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Ethics Course Project

EG 468

Wade Schlueter

Mrs. Hubbard

Ethics is a muddled topic to say the least. There are a lot of things which make it difficult
and convulted, because of different upbringings, values, religious beliefs, and various other factors.
In this reflection, ethics will be considered at a personal level, the various tools of critical thinking
about ethics, the beliefs of living ethically, and the role of reason, emotion, and intuition in regards
to ethics. Once we have established a background in ethics, we can then begin to tackle a few ethical
dilemmas. But first, lets figure out a few things about ethics in general.
Ethics, in my opinion, means that one has a personal set of beliefs of how one should act in
society that can benefit themselves as well as the whole. Cooperation as a whole, in regards to
societal structure and politics, can benefit yourself in the end by allowing more freedom, such as
free speech in America. This set of ethics, should have a stronger focus on reasoning rather than
driven by emotion and intuition because reason is usually more considerate of the potential changes,
benefits, or consequences of actions than emotion or intuition can be. This is where critical thinking
about ethics comes into play.
When thinking critically about ethics, there are tools that we can use to determine the best
course of action. The first set of tools, are questions such as the following: how does this affect me,
how does this affect society, how does this work out in the long term and the short term, what is the
religious/cultural/personal beliefs of the affected people, and finally, how can emotional response to
my actions affect my actions? These are things that should be considered when dealing with an
ethical issue.
Another major tool that we can use in ethics is by hypothetical situation. Take for example,
the ethical issue presented in our class textbook regarding the Society of Music Lovers, which
presented a case that could be used in an argument regarding abortion. Another such example,
regards one's personal set of ethics and how that might change if we were to live on an island alone
for the rest of our lives. How does ethics work then?

And the final tool of ethics regards the past. Martin Luther King and Ghandi both used
peaceful protesting as a vehicle for change in society by playing on the emotional ties of people by
playing the hateful violent group against the sympathetic group. Or Adolf Hitler's Nazi campaign
against the Jewish people and how his subordinates and people of Germany responded to the
atrocities commited against their fellow humans. Milgram's experiment supports this, as many
people will do just about anything if a higher authority tells them to do so and accepts responsibility
for their actions. This tells us something important about ethics, something that says our sense of
reasoning can go out the window if we accept authority without question. This also reminds us that
this sort of atrocity can and will happen again if we simply accept authority at face value. Posing
questions, using hypothesises, and the past are great critical tools of thinking in regard to ethics, and
should be used when dealing with a situation.
Once we have a defintion and a way to think about ethics, we can consider the issue of living
ethically. Take for example, how some people consider that to live ethically, we should eat organic
food because it is less chemically polluting to the environment. This sounds like a great argument,
until one begins to think about how using chemicals has allowed the growth of many more crops
than would otherwise be possible. A satirical website I enjoy reading,, claimed that if
the world was to "go organic", that it would be able to produce enough food to feed 4 billion people
at max capacity. Too bad, I suppose, for the othe 2.5 billion people who need food (Tran, S.). I guess
they can go on a diet, which would probably be America! Regardless, this is an example of how
emotions can play into ethics. We believe that we are doing a good thing for the environment and for
ourselves by going organic. Yet, most will neve stop to consider the reasoning of why chemicals are
used and how that would affect the world at large. Or even how that organic milk shipped cross
country in a gas guzzling vehicle belching out CO2 comes at a high cost because of the limited
demand due to that vey cost.

The same ideas actually apply to other "green" ideas, such as hybrids or electric cars because
of the production that they must undergo before they can be brought to the public, let alone the
higher reliance on batteries which would need to be disposed of properly as well. The problem with
this kind of thinking is quite simple because people are busy, and it is an issue that more people need
to take the time to consider when making choices about how to live their life. Emotion and intuition
obviously is not enough here to make the correct choice. But it doesnt mean that living ethically is
an easy thing to do, since so many factors need to be considered and researched.
As a result, I believe that Utilitarian ethics holds the best ideas regarding ethics and ethical
living because it considers the happiness of the whole rather than the individual. Because it is
happiness centric, this is also a long term kind of ethics if future generations are considered to also
be part of that whole. For example, polluting now may not hurt things too much, but what about
future generations who will have to deal with cleaning that up? Its obvious that this question poses
problems for the current happiness of society against future generations, but the larger picture
includes that group as well. For those reasons, change needs to happen now rather than later and is
thus a good reason to invest in research of new technologies to help make this happen. Additionally,
in order for this style of ethics to work optimally, the focus should remain on reasoning first and
foremost before delegating ethical questions to emotion and intuition.
Everyone has experienced using these things, yet there are times when we must use one in
preference over another. Reasoning occurs the most often when we have time to think and consider
an issue for an extended period of time. Emotions occur naturally whether we want them to or not,
and thus we have to discipline ourselves to prevent speaking out of turn before considering the
appropriate response. Intuition should occur when there is no real time to consider the consequences
of those actions as leading by intuition is not governed by any real reasons or emotions, but usually
by a survival instinct or desire to act before things get ugly. Yet, even for all of our discipline

growing up, weve all done something that we didnt reason out first, like saying things we dont
mean in the heat of an argument or making the wrong decision by our intuition that led to our own
suffering or someone elses suffering. The best we can do is to try to define our own set of ethics, so
that we can react with a defined purpose rather than a lost cause.
With a basic overview of ethics at large, we can begin to consider a few different issues.
Take the Rutger's suicide in 2010 as a matter looking at hate crimes and what defines hate. First off,
the story is as follows: Tyler Clementi was a young freshman of Rutger's University whom
committed suicide by jumping off of a bridge in 2010, which is seen as a result of cyber bullying
because he was gay (Muskal, M.). "After Clementi's death on Sept. 22, 2010, early reports suggested
that [his roommate] Ravi had used a webcam to video Clemtni having a sexual encounter with a
man, then posted the video on the Web, outing the freshman" (Muskal, M.). "Ravi is charged with
invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension and tampering with a witness and evidence. He is also
charged with two counts of bias intimidation, a hate crime that carries added penalties of up to 10
years in prison" (Susman, T.). Yet, there is one bit of electronic evidence that has not come up, that
before the world knew of Clementi's death, that Ravi sent Clementi a letter of apology.
Obviously, there are a lot of things going on that are muddling up the various accounts of
what actually happened, yet there are some things that can be surmised. Why would someone
commit suicide unless there was a strong personal belief on Clementi's part that the video had been
posted and publicized throughout the college? Or that his life had been ruined in some way as a
result of Ravi's actions? This is a issue of personal privacy that can be so often today shared with the
world as easily as the push of a button, which plagues celebrities and free speech because people
don't consider the repercussions of the information they share. Right to privacy for the most part,
seems to be a non-issue for most until it becomes a personal issue. No one cares if they invade
celebrities' personal lives for the interesting details of their activities, but it's hellfire and brimstone

if "big brother" gets too touchy feely in the personal business of the average American. These are
two greatly differing views on the same matter that should both get attention. The solution is a
matter of self reflection that everyone should take when posting information online, because we live
in an age where information travels and spreads faster than the plague itself. With repeated media
exposure to such events, I believe that more people will become acutely aware of this issue as we
grow up so deeply interconnected to the world. This solution is utilitarian because when we start to
consider individual privacy respect, we promote those goals for everyone as a whole which makes
everyone happier.
The second ethical issue is in regards to religion, respect, death, and political tension.
American soldiers in Afghanistan burned copies of the Quran in response to a belief that they were
being used to pass messages along between Taliban detainees that could endanger the soldiers
stationed there (Husar, S.). Additionally, these copies of the Quran were also provided with
American tax dollars for these prisoners that were being used for these secret messages (Husar, S.).
In response to the burnings, great unrest was stirred in the United Nations headquarters based in the
Kunduz Province of Afghanistan and resulted in a shooting that killed two American soldiers and
injured 51 others. It is also worth mentioning that "in the east, 2,000 protesters, mainly students
from one of the main high schools, marched on the governor's residence in Laghman Province, and
21 Afghans were wounded when the police opened fire" (Bowley, G.).
In Islam, burning the Quran is burning the word of God and is considered "an unacceptable,
unforgivable incompetence. For Muslims, destroying the Quran is worse than civilian casualties"
(Kuz, M.). A assistant professor of political science at The American University in Kabul even says
that "It's the incompetence of [the International Security Assistance Force]. They have been here for
more than 10 years and they still fail to understand the sensitivities of Afghanistan" (Kuz, M.).
Another Afghan from the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies, Waliullah Rhamni, comments that

"there is a lack of cultural understanding with the U.S. soldiers that should have been addressed by
now, with their constant rotations - the new units coming in every year - knowledge does not get
passed on" (Kuz, M.). This just helps illustrate that there is a certain lack of knowledge of how to
deal with the Quran in order to avoid such tension, or even what the correct procedure for disposing
of the Quran is supposed to entail. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik explains that "the traditional way of
disposing of used or damaged copies of the text of the Quran is by burning it," though the way in
which it was done was not religiously respectful, "it was also not done with malice or intent to cite
the Afghanis" (Husar, S.).
This issue affects society because it is a matter of religious respect, that Americans have the
right to free speech and freedom of religion as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others. As
a society, the repercussions of something so personal is not only an issue of respect but of everyone's
happiness and ability to get along. By taking the time to make due for our mistakes and learn from
them, we not only find a solution in dealing with these issues but take a utilitarian stance as well.
This is not to say that I support the use of religion as a manner to plot violence against others, rather,
that I support the respect of religion when it comes to dealing with respectful disposal of religious
And this issue actually ties in with the last ethical debate in America, the issue of separation
of Church and State. This is an ethical issue because it deals with respect in regards to religion and
people of many different beliefs and lifestyles, the American way. Yet the current Republican
presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Sunday on ABC's "This Week," that "I don't believe in an
American where the separation of church and state is absolute" (Caldwell, L.). He goes on to say
that Kennedy's speech of 1960 "was trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the
government says, we are going to impose our values on you" and that "people of faith have no role
in the public square" (Caldwell, L.). In Kennedy's speech, he said that "he would not be 'the Catholic

candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be
a Catholic'" (Caldwell, L.). Kennedy is actually supported by the Founding Fathers, whom wrote the
Constitution of the United States which was a secular document, the first one for America
(Separation of Church and State). But do not confuse religion as an intent for the foundation
framework of the United States with the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of
Independence is simply that, a declaration of separation from England that was in no way a legal
document (Separation of Church and State).
Then why do we impose religious beliefs when it comes to marriage? Why do we say that
couples must be man and woman to be entitled to legal rights that benefit them, rather than to
couples of the same sex who love each other just as any other? This is just one example of how
religion is not as separate as we'd like it to be and how it can affect our country. Imagine how
different our country would be if it was based on Catholic law. Goodbye contraceptives, goodbye
abortion rights and morning after pills, and various other things. We would no longer be the country
that we started out to be, one of free speech and freedom of religion. The solution is to remind
Americans that freedom of religion comes at a cost, that everyone has the right to follow their own
choices. That is America's values, and that is where we should be focused on. We can start by
bringing a focus on American values into the classroom, encouraging debate and teaching
understanding with greater detail than before. In the end, we provide yet another utilitarian solution.
Because we can live in a place where we all may not have the same opinions, we are not forced to
follow the ways of our government or of other people. If it truly bothers people, that rules or values
of one religion should be enforced on people nationwide, then they are certainly not being stopped
from going to a country that does just that. And there is so much more that could be said about this
topic, about the previous ethical issues that were brought up, or any other number of issues.

But what is important is that we learned a thing or two about ethics, that it is rarely as clean
cut as we'd like it to be or as completely devoid of other valid viewpoints. But by taking the time to
debate and understand each other more fully, we can approach a solution that is the best for

Bowley, G. (2012, February 25). 2 Americans Are Killed as Afghan Unrest Enters Fifth Day The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Retrieved
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Hotsheet - CBS News. Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News CBS News. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from
Husar, S. (2012, February 26). Video: Kira Davis offers her apology to President Karzai, standing
for America | Washington Times Communities. Washington Times Communities |
Entertainment, Sports, Politics, Family News. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from
Kuz, M. (2012, February 26). Quran crisis reveals lack of awareness - Stripes - Independent U.S.
military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide. Stripes - Independent U.S.
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Muskal, M. (2012, February 24). Rutgers suicide puts spotlight on hate crimes, bullying Los Angeles Times - California, national and world news -
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Susman, T. (2012, February 24). Dharun Ravi: Trial begins in Rutgers suicide - Los
Angeles Times - California, national and world news - Retrieved February 25,
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Tran, S. (2009, February 23). 5 Ways People Are Trying to Save the World (That Don't Work) | - America's Only Humor & Video Site Since 1958 | Retrieved February 25, 2012, from