HOW I MAKE ETHICAL DECISIONS
If I were to add to my statement on how I make ethical decisions, I still believe that my religion have a major impact on my decision making. However, I now believe that decision making is based on its impacts, whether or not the decision brings happiness to me and to the people around me. In order to make decisions that bring happiness around me I must have virtues and morals, of which these qualities are taught in my Islam religion, the Alevi Faith. According to the three principles of Alevism, every person should be good to themselves and other people as well.
The three principles are; you should be a master of your own hands, tongue, and loins. These are the principles that give me virtues that are based on my ethical making decisions. In that context, virtue ethics which focuses on a person as whole, and the qualities of their characters drives how I make my decisions. The Alevi principles states in the hand section that we should help those in need, we should not harm others, and we should not steal. The tongue section states that we should not gossip, we should not use bad words, and we should not say things that hurt others. The loin section states that we should not engage in any kind of sexual harassment, and we should not cheat. These principles influence my day to day activities and give me virtues upon which I base my ethical decisions. If you follow these principles, your decisions will bring you happiness, and bring happiness to the people around you. (Partfit, D. 1984)
If I removed the assumption that I am a good person, I believe that my morals would be driven by utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is based on the assumption that everyone wants to be happy, so happiness is what motivates decision making and human actions. For you to be happy, you need to make everyone else around you happy. So I believe that if I did not assume that I was a good person, my goodness would be determined on this happiness principle. Henry Sidgwick built up on the principle of utilitarianism and defined it as the ‘voluntary actions and the motivation of action’. So if your actions are good, and the motivation behind your actions is also good, then you are a good person. (Quinton, A. 2007)
The virtue ethics and the deontology theories are best fit on how I see the world. Virtue ethics is based around the idea of human excellence and flourishing, that human beings are concerned with how to live good lives (a good life in this context is a full, and happy life). The qualities of the characters of an individual determine whether they live a good and a full life. For example, if a person is generous in their deeds and are happy with their actions, then they are living a good life. Deontology on the other hand is based on the idea of right or wrong. The theory assumes that human beings have moral obligations which must be honored under all circumstances. On an ethical perspective, deontology states that being moral is doing what is right by the rules and avoiding things that are considered wrong. I think these two are best fit on how I view the world. (Otsuka, M. 2006)
The virtue ethics theory is the best match on how I approach ethical challenges. I always strive to make myself the best version of myself that I could ever be. This is because virtues focus on the patterns of our actions rather than just a single action. Whenever I am faced with an ethical challenge, I strive to be a good person at the end. I focus on the decisions and actions that will make me a good person. The ethics theory that gives me something useful even when the system as a whole does not work for me is the deontology theory. I know that for every situation I face, there is a wrong and a right decision. I know that I have a duty to myself and to those around me to make the right decision and take the right actions. The good thing that the theory gives me is that idea, that my morals drive me to doing what is right. (Stanford Encyclopedia, 2003)
Yes, there are conceptual and practical problems that I had not thought about before this term. For example in computer ethics, even if I have someone’s access codes to their computer, I now know that it is unethical to access them without the owner’s consent. I did not know that intellectual property such as copyright cannot just be used without the owners’ permission. Even when it is easy to duplicate the electronic content, it is wrong to do it it without the owners’ permission, according to computer ethics.
Looking over the last semester, I have increased my knowledge on ethical decision making. I now know that I need to make decisions that make me a better person, and a decision that not only make me happy, but also brings happiness to the people around me. It has been particularly difficult for me to accept the computer ethics, that I cannot use someone’s computer without their permission. But asking for permission from the owner makes them happy, which is a good ethical decision.
Otsuka, M. (1984). Saving lives, Moral Theories and the Claims of Individuals. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 34(2): 109-135
Partfit, D. (1984). Reasons and persons, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Quinton, A. (2007). Utilitarian Ethics, 2nd Edition, London: Duckworth, pp. 2-3
Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, 2003: Virtue Ethics available at