Ethics can be defined as “how a moral person should behave- (Josephson). This definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation on the part of the reader, but that is only because ethics themselves are very vague. While not as clear-cut as “values-, “ethics- deal more with an individuals beliefs using their own religious, spiritual or moral code. Sometimes all of these forces of influence come into play, sometimes only one or two, and rarely will two people agree entirely on an ethical decision. There will always be details that will differ from one person, and one group, to the next. What is important in making ethical decisions is that the decision is based on an ethical code, which can be clearly defined as to its nature in relation to a common good.
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When striving to achieve an acceptable ethical decision, it is important that all parties involved understand the basis upon which the decision will be based. It is important to set up ground rules for the decision, and it is equally important that these ground rules are clearly understood. Because the concept of ethics is so loosely based, what may well be an ethically acceptable decision in one culture may be horrific to another. The acceptable use of cattle as a food source throughout Western Civilization as opposed to the honoring of the cow as a sacred animal by the Hindu religion is a prime example of this dichotomy. Precisely because these differences in culture and belief structures exist, making an ethical decision requires the careful mapping of a set of ground rules. Without them, one side would not be able to understand the motivation of the other, and this would result in a disharmonious decision at best and a completely failed decision at worst.
The ground rules for an ethical decision could be as simple as a general reference to a mutually acceptable religion, or even a recognized group or sanctioning body that has a clearly defined set of morals and values that could be referred to within the decision.