Humanity has been concerned with the questions of justice and ethics for a very long time. Different schools of philosophy have put forward a number of approaches and theories regarding this subject. These theories can be used as a framework that helps individuals to go about ethical dilemmas that arise in professional settings. The goal of this paper is to take a look at philosophical ideas and psychological phenomena related to professional ethics and discuss their features.
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The phenomena of diffusion of responsibility and conformity show that people tend to be less likely to take responsibility when other individuals are present. Research has shown that the presence of other agents reduces the sense of responsibility for negative outcomes of personal actions (Beyer et al. 145). Such a tendency may lead to unethical behaviors and potentially has significant negative consequences. It is critical to keep in mind the existence and potential risks of this fact when designing and implementing organizational structures.
Consequentialist and non-consequentialist theories provide other ways to look at the subject. According non-consequentialism actions should be judged in accordance with their intrinsic properties. This doctrine suggests making decisions that are in line with virtues, rules, and values. Contrary to this approach, consequentialism emphasizes the importance of the results of actions. This theory says that ethical decisions have to be made to maximize potential benefits (Persson 34). The consequentialist approach has a major advantage of being result-oriented, thus, promoting real and often measurable improvements, but it also has serious limitations. The main problem of this approach is that, in complex situations, it is often very difficult and sometimes even impossible to evaluate the potential consequences of actions.
Non-consequentialism, on the other hand, provides a way to deal with such challenges by suggesting to follow the rules and acting intact with personal values. At the same time, this theory has its disadvantages as well. Non-consequentialism does not take into account potential flaws inherent to rules, or the fact that they need to change in order to be appropriate to the constantly changing environment. Thus, both approaches have their pros and cons and can be used based on the situation.
Another useful tool to handle decision-making in the face of ethical questions is the idea of the so-called veil of ignorance that was introduced by John Rawls. This theory of justice suggests that in order to promote equality and fairness, people should make choices regarding social and moral issues without taking into account their own position in the system (Miele 17). This way of thinking has a major benefit of putting the decision-maker in an impartial position and allowing them to eliminate the possible influence of biases and self-interest. The main disadvantage of this theory is the fact that being subjective by nature, people cannot take decisions divorced from their personal value structure. Therefore, although such an approach has utility and may be useful in some situations, there are significant limitations to it that cannot be ignored.
Different schools of philosophy have developed their own approaches that help take decisions facing an ethical dilemma. Understanding and using these theories provide individuals, who are put into a position of power, with a set of tools for making ethical and responsible actions. All of these frameworks have their own advantages and limitations, and they can be used depending on the nature of the problem at hand.
Beyer, Frederike, et al. “Beyond Self-serving Bias: Diffusion of Responsibility Reduces the Sense of Agency and Outcome Monitoring.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, vol. 1, no. 12, 2017, pp. 138-145.
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Miele, Alex. An Explanation of John Rawls’s Theory of Justice with a Defense of the Veil of Ignorance. CMC Senior Thesis, Claremont McKenna College, 2017.
Persson, Ingmar. “What Consequentialism Is Not.” The Good, the Right, Life and Death, edited by Kris McDaniel et al., Routledge, 2017, pp. 135-148.