This is a (delayed) post for the second week in our Professional Ethics course.
The topic for Week 2 is Morality…
I had a bit of a light-bulb moment while watching the video by Sam Harris (Science can answer moral questions). I don’t know about you but I started this course with a few ‘fixed’ ideas, with a bit of room to expand or even change those ideas. But what I noticed is that I’m trawling the internet in search of info/videos/whatever to support MY ideas. If I find something that resonates with what I feel the topic means then I’m more likely to look at it or even use it. If it isn’t something that fits in with how I see the world it’s almost immediately excluded. So it got me thinking… How many of us do this on a daily basis? Not just with info on the net for a course we’re doing, but with people and their ideas? How often do we write people off because we don’t like their idea(s), never mind tried to understand them?
That video for instance, was really interesting. Not something I would’ve probably watched on my own, but I’m glad I did. I don’t agree with everything Sam says but that’s fine. At least it expanded my view a bit.
For me morals are part of being human. It’s almost what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. As humans, we enjoy the ability of conscious thought (for some only on a good day). However, when you can think, interpret and react to things around you, you begin to realize that your actions have reactions. Consequences. Some good and some bad. You begin to understand that some things are allowed/expected (‘good’) and others in-tolerated (‘bad’). You realize some things are right, while others are wrong per se. And then you’ve moved from a mere animalistic existence, to conscious thought, to having a
basic moral code.
Does my moral code differ from yours? Most likely. Would we agree on core ‘truths’? Possibly. Is there a universal moral code that is etched in shades of grey, or is everything permissible?
- My sense of morality
I grew up in a Christian household. I’d be foolish to think it didn’t have a huge impact on my sense of morality. Of course it did, and I’m grateful for it. It helps to define the ‘grey-zone’ a bit better. So many things impact my morality though. Interactions and discussions with other people; reading books; trying to understand my faith and the world around me; reading blogs on an ethics course – all of it!
Another important factor in terms of my morality is constantly evaluating my choices/actions. Reflecting on what I’ve said or done in a situation makes me aware of all the facets I might have missed in the moment. Sometimes (a lot), I realize that I didn’t make the right decision. Sometimes there were multiple ‘right’ decisions. Sometimes I realize I actually made the best choice, and then I have to stop myself from feeling too proud of myself (ha ha).
- Belief and behaviour
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Behaviour is what you choose to do not what you ought to do.
Your beliefs affect your behaviour, because your beliefs determine your choices.
*SIDE NOTE: Interestingly, the above quote has been attributed to many sources including Gandhi, Lao Tzu, Margret Thatcher’s dad (?), Gautama Buddha and Ralph Waldo Emerson! Read about it here.
- Morality and Professional Practice
My beliefs affect my behaviour but not all behaviour is deemed right or wrong in professional practice. Sometimes your beliefs don’t really come into play and your behaviour in a situation doesn’t really matter. For instance, if I treat someone and find out they have a different taste in music, it’s not going to affect how I treat them. It doesn’t affect my beliefs, so there’s be no change in my behaviour. But if someone asked me to bill their medical aid when they missed an appointment, that would bring my belief system into play. What do they say, “don’t sweat the small stuff”.
- Perfectly Ethical
Is that an oxymoron?
1. conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type.
2. excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.
3. exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose.
4. entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.
5. accurate, exact, or correct in every detail.