What are ethics?


Many definitions are available. However, ethical issues deal with principles concerning:

* "Good and bad" or "right and wrong."

* Ethics deal with things to be sought and things to be avoidedand with the telos (chief good or aims of life) [Diogenes Laertius, Livesof Eminent Philosophers, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1925]

* Ethics concepts have traditionally been involved with the socialsciences of philosophy and psychology along with the study of religion.Within these fields are the concepts of metaethics (origin of the meaningof ethical concepts); normative ethics (arriving at moral standards thatregulate right and wrong; and applied ethics (the branch of ethics thatdeals with controversial moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia, animalrights and medical ethics.

An example of metaethics applies to eternal truths such as: 1+1 = 2.metaethics reasons that this concept exists whether human beings exist ornot.

An example of normative ethics would be the Golden Rule and is a standardthat many use as a single principle by which to judge all actions. The GoldenRule can be found in the Judeo-Christian Bible in two locations: MatthewChapter 7 and in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. (Lev. 19:18).

The Golden Rule

So then, whatever you desire that others would do to and for you, evenso do also to and for them, for this is (sums up) the Law and the Prophets~~Matthew 7:12

Normative ethics also includes many theories from the field of philosophy.Some of these theories include certain duties to other people.

These theorists have listed these duties as:

* Fidelity: the duty to keep promises

* Reparation: the duty to compensate others when we do harm.

* Self improvement: the duty to improve our virtue and intelligence.

* Justice: the duty to recognize merit

* Benevolence: the duty to improve the condition of others.

* Gratitude: the duty to thank those who help us.

* Nonmaleficence: the duty to not injure others.

Normative ethics in many ways deals with the day-to-day concerns andduties of people-including those who work in a veterinary environment.

Examples of applied ethics concern areas of controversy as noted above.Included here are also our duties to maintain client confidentiality andto tell the truth to our clients concerning the inevitability of a patient'sdeath if it is known with certainty. Applied ethics also deals with clientethics such as the unwillingness of certain clients to keep a known leukemiapositive cat indoors in spite of appropriate client education.

-Dr. David M. Lane

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