Annabel Beerel

What is Ethics?

Ethics, sometimes called moral philosophy, is the branch of philosophy concerned with how we should live. Since we are rational animals, the argument goes, we should consciously make those choices that lead to a good life; a life of well-being where we can be all we can be. Simply put, ethics concerns the choices we make, the motivation behind those choices, the values and principles that influenced those choices, and the moral reasoning that underpins those choices.

The study of ethics refers to investigating the existence, the source and the rationale for the many ethical principles we use to guide or justify our choices. Examples of ethical principles include: “make those decisions that demonstrate character and virtue;” “do your duty;” “act out of compassion;” “the end justifies the means.” The study of ethics also includes examining when certain ethical principles seem more appropriate than others.

Applied ethics refers to the application of values and ethical principles to specific problems and in response to certain situations or demands. Business ethics is an example of applied ethics.

Living an ethical life means living a life of self-awareness and self-reflection. This includes understanding who one is and what one stands for. The ethical life is continuously questioning whether one has made good choices and how one might attain deeper wisdom. The ethical life is a life of questioning, striving, searching and learning. An ethical life is a process, a journey and a desire to live a good life while recognizing one is human and imperfect.

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