each of us has such a set of values, although we may or may not have considered them explicitly.

Philosophers, religious organizations and other groups have defined in various ways ideal sets of moral principles or values.

Examples of prescribed sets of moral principles or values at the time implementation level include laws and regulations, church doctrine, cades of business ethics for professional groups such as CPAs and codes of conduct within individual organizations.

It is common for people to differ in their moral principles and values and the relative importance they attach to these principles. These differences reflect life experiences, successes, and failures, as well as the influences of parents, teachers, and friends.

The word “ethics” is derived from the Greek word “ethos” (character), and “morality”, another name for ethics, comes from the Latin word “mores” (customs).

Together, they combine to define how individuals choose to interact with one another. In philosophy, ethics defines what is good for the individual and society and establishes the nature of duties that people owe themselves and one another.

Need for Ethics

Ethics is the branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, concerning the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

It includes a study of universal values such as the essential equality of all men and women; human or natural rights, obedience to the law of land, concern for health and safety and, increasingly, also for the natural environment.

Ethical behavior is necessary for a society to function in an orderly manner. It can be argued that ethics is the glue that holds a society together.

Let’s imagine, for example, what would happen if we couldn’t depend on the people we deal with, to be honest.

If parents, teachers, employers, siblings, co-workers, and friends all consistently lied, it would be almost impossible for effective communication to occur.

The need for ethics in society is sufficiently important that many commonly held ethical values are incorporated into laws.

However, many of the ethical values cannot be incorporated into laws because of the judgmental nature of certain values.

That does not imply, however, that the principles are less important for an orderly society.

Ethical Dilemma

An ethical dilemma is a situation a person faces in which a decision must be made about the appropriate behavior.

A simple example of an ethical dilemma is finding a diamond ring, which necessitates deciding whether to attempt to find the owner or to keep it.

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas

In recent years, formal frameworks have been developed to help people resolve ethical dilemmas. The purpose of such a framework is in identifying the ethical issues and deciding on an appropriate course of action using the person’s values.

The six-step approach that follows is intended to be a relatively simple approach to resolving ethical dilemmas:

  1. Obtain relevant facts.
  2. Identify the ethical issues from the facts.
  3. Determine who is affected by the outcome of the dilemma and how each person or group is affected.
  4. Identify the alternatives available to the person who must resolve the dilemma.
  5. Identify the likely consequence of each alternative.
  6. Decide the appropriate action.

General Ethics

An ethical dilemma arises wherein what is good for one party affected by the choice is not good for another party affected by the choice.

It has been said that in such situations, individuals should ask two questions: “What good do I seek?” and “What is my obligation in this circumstance?”

General ethics attempts to deal with these questions by defining what is good for the individual and society, and by trying to establish the nature of obligations of that individual owe themselves and each other.

Framework for General Ethics

No universal set of standards or changing codes of ethics can point to the correct choice of behavior in all situations.

Some have worked on developing frameworks for general ethical decision making.

Following is one such six-step framework:

  • Obtain the facts relevant to the decision.
  • Identify the ethical issues from the facts.
  • Determine who will be affected by the decision and how.
  • Identify the decision maker’s alternatives.
  • Identify the consequences of each alternative.
  • Make an ethical choice.