The Complex Landscape of Ethics: Unraveling Morality in a Diverse Society

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Complexity of Ethics: Diverse Perspectives and Cultural Influences

When asked about ethics, I had no idea really what it was. I did not have an easy definition, and if I were asked to explain it to a friend, I would not be able to give a concise and easily understood response. The best I could muster was a vague concept. When I looked elsewhere online and in books, I noticed that no one definition or explanation was the same. It is hard to define what is a broad topic that touches, whether directly or indirectly, on almost everything. However, there was a common theme of right vs. wrong. A set of morals that directed behavior and largely based on culture. Also, an understanding that what is right for one person does not necessarily mean it is right for the other person.

Ethics and morality are influenced by many things like personal, religious, and family beliefs, to name a few. There is also an order to how much value is placed on each influence, which might change opinions of decisions. One transgression might not be considered as harmful as compared to another. There must be agreed-upon standards that are culturally important and observed. As in Eastern cultures, where the elderly are looked after, cared for, and cherished by their children and grandchildren, ancestor worship is a “norm.” In Western culture, protecting women and children by giving them priority for lifeboats on a sinking ship.

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Every person’s moral system differs from each other, which makes it such a difficult thing to explain. An understanding of that before attempting to explain and learn about ethics gives a good focus to keep in mind when dealing with what is mostly inherent thoughts and feelings of not just yourself but others.

Evolution of Ethical Thought: From Social Contract to Altruistic Instincts

The term “social contract,” which stemmed from Plato, was that a society exists because of mutual understanding, or contract, between everyone in that society. And that because of that, society (or the state) should serve the will of the people. At one point, when early man started to grow and form communities, the first ones had to decide to band together for mutual protection and gain. A deviation from the instinct to fend for self and only the strong survive.

As that led into Ancient Greek times and the Age of Enlightenment, civilization thrived in their practice of morals and common good that they devoted whole schools to where all the greatest minds could question and ponder on these new ideas. Thanks to society, the toil for the basics of survival could be spread among everyone, and time could now be afforded to these pursuits of the mind. Ideas of the perfect self from Plato.

That man is not perfect, and we should strive to be like the perfect versions of ourselves. Or to the Stoics’ acceptance of what happens in life and to not let your emotions or fears cause you to reject logic and reason in your decisions and act justly and with fairness. All these mutualistic and naturalistic concepts are at the root of all morals; doing what is right is more beneficial for everyone than doing what is wrong, and for the most part, it is instinctive to act altruistically.

Ethics in Daily Life: Unveiling the Unseen Importance

Ethics comprise such a majority of topics and pieces of our daily lives that it often can be taken for granted and becomes an invisible afterthought at times. When it comes to big and difficult issues, there is a need to avoid such complacency. Protection from any one side from asserting a harmful agenda is one critical reason why ethics are necessary. For example, in the medical industry, researchers need to be careful that in their efforts, they are not doing more harm than good.

Research animals cannot voice their concerns, so it is up to humans to ensure we don’t overstep the boundaries set forth by the medical community. In human research, the FDA is a government entity that protects people from possible bad medications by ensuring that proper drug trials and research are performed to guarantee safety. The business sector requires ethics as well. Honest practices that involve millions of dollars must be ethically accountable; otherwise, it undermines the system as a whole, and all confidence will be lost in a crucial element of society.

The concern of too much ethics does provide a counterpoint. Too much control is resoundingly not good for society. The push for total control under the flag of ethics produces a situation where power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. The result of conflict eventually disturbs society at some point.

Ethics: Complex Pathways to Progress and Cooperation

From that standpoint, ethics can be troublesome, but ethics can also benefit. In the field of agriculture, proper ethical research and technology are major contributors to the common trend of higher yields for American crop farms, even as the average number of farms is decreasing and the age of the average farmer is increasing. Cleaner food that is free of pesticides and herbicides is another positive for agriculture. Government agencies that inspect our food. All these, which in turn will increase the common good.

There is no easy way to explain at first what ethics is. With such an enormous fluid-like substance that can change so easily from person to person, it can be easy to deter from its origins with that first “tribe” that started the whole thing. Distractions from what should be an easy answer after some deeper reflection and critical thought. It’s our natural motive to want to do better, and through cooperation and an agreement that doing it together is better than going solo. Our cultural indoctrination as we grow up instills in us the morality that we depend on to keep the common good. From there, we learn right vs. wrong and develop our society. Let’s hope we are heading in the right direction.


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The Complex Landscape of Ethics: Unraveling Morality in a Diverse Society. (2023, Aug 30). Retrieved from

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