Ethics in the social sciences Essay Example

3Ethical Issues

Morality is can be thought of the limit of what is good or bad in a human character, it distinguishes between what is considered true and incorrect. The criterion of rightness or wrongness of actions is explained by two broad categories of ethical theories namely Consequantialitist and non-consequantialitist theories. The consequantialist theory puts it that moral rights of a given act relies on the result or outcome of an act as opposed to the situation or the nature of the act and what happens before the act. The Non-consequantialitist theory view directly contradicts the consequantialitist view. Its argument is that trueness and incorrectness of an act is dependent on the attributes necessary for the action and not on its results (Hooker 2003, p.50).

According to Darwall (2003, p.215) the consequantialitist theory asserts that an act is judged to be morally correct if it optimizes on what is considered correct. That is, if and only if the net effect is considered more correct and hence positive. For example, a train or a bus driver may opt to hit a small van with few passengers in order to save many in the bus or train. This aspect of the consequantialitist theory is called utilitarianism. Other forms include: ethical egoism, rule consequential, motive consequential, negative consequential and teleological ethics. Ethical egoism is the major focus mainly on self with consideration of satisfaction as a result of neutral results of a positive act when others are left out in consideration

When the assumption of a high level of responsibility to perform or avoid a certain type of action rests with an individual, then there is a feature of that action that has been identified as morally significant. According to Oderberg (2000, p. 151) moral significance forms the basis of non-consequantialitist principle views of ethics.The different criteria for moral significance identifies the various principle views as; intuition, contractarianism, rationalism, and Kantianism. Intuition is a way of discerning moral significance based on immediate insight without conscious reasoning. Rationalism refers to a fundamental way of solving problems either logically of with reason. Kantianism is based on Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a German philosopher. Kant’s perception of duty dictates that the extent to which an action has moral is determined by the extent to angle in which it is done. It can be from a honest belief or from what is considered acceptable morally.
Contractarianism justifies a particular form of political or moral authority by appealing to a hypothetical state which has been called either the state of nature or the «original position.» This position is characterized either by the absence of all social authority or by a «veil of ignorance» such that the rational decision maker does not know anything about their personal situation (Mulgan 2006, p.143).

Absolutism and relativism are varied in terms of their approaches practically. In absolutism, everything is certain. On the contrary, relativism is considered subjective. Relativism expounds that there is nothing which is sure. Ethical Absolutism is undeviating moral discipline. According to Birn (2005, p.343) ethical absolutism states that there nothing can be considered relative, and thus a crime is still a crime irrespective of the situation. These two doctrines, absolutism and relativism, even though valid and supported by facts, they are very contrasting in their argument. For example values are considered worthwhile. Values can include love, religious faith, freedom, relationships, health, justice, education and many other things. But values can be divided into two subcategories: absolute and relative.

Absolute values deal with conventional ethics. As stated by Hales (2011, p.321) Absolutism and relativism are extremes when approaching reality and values. In ethical absolutist, it is believed that universal standards of moral are observed by all persons and thus the social environment is obliged to adhere to it. Right will always be and wrong will also be. Actions are inherently good or bad, regardless of the consequences. For example, murder is not right to both relativism and absolutism. A doctor for instance cannot execute one patient for the sake of another. There is none right in this case as there are both condemned. It is however reasonable to kill one person in order to save many. At this point, for ethical relativism it will be ok to kill; however, for the ethical absolutist this is still wrong.

Freedom is the supposed ability to choose or define destiny in an influence free environment. In order to promote moral responsibility, it is reasonable to factor in freedom as a major element. Morality thus determines what is considered wrong and what is considered right in this case. The rationale for this is to be in a position to pre-determine actions and thus limit choice (O’Grady 2002, p. 115).

Determinism is an argument that everything that happens is influenced by past happenings and experiences. Because of the laws and the past world, what is now happening was pre-determined and thus it turned out as speculated as it had no option given the laws and the regulations of the past. As an example people tend to accept that general laws of tend to govern the world. On the other hand, others tend to believe that God is has unlimited power and thus responsible for the happenings of all things (Mosteller 2008, 25). In a globals sence, there are views that each unique happening like human action is necessitated by circumstances and contradict the fact that we are actually free.

Ethical virtues investigate the character or a given moral and the rationale behind the behavior and not the rules set out. These rules are limited because they concentrate of the wrongness or rightness which is a consequence of the act but not the character (Swanton 2005, p.25). For instance, ethical virtue does not emphasis one considers a number of variables and situations to tell a lie which is not considered in moral behavior or character. Ethics provides «moral principles» or universal rules that tell us what to do. As seen, moral principles primarily focuses on individuals actions.. We «apply» them by asking what these principles require of us in particular circumstances, e.g., when considering whether to lie or to commit suicide.

According to Darwall (2003, p.125)»virtue ethics», there are certain ideals, such as excellence or dedication to the common good, toward which we should strive and which allow the full development of our humanity. In essence these ideals are uncovered as a result of consideration and reflection on the potentials that human beings have.


Birn, R 2005, Crisis, absolutism, revolution: Europe and the world, 1648-1789, University of Toronto Pres, Michigan, MA.PP. 341-356.

Darwall, SL 2003, Consequentialism, Wiley-Blackwell, Thausand Oaks. pp. 211-219.

Darwall, SL 2003, Virtue ethics, Wiley-Blackwell, Thausand Oaks.pp. 123-143.

Hales, SD 2011, A Companion to Relativism, John Wiley and Sons, Thousand Oaks. 321-342.

Hooker, B 2003, Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-Consequentialist Theory of Morality, Oxford University Press, London. 45-56.

Mulgan, T 2006, Moderation consideration of Consequentialist and obligation to new generations, Oxford University Press, Sydney. pp. 142-154.

Oderberg, DS 2000, Moral theory: a non-consequentialist approach, Wiley-Blackwell, New York. Pp. 143-154.

O’Grady, P 2002, Relativism, Acumen, Virginia. Pp. 111-123.

Swanton, C 2005, Virtue ethics: a pluralistic view, Oxford University Press, New York. Pp. 23-34.

Mosteller, T 2008, Relativism: A guide for the perplexed, Continuum, London.pp. 22-36.