Ethics determines the main human moral values and traditions coined during centuries. In discussing ethics and morals as it applies to society, three words (ethics, morals, and ethical) will be frequently used. Ethics means the system or code of human conduct, with the emphasis on the determination of what is right and wrong. The main advantage and benefit of ethics is that it stipulates behavior patterns desirable and beneficial for all social beings. Ethical conduct goes beyond legality and is more comprehensive. If ethical behavior is legal behavior plus some other element, then it is important that this additional element be identified, if possible.
At first blush, many people will probably agree that this additional element is the collection of moral principles and values of what is right and what is wrong and what is good and what is bad, as determined by group behavior or by some member of the group. At this point of definition, it appears that one’s behavior is ethical if it is legal and in accordance with group norms. Based on discussions and some recent philosophies covered earlier, this is what many would have everyone believe. This definition is, however, short sighted and flawed in that it does not clearly define “group” or the standards and values upon which the “group ethical norms” are based. For proper business and social conduct, these ethical standards and values must be shared by not only individuals but by the total business community and society as a whole. It affirms that every judgment is composed both of the materials of perception and the hidden principles of thought. The genesis of intellect has nothing to do with the concrete problem; we must understand its present terms, which may be summarized as follows: A distinct moral situation is presented for consideration. It becomes our companion in the daily round of commonplace experiences. The teacher and his disciples, the physician and his patients, the lawyer and his clients, the merchant and his patrons, even the engineer and his instruments of steel and concrete, are exponents of the type of selfhood under review.
The main problem and weakness of ethics is its diversity of meanings and philosophical interpretations. One and the same behavior can be interpreted differently and offensively by poeple from different religious groups or countries. Conflict presupposes a standard of action, and the standardizing power lies in the authority of the self. Here, the third self of James’ analysis emerges, the spiritual self, the self that thinks, the self that leads to decisive action. The decisions reached by this self embrace not alone the objective relations with other personal units in society but also the deeper aspirations that go beyond the borders of empirical attestation and sink into the mysteries of religion. In every case man is a single observer, a single thinker, a single actor. To be an individual, we said, is to have our purposes within; to be a human self is to act upon these purposes as our own. The ability of the agent to make decision of and for himself is the highest test of his independence. Still, the idea of “ought” is in itself an index of the spontaneous assertion of power. Its significance lies in the fact that we accept such spontaneity as our own, for example, when we choose between possible courses of action. Choice means the weighing of contrary, or at any rate mutually exclusive, proposals and the selection of one as the object of behavior.
In sum, moral values are crucial for society and its members because they help people to distinguish between “good” and “bad”. This distinction protects people from theft, killing and offensive remarks. Many actions that seemed to spring from impulse are found to be quick decisions imbued with rational intent, hence, the true expressions of freedom. So, ethics protects individuals from immoral and socially undesirable behaviors and actions.