Ch 1 Need for Ethics

Decent Essays
Critically About Ethical
Issues, Seventh Edition
By: Ruggiero
© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2008


Why do we need ethics? We have laws to protect people’s rights. If the laws are enforced, what need have we of further rules?

Ethics is the study of the choices people make regarding right and wrong.
Each of us makes dozens of moral choices daily. Will we go to work or call in sick? Follow the research protocol or violate it? Put quotes around borrowed phrasing or pretend the words are our own? Answer a colleague’s question truthfully or lie? Obey the speed laws or drive as fast as our vehicles will go? Pay our bills or spend our money on entertainment?
Keep our marriage vows or break
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Speaking of one student who refused to say such sacrifice was wrong, the professor writes, “I was stunned. This was the [same] woman who wrote so passionately of saving the whales, of concern for the rain forests, of her rescue and tender care of a stray dog.”1

As almost any ethics instructor will confirm, when it comes to more subtle issues—such as unauthorized copying of computer programs or plagiarism—the number of people who cannot bring themselves to make a moral judgment increases significantly. Such individuals may regard ethics as intrusive.


Many people reason that we don’t need ethics because our system of laws, when consistently enforced, provides sufficient protection of our rights. In order to assess this idea we must understand who makes laws and how they make them. Who makes them is easy to answer: local, state, and national legislators. How they are made is somewhat more difficult. We know that legislators must get together to talk about a particular behavior and then vote on whether they want to criminalize it. But what do they say to one another? On what basis do they conclude that one act deserves to be classified criminal and another one doesn’t? What kinds of reasons do they offer to support their views? How can they be sure those reasons are good ones?

What, for example, did legislators say before they decided that sexual harassment is
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