Free Essay On Culture
Ethics Reflection Paper
Ethics is a universally-applied system for determining what is right from what is wrong or proper from improper. Each culture has its own protocol for what constitutes ethical behavior and what does not. What may be considered acceptable in one person’s culture may be regarded as taboo in another person’s culture. For example, while shameless spitting on the ground is completely legal in a metropolis such as Beijing, China, it is legally immoral in Southeast Asian city Singapore where people are fined for such behavior. So in terms of understanding ethics, it is important to know that it is not always about being right or wrong, but more about trying to comprehend different ways of behaving morally; because culture is all about learning, exploring and appreciating the diversity that exists in the world. I will aim to discuss the divine command theory, utilitarianism and the cultural relativism ethical approaches in relation to how they each support or challenge my own values and worldview. Then I will attempt to pinpoint the greatest strength and weakness of each ethical approach, providing real world examples to make the theory relevant and practical to ordinary life.
First, the divine command theory is rooted in spirituality in that God judges and decides on what is moral behavior. People adhering to this approach believe that their actions are linked to pleasing God who is the ultimate rewarder or punisher of karma. Bad karma will result in punishment while good karma will result in reward. Christians, for example, hold fast to divine command theory because the Holy Bible is their infallible instruction manual that teaches them how to live righteously in line with what God commands. The Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus provides a list of 10 God-given rules that all Christians are to live by. According to Biblical Scripture, these mandates were given to Bible hero Moses on Mount Sinai after he led his people out of slavery in Egypt. Thus, they became the standard with which all Jews and Christians were to follow thereafter.
Muslims also have their holy book, the Koran. Monotheistic in nature like Judaism and Christianity, Islam stresses devout obedience to Allah and his divine precepts. Islamic infidels will receive their just reward as spelled out in the Koran. I think the divine command theory is beneficial in that it helps people to dedicate their lives to a higher calling, a deeper way of living on this planet. People are motivated by their faith, an internal, invisible force that guides their everyday behavior and lifestyle; hence why devout religion followers pray, attend religious service, and celebrate annual holiday festivals and traditions (e.g., Christmas, Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah).
For the most part, these people dream of living in a more peaceful and equitable world and they realize their role in realizing this dream. However, when ethnocentric attitudes begin to overpower the harmonious flourishing of religious pluralism, then the divine command theory becomes an issue because some people may believe that their faith is morally superior to all others. At an extreme level, this results in sectarian violence, religious bigotry, and outright radicalism, which we can all discern in worldwide current events (e.g., increasing Christian persecution, Islamic terrorism, and Anti-Semitism resurgence).
Second, utilitarianism centers on the greatest common good that can be accomplished through one’s behavior. So action is performed based on maximizing the good that can result as opposed to the bad. In other words, harm is minimized while health is maximized. I like this ethical approach in that the end goal is that many people/parties will benefit in the end. The end justifies the means. As long as the outcome is acceptable and beneficial, then it does not matter how that outcome was achieved, thereby downplaying the process aspect. An example of this would be when a government is deciding on educational policy, and it wants to make education affordable and accessible to all children. So in order to achieve this goal, the government will provide funding to schools meeting the federal guidelines for satisfactory student academic performance. This sounds great, right? Of course it does but there is a flaw inherent in this utilitarian approach.
While the majority of schools will receive government funding to continue improving childhood education, the schools that were unsatisfactory in performance were overlooked. Although this number is small, these particular schools did not benefit from the government’s decision to reward the better performing schools. So while a large amount of good was occurred for the majority, the minority suffered unfavorable repercussions. Perhaps this would serve as the biggest weakness for utilitarian ethics. No matter how much good intentions produce good outcomes for a good amount of people, there will inevitably be those who do not reap the favorable fruit of a utilitarian ethical decision simply because they were not grouped into the majority group or for other seemingly unfair reasons beyond their control. I think this ethical approach works to a certain extent and then it loses merit.
Finally, cultural relativism rejects the notion of absolute right or wrong ethical behavior in stark contrast to the divine command theory. Ethics is relative or it is defined according to the culture in which one is operating. As aforementioned in the introduction, I think that this ethical approach will help people to live together more peaceably and respectfully because instead of trying to get people to do things my way, I can learn a new way of doing things and vice versa. Only then can we learn to value the rich diversity in our world. This becomes a strength of cultural relativism. For instance, while native English speakers are privy to the numerous nuances of the language, they can also learn different forms of English as it is spoken in different parts of the world. Nonnative speakers have their own unique accents and styles of speaking English that are not necessarily wrong but simply different.
I embrace the cultural relativism approach because it reflects the heterogeneous fabric of the globe we inhabit. And this ethical attitude is essential to people who like traveling because when venturing to unknown territory on foreign soil, the traveler must be culturally sensitive and open-minded enough to enjoy the experience for what it is rather than passing judgment or patronizing the local culture. For instance, if I were to travel to Mongolia where their traditional homes known as yurts do not have indoor plumbing, I would need to know that I am in a different culture where things are done differently than what I am accustomed to. I cannot expect to go there and find the same amenities and niceties that I would find in my own homeland. So taking a cultural relativism standpoint requires a mentality of humility, flexibility and patience not only in globetrotting, but also in working with people of diverse backgrounds in this 21st century workforce.
However, a major weakness of cultural relativism may be that an “anything goes” type of behavior can become prevalent in which a total disregard for the human universal qualities of kindness, compassion, altruism, and respect become the norm. Too much relativism can lead to a complete breakdown of tolerance and gratitude for others’ cultural practices and a surrendering of personal accountability due to an abuse of freedom and individuality. As with anything in life, a healthy balance becomes significant when engaging in ethical behavior, despite the approach one may espouse. Balance is everything in life.
Please remember that this paper is open-access and other students can use it too.
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