Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Personal Ethical Philosophy and Case Studies

I have to admit, I have never considered how I act and think as a type of ethics, although I do try to rationally think through problems the best I can using what I know. I think the my ethical values are primarily duty-based, however, after doing the readings.

It is hard to give one answer why duty motivates me to action, I do not think it is the only thing, but is a main basis. Duty is doing something whole-heartedly I feel is required of me to support something/someone that is important to me. I live by the idea of doing everything whole-heartedly, or at least the best I can. I rarely can do anything half-heartedly and feel good about it. I suppose I feel I have cheated myself or others, and therefore did not do my duty, and this is failure in my mind. I guess I want intent to count, but it just doesn't seem good enough.

I think many people are motivated by personal duties, and I think it can be a good way to know how to act ethically. I would guess many people feel duty to their family, jobs, the environment and themselves because they care about those things. Since those are the things that are in our everyday lives and are what makeup life itself, then it seems good to do the best we can concerning those things. I think it can be hard to rationalize about impersonal situations and ideas, like a universal "ought," or stepping beyond cultural bounds. It is easier for me to make ethics personal, than to apply it to a bigger picture, because all I know is my little world.

I guess that would make Mr. Ross my main man. I really like in the Media Ethics book his description of the difference between right and good. Producing good should be our objective. However, it is easy to mix up right with good. "A right action is something undertaken by persons motivated by correct reasons and on careful reflection. Not all right actions, however, will be productive of the good." I think this is why I struggle with the right intentions idea, because someone may do a right action, but may not produce something good, and if something good isn't produced, then logic says something bad was.

So if I do my duty, I have produced something good. I think the list of seven duties are pretty close to what I try and live by: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, and not injuring others. I agree also with Ross on the idea that all of these duties are equally important, and will produce the good. I struggle with Kant's idea that just not lying will produce a totally ethical or moral human. It just doesn't seem to be deep enough to produce a good, caring, progressive society.

I think too that Ross's theory takes something important into account that makes his idea more realistic. We live in reality, so an idea that's applicable is important I believe. His theory realizes that life is complicated, multi-faceted, and we aren't just motivated by one duty. It seems most times when I am confused on an ethical level, it is in a grey area, not something that's black and white, particularly as a journalist. I can do my duty and produce good, but I can always do it better as I learn, and produce more good.

I think a good illustration of this is in the case study we read in class. The reporter printed the mayor's accusations, and the opposing party's "no comment" response. I really don't think she did anything wrong. She did her duty, but I am sure she learned and will know how to do it even better next time, like a follow-up story, or some other solution.

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