Overview: what is ethics
If we look in an old dictionary we find the following definition:
"the science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science;
a particular system of principles and rules concertning duty, whether true
or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions;
as, political or social ethics; medical ethics É" and today computer
ethics. Ethics is the reasoning that we do in order to make decisions that
will not violate our conscience. As the Greeks would say, "to keep one's
Computer ethics tries to clarify and provide solutions to the issues that
are raised by computers in areas such as privacy, personal property, damage
to others' property, safety, and so forth. Computer ethics falls in the
area of normative ethics, that is the quest for the practical truth
of how one's choices and actions will be good and worthwhile.
Various ethical theories
Tell the truth.
Right the wrongs that one has done to others.
Help other in respect to virtue, intelligence, and happiness.
Improve oneself with respect to virtue and intelligence.
Avoid injury to others.
According to Ross when two of these conflict one should act according to
the more stringent of the above.
Rights-based ethics -- based on the tradition of Locke and Hobbes.
This theory is based on upholding an individual's human or legal rights,
such as the rights to privacy and ownership of property.
In the philosophical arena, rights are split up into positive and negative
rights. Negative rights refer to freedom from outside interference in certain
activities which are defined by the social norm of the moment. Such rights
are freedom of speech, the right to liberty and privacy.
Positive rights "are those that give one what is needed to freely pursue
his or her interests. " Such rights are right to health care, education
and other similar things. Spinello notes that "In American society there
has been far more emphasis on negative rights then on positive rights"
Contractarianism is a rights-based approach to morality and ethics.
According to this approach, morality is based on the social contact between
government and its citizens. This contract provides certain inalienable
rights such as life, liberty and property. Contractarianism stresses that
a system must be fair and accord all its participants due respect.
Some steps for ethical analysis Spinello
Identify and formulate the basic issues in each case.
Consider your first impressions or reactions to these issues. In other
words, what does your moral intuition say about the action or policy under
consideration. Is it right or wrong?
Are there any normative principles relevant? If so, what impact do they
have on resolving the ethical problem(s)?
Consider the issues also from the viewpoint of one or more of the ethical
theories and pose some of the questions raised above.
Do the normative principles and the ethiccal theories point to one decision
or course of action or do they bring you to the different conclusions?
If so, which avenue of reasoning should take precedence?
What is the normative conclusion about the case, that is, what should be
the organizational or individuals course of action?
Finally what are the public policy implications of this case and your normative
conclusion? Should the recommended behavior be prescribed through legislation