As a social work major, is a good way to describe "definition of ethics" as categorizing a behavior as wrong or right according to a person's view of life (since everyone's beliefs are different)?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a multicultural society, it is, indeed, more difficult to define what is ethical and what is not. However, in certain professions, there are codes of ethics. Consider, for instance, the Journalist Code of Ethics. As posted for the Journalism Department of San Francisco State University and other schools of Journalism, as well, at the top is "Strive for Accuracy and Fairness" and "Tell the Truth" and "Do not Plagiarize." Certainly, the medical profession has long had ethical standards which are in line with those of Journalism in the insistence upon honesty and integrity and client/medical staff confidentiality.

And, while different cultures value certain character traits more highly than others, there is, nevertheless, agreement that a standard of truthfulness is essential. Colleges and universities include in their business schools a course in Business Ethics, which in many schools is a course that is a requisite. Against truthfulness is at the top of the list, as well as such issues as how to conduct oneself at the jobsite or with clients or associates. For example, Time Theft is a contemporary issue that is ethically addressed. In one study, 

Almost three out of four social networkers (72 percent) spend at least some time of their workday on social networking sites.

The eighteenth-century philosopher Adam Smith said, 

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

So, governments set certain standards of ethics, such as making Insider Trading illegal, while individual businesses set other ethical standards that are monitored by their Human Resources.

While there are, then, professional ethical standards, the personal ethics of individuals are often set based upon that person's religious and cultural beliefs as well as adherence to required behaviors pertinent to their environment's laws. Standards of what is right and wrong are often set based upon Christianity, for instance, or cultural beliefs of respecting individual's self and property. Thus, ethics can be defined as a set of moral standards for personal and professional behavior based upon religious, cultural, and humanistic beliefs, along with professional responsibilities.