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Ethics: What Is It, Why Do We Study It, Specific Codes of Ethics

Ethics answers the question of how people must act to do the right, moral actions. Ethics cannot relieve the individual of responsibility for the decisions made. One cannot hide behind ethics but can rely on it. Ethics becomes effective to the extent that it is continued in the moral activity of those who deal with it, study it. Otherwise, it is useless and can only cause irritation and annoyance. Communication with people is a science and an art. Both natural abilities and education are important here. That is why anyone who wants to achieve success in interacting with other people should learn this, including the ethics and psychology of business communication and using social and psychological training in communication.

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The term “ethics” comes from the ancient Greek word “ethos.” Initially, ethos was understood as a habitual place of cohabitation, a house, a human dwelling, a bird’s nest, an animal den (Gensler, 2017). Then, it began to predominantly designate the stable nature of any phenomenon, custom, disposition, or character. Such a change in meaning is instructive: it expresses the connection between a person’s social circle and character. Aristotle formed the adjective “ethical” to designate a special class of human qualities, which he called ethical virtues. Ethical virtues are properties of a person’s character and temperament, and they are also called spiritual attributes. They differ from effects as properties of the body and virtues as properties of the mind. For example, fear is a natural effect; memory is a property of the mind; moderation, courage, generosity are properties of character. To designate the totality of ethical virtues as a special subject area of ​​knowledge and highlight this knowledge itself as a special science, Aristotle introduced the term “ethics.”.

There are also various attempts to separate the concepts of morality and ethics. According to the most common of them, ethics is understood as the subjective aspect of the corresponding actions, and morality is the actions themselves in their objectively developed completeness. It is also possible to single out the cultural and linguistic tradition, which understands ethics as high fundamental principles and morality as down-to-earth, historically changeable behavior norms. In this case, for example, God’s commandments are called ethical, and the instructions of the school teacher are called moral.

Morality appears in two interrelated, but different guises:

  1. As a characteristic of a person, a set of moral qualities. Virtues such as truthfulness, honesty, kindness,
  2. As a characteristic of relations between people, a set of moral norms (requirements, commandments, rules), for example, “do not lie,” “do not steal,” “do not kill.”

There are a large number of different ethical systems, differing in their content and rationale. The concepts of heteronomous ethics believe that morality has a law external to a person, given from the outside, for example, by God. Religious ethics, including Christian ethics, substantiates morality in an authoritarian way, while God personifies Good, moral norms act as divine commandments and therefore are unconditionally obligatory. Since God often controls the implementation of laws, rewarding everyone according to their merits, the intrinsic value of Good and other moral values ​​is lost; it is replaced by the threat of punishment or the promise of a reward. Autonomous ethics assumes that a person creates his morality, formal ethics, or material ethics of values. Absolute ethics considers moral values ​​to exist regardless of their recognition; relative ethics considers moral values ​​to depend on human activity. Depending on the subject’s goals, ethics is a eudemonistic, hedonistic, utilitarian, perfectionist (LaFollette, 2020). Social ethics is the doctrine of moral relations and responsibilities associated with life in society. Contextual ethics believes that making an ethical decision in a given specific situation does not depend on general principles and norms of morality but on the conditions of the given situation, that is, on the context.

Professional ethics refers to an implied or specifically defined set of norms or codes of conduct that guide decision-makers in various professional roles. This kind of professional or role ethics often provides a beneficial influence in resolving ethically controversial issues that arise in professional activities. Most of the ethical dilemmas associated with various professional ethics types involve contradiction between functionally differentiable and universal ethics. Professional activity leads to many ethical issues in nature that are not considered and cannot be resolved through universal ethics. Professional ethics studies professional morality as a concretization of general moral principles and norms concerning the characteristics of a particular type of professional activity.

Social scientists often use a descriptive approach as a tool for learning ethics. Description of facts and explanation of moral behavior and ideas about morality are characteristic of anthropologists, sociologists, and historians. The description of moral views, codes of conduct, and beliefs is used in developing corporate ethical policy when it is required to establish a system of views on various “sensitive” issues. Supporters of the normative approach set themselves the task of formulating and proving the truth of the basic moral norms. According to the normative approach, the theory of ethics should serve as the basis for the individual and society’s acceptance of the whole system of moral principles and goods.

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Business ethics deals with analyzing the relationship of business partners from the perspective of interpreting moral assessments of the reasons for success or failure in any activity, particularly in commercial activity. Business relations are one of the types of social relations as the relationship between partners, colleagues, and even competitors, arising in joint activities in the market and the team (Crane et al., 2019). At the business relationships level, employees should be partner-oriented and consumer-oriented, which increases interest in work. To successfully carry out any enterprise, one should strive to understand the partner of business communication.

Engineering ethics is a section of applied ethics and a system of moral principles applied in practice in engineering. The area defines and establishes the obligations of engineers to society, their customers, and the profession. It is closely related to subjects such as philosophy of science, philosophy of engineering, and ethics of technology as an academic discipline. Fleddermann states that “there are many unique ethical issues that arise in engineering practice that may not be encountered in other professions.” (2012). The Code of Engineering Ethics defines a special priority for the engineer towards citizens, customers, employers, and the profession. Many engineering professional communities have drawn up codes of ethics. Some date back to the early decades of the twentieth century. They are incorporated to a greater or lesser extent in regulatory laws in several jurisdictions. Although these general principles are given as guidelines, engineers still use common sense to interpret how the code will apply to a particular situation.

Cultural communication primarily includes fluency in the language. In professional communication, it is expressed in assessing the interlocutor’s level of thinking, his life experience, and in addressing the interlocutor in a language that he understands. Thus, following the principles of ethics contributes to establishing contact between people and the development of fruitful relationships.


Crane, A., Matten, D., Glozer, S., & Spence, L. (2019). Business ethics: Managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. Oxford University Press.

Fleddermann, C. B. (2012). Engineering Ethics, 4th ed. Pearson, 2012.

Gensler, H. J. (2017). Ethics: A contemporary introduction. Routledge.

LaFollette, H. (2020). Ethics in practice: An anthology. John Wiley & Sons.

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