Reading 00: Let’s get ethical

It can be quite a difficult task to holistically sum up the ethical and moral framework that you follow in your life. In the day to day activities of life, many of the choices seem natural and come without the need for much consideration of how the decisions fit into a personal framework of morals. This framework has been built over your whole life to date and just naturally dictate most actions.

Thankfully, given that I attend a very good academic institution, and a Catholic one at that, discussions on things like moral and ethical frameworks tend to come up quite often with friends, classmates, hall staff, and professors. As a result, I’ve had a lot of chances to really ponder how and why I make the decisions I do.

For many people, their moral and ethical framework derives from their religious beliefs. Religion sets out the rules they follow in their daily lives. For example, a Catholic will follow the moral and ethical code set out by the lessons of the Bible and Catholic teachings. Similarly, a Muslim will follow the teachings of the Quran that stem from Allah. In these cases, there is a belief in a higher power whose will dictates the moral and ethical framework that people chose to live by. This is not to say that everyone who is religious strictly adheres to the moral code of their religion, but it certainly does provide a set of guidelines for their life.

However, I am not religious and do not believe in the existence of a higher power. Therefore, it’s a little more difficult to classify my full moral and ethical framework. It doesn’t differ too greatly from the Christian ideas of morality. I grew up as a Lutheran, with my mother taking me to church most Sundays, and this certainly helped shape my understandings of ethical actions. However, I have also disagreed with the church on various issues in my adult life.

In determining the ethics of my actions, the first consideration for me tends to be how do these actions affect other people. To me, that’s by far the most important issue in deciding whether an issue is right or wrong. If possible harm to others should always be avoided, and it’s very important to attempt to interpret your actions from the perspectives of others. In this way, the Golden Rule is incredibly important in dictating whether things are right or wrong. While incredibly simplistic, such a perspective forms a good foundation for how one should act. Additionally, in a sense, my personal belief system has influences of utilitarianism within it. While I’m certainly not a strict utilitarian, there is a consideration of net benefits to other people. However, this only plays a very small part of a much more nuanced moral and ethical framework.

It’s very difficult to sum up your own moral and ethical framework, but it is also quite important to try to do so. Introspective thinking like this can really allow you to better understand yourself and what kind of person you are.