Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

What philosophies and concepts shape personal ethical standards?   

Philosophical concepts such as fairness, honesty, and proportionality shape personal ethical standards. You can recognize these concepts by the fact that people will usually admit them to be right even if they do not follow them in practice. Religion also has a significant influence on personal ethical standards.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Personal ethical standards help us determine what is right or wrong and essentially shape both our mindset and our moral compass. As we grow and develop, we learn about the concepts of respect, honesty, integrity, and kindness; our environment and our culture shape us into who we are and basically define our value and belief systems.

Ethical standards are an individual matter and differ from person to person; for example, what's right for you may be wrong for another person, and vice versa. In this context, it might be argued that the concept of religion plays a very important role in the shaping of one's morality; some even believe that it is impossible to be moral and ethical without being religious. However, the ethical standards of one religion (which directly or indirectly determine the ethical standards of the believer) may be considered immoral by the believers of another religion.

Personal philosophies also shape personal ethical standards; the principles that we live by influence our behavior, our personality, and our lifestyle, as well as our moral codes. For example, a person might have a personal philosophy that they should treat other people the way other people treated them; this, in turn, determines their opinions, views and actions, as well as the way they form relationships with people and the way they deal with various situations.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The way a person's ethical standards are shaped is very much dependent on this person's cultural background. For example, two people from two different cultural backgrounds could have completely different personal ethical standards. Religion is probably one of the strongest influences on a person's cultural background, which is why I am focusing on religion in my response to your question.

Religion and the philosophies surrounding religion often play a huge part in shaping personal ethical standards. A Christian, for example, will very much live their life guided by Christian ethical standards. The Bible preaches the importance of forgiveness and being loving and kind towards each other. A Christian, therefore, would undoubtedly make these Christian values part of their personal ethical values.

Another example that shows the potential impact of Christian concepts on a person's personal ethical principles is that Christianity places a lot of importance on the sanctity of marriage. As a result, a Christian would see marriage as something very important, too, meaning that they might consider an affair or a divorce very much against their personal ethical principles.

Buddhism, to name another example, very much stresses the importance of respecting all living creatures. Therefore, a person who lives according to Buddhist principles might be of the opinion that being a vegetarian is a very important part of their personal ethical standards, as killing an animal in order to eat it would very strongly go against the Buddhist view of treating all living creatures with respect.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Certain concepts are found in almost every philosophical and religious system in the world, suggesting that they express insights into morality that are universal, or practically so. Perhaps the best-known of these concepts is the one known as "the golden rule," which states that you should treat others as you would like to be treated.

Other foundational concepts in most ethical systems are fairness, proportionality, and honesty. It is rare to meet an individual whose personal ethical standards are not shaped by these values. This does not, of course, mean that people always, or even usually, live up to these values; but they do recognize that the concepts have an imperative moral force.

To take the concept of fairness as an instance, it is fairly common for parents to treat their children unfairly, preferring one to another. However, it is very rare for parents to admit this unfairness openly and defend it on a philosophical level. Their standards are shaped by the concept of fairness, even if their behavior may not be. This is how you can recognize a philosophical concept as one which normally shapes people's ethical standards: it is one which is generally admitted to be normative even by those who do not follow it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is a rather philosophical question, I think. We incorporate values from various points within our culture - from our families, our schools, and from our communities at large (including the media).

Bosses, teachers, parents and mentors can be as influential as friends and probably moreso if we look at professional ethics in particular. If we are looking at our ethical systems on the whole, we run into the "individual" problem because everyone has a different set of experiences from which they draw lessons of values.

 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would argue that all philosophies and concepts that a person knows or has studied to some extent shape that person. Of course, those thoughts that the person has embraced shape that person the most. But I would also argue that even if a person does not embrace something, as long as there is exposure, there is influence. For example, if a person rejects something vehemently, then that very thing has caused a reaction in that person. That person, therefore, has been influenced to some extend.

I would also say that the society in general also influences a person. What influences a person the most is probably society, in fact. So, it is also important to know what philosophies and concepts have shaped that culture or society.

Finally, all of these influences shape what a person deems wrong and right. A person's ethics is forged in this context.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team