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Understanding Ethical Theory

Understanding Ethical Theory
Ethics is generally thought of as a type of philosophy that determines what is right and wrong. Let's find out...
Buzzle Staff
According to today's philosophy standards, ethics is a core understanding of what a person should do, as opposed to what he/she can do. In the context of an ethical framework, ethics can be classified into three categories.
Normative Ethics
This is the process of determining standards of morality that define right and wrong, and dictate how a person should live in order to pursue a moral lifestyle. Defining these standards may involve spelling out what good habits should be practices, which duties are important to follow, and whether activities and decisions should be based on the potential outcome and who they will affect. Along the same lines, this study of ethics considers the issues of value―what is the real definition of value, which types of things can be considered to be valuable, and why do people consider them valuable? Moreover, are some things intrinsically valuable in and of themselves, or are they valuable because they serve a particular purpose or help someone to achieve a goal?
This is based on the same questions of right and wrong, but from a different approach. Can ethical claims be considered to be true or false, or are they simply emotional expressions? If they are true, then are they applicable only to a particular individual, culture, or society?
Applied Ethics
This is the most commonly debated form of ethics among the general population, because it deals with specific societal issues such as human rights, abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights, as well as more personal issues such as honesty and truthfulness. Applied ethics usually involves an attempt to apply ethical theories to situations that occur in real life. Within that general category are many specific fields, such as ethics for business, cultural ethics, and bioethics.
The three areas of ethics are not often clearly distinguishable, and usually overlap to a certain extent. For example, abortion can be considered to be a topic of applied ethics discussion because it is based on a particular behavior that is usually controversial and emotional. But the issue can also be discussed in normative ethics principles, such as the right to life, the right to govern individual destination, and other principles often used as a type of litmus test for deciding whether such a procedure is moral and right. The issue of abortion can also be viewed from a meta-ethics perspective, such as considering where rights come from in the first place, at what moment an individual obtains rights, and what types of beings actually have intrinsic rights.
Other ethical issues that blur the lines between categories include things such as drunk driving. Someone who drives home drunk may actually get there without causing any injury to another person, or he may run into a bicycle on the way home and kill a child. Although drunk driving is almost universally considered to be morally wrong, the concept of luck or chance affects the outcome of the moral decision. When chance enters into the equation, the driver's decision to drive home drunk is no longer the only factor affecting the outcome of the decision.
Ethical questions are often used to determine or at least discuss public policy, such as considering whether abortions, affirmative action, euthanasia, human rights, and animal rights issues are right or wrong. Without contemplating and discussing questions of ethics, society has no clearly defined equations to use when balancing legislation, politics, societal demands, and arbitration. Therefore, the formulation of questions of ethics is necessary in order to prioritize and balance issues of basic rights of humanity. In general, people are most comfortable when there are two clearly defined choices in a given situation. But when it comes to ethics, issues are not often straightforward and clearly defined.
When it comes to ethics, there are no 'yes or no' or 'right or wrong' statements, because the answers are usually subjective. However, although the answers may not be simple to arrive at, ongoing discussions about ethical concepts are vital to the continued success of a civilized society.