Topics. Introduction to Ethical Theories. Teleology (Co

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TopicsIntroduction to Ethical TheoriesTeleology (Consequentialism)Deontology (Rights and Duties)Computer EthicsIntroduction to Ethical TheoriesThe concepts ofethics, character, right and wrong, and good and evilhave captivated humankind since we began to live in groups,communicate, and pass judgment on each other. The morality of ouractions is based on motivation, group rules and norms, and the endresult. The difficult questions of ethics and information technology (IT)may not have been considered by previous generations, but what is good,evil, right, and wrong in human behavior certainly has been. With thesehistorical foundations and systematic analyses of present-day and futureIT challenges, we are equipped for both the varied ethical battles we willface and the ethical successes we desire.Although most of you will be called upon to practice applied ethics intypical business situations, you'll find that the foundation for suchapplication is a basic understanding of fundamental ethical theories.These ethical theories include the work of ancient philosophers such asPlato and Aristotle. This module introduces the widely accepted coreethical philosophies, which will serve to provide you with a basicunderstanding of ethical thought. With this knowledge, you can begin torelate these theoretical frameworks to practical ethical applications intoday's IT environment.Let's start with a fundamental question: "Why be ethical andmoral?" Atthe mostexistentiallevel, it may not matter. But we don't live our lives ina vacuum—we live our lives with our friends, relatives, acquaintances, co-workers, strangers, and fellow wanderers. To be ethical and moral allowsus to be counted upon by others and to be better than we wouldotherwise be. This, in turn, engenders trust and allows us to haveproductive relationships with other people and in society. Our ethicalsystem, supported by critical thinking skills, is what enables us to makedistinctions between what is good, bad, right, or wrong.An individual's ethical system is based upon his or her personal valuesand beliefs as they relate to what is important and is, therefore, highlyindividualized. Values are things that are important to us. "Values can becategorized into three areas: Moral (fairness, truth, justice, love,happiness), Pragmatic (efficiency, thrift, health, variety, patience) andAesthetic (attractive, soft, cold, square)" (Navran, n.d.). Moral valuesinfluence our ethical system. These values may or may not be supported
by individual beliefs. For example, a person is faced with a decision—heborrowed a friend's car and accidentally backed into a tree stump,denting the fender—should he confess or make up a story about how ithappened when the car was parked? If he had a personal value ofhonesty, he would decide not to lie to his friend. Or, he could have astrong belief that lying is wrong because it shows disrespect for anotherperson and, therefore, he would tell the truth. In either case, the ethicaldecision making was influenced by his system of values or beliefs. Thesemay come from family, culture, experience, education, and so on.This discussion brings us to the termethics. Frank Navran, principalconsultant with the Ethics Resource Center (ERC), defines ethics as "thestudy of what we understand to be good and right behavior and howpeople make those judgments" (n.d.). Behavior that is consistent withone's moral values would be considered ethical behavior. Actions that areinconsistent with one's view of right, just, and good are consideredunethical behavior. However, it is important to note that determiningwhat is ethical is not just an individual decision—it also is determinedsocietally.We will witness this larger social dimension in this course, which isdesigned to provide you with an understanding of the specific ethicalissues that have arisen as information technology has evolved over thelast few decades. The very changes that enhanced technology causes insociety also create ethical issues and dilemmas not previouslyencountered. The lack of precedent in many areas, combined with theease of potentially operating outside of ethical paradigms, posesignificant challenges to end users, IT analysts, programmers,technicians, and managers of information systems. We must be preparedlogically and scientifically to understand ethics and to practice usingethical guidelines in order to achieve good and right solutions and to plancourses of action in times of change and uncertainty.You can see from the benefits discussed above that knowledge, respectfor, and a deeper understanding of norms and laws and their source—ethics and morals—is extremely useful. Ethical thought and theories aretools to facilitate our ethical decision-making process. They can providethe foundation on which to build a great company, or to become a betterand more productive employee, a better neighbor, and a better person.Still, some professionals may wonder "Why study ethics?" Robert Hartley,author ofBusiness Ethics: Violations of the Public Trust(Hartley, 1993, pp.322–324) closes his book with four insights, which speak directly to thisquestion for business and IT professionals. They are:The modern era is one ofcaveat vendidor, "Let the seller beware." ForIT managers, this is an important reason to understand and practiceethics.In business (and in life), adversity is not forever. But Hartley points out
that when business problems are handled unethically, the adversitybecomes a permanent flaw and results in company, organization,and individual failure.Trusting relationships (with customers, employees, and suppliers) arecritical keys to success. Ethical behavior is part and parcel ofbuilding and maintaining the trust relationship, and hence businesssuccess.One person can make a difference. This difference may be for good orevil, but one person equipped with the understanding of ethicaldecision-making, either by acting on it or simply articulating it toothers, changes history. This sometimes takes courage orsteadfastness—qualities that spring from basic ethical confidence.In the world of information technology today and in the future, theapplication of these ethical theories to day-to-day and strategic decisionmaking is particularly relevant. The ability to garner personal, corporate,and governmental information and to disseminate this data in thousandsof applications with various configurations and components bringssignificant responsibilities to ensure the privacy, accuracy, and integrityof such information. The drive to collect and distribute data at increasingvolume and speed, whether for competitive advantage in the marketplaceor homeland security cannot overshadow the IT manager's responsibilityto provide appropriate controls, processes, and procedures to protectindividual and organizational rights.Let's begin building our understanding of several predominant ethicaltheories. Ethical theories typically begin with the premise that what isbeing evaluated is good or bad, right or wrong. Theorists seek to examineeither the basic nature of the act or the results the act brings about. AsDeborah Johnson (2001, p. 29) states inComputer Ethics, philosophicalethics is normative (explaining how things should be, not how they are atany given moment) and ethical theories are prescriptive (prescribing the"desired" behavior). Frameworks for ethical analysis aim to shape orguide the most beneficial outcome or behavior. There are two maincategories of normative ethical theories:teleologyanddeontology.Telosrefers toendanddeonrefers to that which is obligatory. These theoriesaddress the fundamental question of whether the "means justify the end"or the "end justifies the means." Deontological ethical systems focus onthe principle of the matter (the means), not the end result. In contrast,teleological ethical systems address the resulting consequences of anaction (the ends).Return to top of pageTeleology (Consequentialism)Teleological theories focus on maximizing the goodness of the cumulative
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