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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Do the Ethically Right Thing

In the controversial and critically acclaimed film, “Do The Right Thing,” Ossie Davis’ character, “Da Mayor,” tells Spike Lee’s character, “Mookie,” “Always do the right thing.” (Lee, 1989) This short, yet powerful statement more than sets the tone for this classic movie, but it has more than helped define how I try and live my life, personally and professionally. Yet, when I look at my own ethical framework, I am left to wonder what else goes into my personal decision making process. Am I guided by theories of virtue, deontology, or utilitarianism? Do I have a detailed plan that will help me during ethically challenging times? These are just some of the questions that I will attempt to answer in this post.
The Virtue, Deontological and Utilitarianism theories have shaped decision making for many years. These aforementioned theories are all solid theories, but they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Virtue theory is rooted in a simple thought of right versus wrong and serves as the strength of that theory. (Trianosky, 1990, p. 335) Yet, the virtue is hurt by the extremes of the theory. The strength of deontology can be found in the fact that this theory asks people to consider their professional responsibilities above all other things. This strength is undermined by the fact that personal life may suffer at such a request. (Morales, 2010) Utilitarianism looks at the greater good, but fails to take into consideration those that may be affected negatively by the decision. (Six Religions, 2014)
Good or bad, these theories combined are very useful in helping people establish a decision making process. The decision making process is an excellent playbook for how professionals should conduct themselves. By using the decision-making process in all decisions, professionals set a standard for their actions and avoid being labeled as showing favoritism. The decision making process should have six steps. Step one addresses your ethical awareness. Step two seeks to determine if your situation is truly an ethical issue. Moving forward, step three examines the legal viability of the situation and whether if legal counsel is needed. Step four can be described as the war games process. All probable actions and outcomes are examined thoroughly. Then step five seeks to pinpoint which decision-making theory would be best suited to guide your decision. Finally, step six is the execution of your plan by seeking out chain of command, recommending an ethical decision and embracing the process.

Works Cited
Lee, S. (Director). (1989). Do The Right Thing [Motion picture]. USA: Universal Studios.
Morales, E. (2010, December). Basics of Deontology [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVARdM93zsw
Six Religions. (2014, February). Moral Philosophy - Deontology Vs Utilitarianism [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDMedWiZ_Iw
Trianosky, G. (1990). What is Virtue Ethics All About? American
Philosophical Quarterly, 27(4), 335-344.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, how so much theoretical ethics cancels itself out with conflicting answers to the question of how to decide what the "right thing" is. But simply intending to do the right thing is already half the battle. At some point, theoretical analysis must give way to practical intelligence and real-world experience. I wish all philosophers and ethicists knew that.