Ethical Framework in Action
Describe a difficult ethical decision related to your personal or work life (Case Study Component)
Apply your ethical framework (described above) to your case.
Assess how you might apply a different or more complex decision-making process in the future to complex ethical issues.
Ethical Framework in Action
Sarah K. Dax
UMass Global OLCU 601 Ethics Democracy and Leadership
December 4, 2022
Ethical Framework in Action
An ethical framework is a decision-making model that outlines step-by-step processes for reaching ethical decisions. The framework for ethical decision-making is how a person might make an ethical decision by considering specific ethical choices. When using an Ethical framework, it asks the question, “How?”. Making ethical decisions consider how their behavior could be judged and how it could affect other parties involved. Others may use lessons they learned from their family, peers, religious teachings, or their personal experiences.
Examples of ethical frameworks include utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, and the core values model. Each of these is very different, but when applied to answering ethical questions helps in making ethical decisions (Lingwall. n.d.).
The utilitarianism framework focuses not on rules but on results. An action or set of actions will be considered reasonable if it positively impacts society. The goal is for the greatest good and the benefit of the most significant number of people (Johnson, 2021). An example of utilitarianism in effect was when the government implemented laws restricting gatherings, enforcing social distancing rules, and mandating facial covering during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal was to reduce person-to-person contact, protect the citizens' health, and slow the virus's spread. Although according to Lingwall n.d., it was initially intended as a guide for legislators charged with seeking the greatest good for society, utilitarianism is now practiced individually and by corporations. Making a choice based on the utilitarian principle is a three-step process (2021). Utilitarians consider all possible courses of action, estimate the benefits of each option, and select the outcome that produces a tremendous amount of good. Its concern for the majority is also one of its biggest criticisms because it “discounts the worth of the individual (2021)”.
Deontology comes from the Greek word deon, which means "duty" (2021). Deontological ethicists believe that no matter what, people should do what is right despite the consequences. It is a duty-based approach to decision-making and following rules. It is an easy ethical framework to follow if rules are followed. Examples of deontology ethics are religion and laws around driving. Every religion has rules and practices. For example, Christianity bases its practice around the ten commandments, which are rules for how to live a moral life. Driving rules like stopping for red lights and going on green keep roadways safe and orderly.
Virtue ethics is believed to be one of the oldest ethical frameworks and dates back to Aristotle (Johnson, 2021). Annas (2007) described virtue as a disposition to act in specific ways and not others. A virtue extends past a mere habit. Virtue is built up by making choices and exercising that virtue when making other choices. A great example of virtue ethics is honesty. When a person decides not to take something that does not belong to them, they are making a choice that endorses their disposition, to be honest. Continuing to make an ethical choice makes the act virtuous. Virtue ethics is a lifelong project for character development. When nurtured, it can truly change a person. The goal is not to form virtues that mean we act ethically without thinking but to form virtues that help us see the world clearly and make better judgments (Centre, 2021). Virtue ethics does face criticism due to its emphasis on virtues and vices because that is opinion based and differs between individuals, and that virtue ethics breeds ‘moral narcissism’ (Centre, 2021).
The Core Value framework is similar to the golden rule-treat others how you would like to be treated. This framework focuses on six virtues: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These values in themselves are ethical. To use this framework effectively, the person facing the ethical decision would select the decision with the most core values (Lingwell, n.d.). To identify personal core values, one may ask what qualities they admire in a role model, what motivates them, or what kind of culture they wish to work in. This framework can help align values with an organization to find the right environment to work in. There are some issues with the core value framework, and they are similar to Virtue ethics. It may be difficult to balance competing virtues. It may also ignore the outcomes of a particular decision in the name of applying virtues (Lingwell, n.d.).
Personal Ethical Framework
Components of ethical behavior can assist in developing a personal ethical framework. My ethical decision-making is motivated by my desire to be an example for my junior sailors and my children. Psychologist James Rest noted four steps to ethical decision-making: moral sensitivity or recognition, moral reasoning, moral motivation, and moral character (Johnson, p. 38, 2016). Awareness of how my behavior impacts and influences others makes me conscious of how I behave. I try hard to live by the "golden rule" or the core value framework and treat others how I want to be treated. I