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What is an ethical issue?
Ethics explores questions related to rightness and wrongness, justice and injustice, and the virtues that make one a “good” person. What makes something an “ethical issue,” therefore, could be:
When someone believes that an injustice has occurred;
“Justice” can refer to fairness (equity), equal treatment, liberty, or rights
When a person, group of people, animals, or the environment are harmed, either directly, indirectly, physically, or psychologically; or,
When an action or belief system (one’s conception of “goodness”) produces harmful effects in the form of behaviors, relationships, and habits
What is a moral principle?
Though exactitude and absolute certainty are impossible in ethics, a justifiable resolution* to ethical issues can be reached by applying a particular moral principle to a certain issue or policy. Some examples of moral principles are:
Fairness principle: we should make decisions and set policies that maximize fairness and equity
Flaw: sometimes fairness requires treating people unequally
Autonomy principle: we should value a person’s freedom over his or her actions and physical body
Flaw: sometimes individual freedoms conflict with “the greater good”
Utility principle: we should perform the actions that produce the greatest amount of good for the greatest number
Flaw: sometimes “the greater good” can infringe on personal or corporate liberties
Social contract principle: we should act according to the principles and policies that are agreed upon by a consensus of free, rational members of a community
Flaw: can exclude certain people and assumes people to be rational and free
***For your journal entry this week, please respond to the following two-part prompt:***
What are the most pressing ethical issues we face in protecting the quantity and quality of Earth’s water resources?
What moral principle(s) should be given priority in guiding our decisions about the use and distribution of water?
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