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What Are Personal Ethics?

Personal ethics can include the willingness to share, which can benefit both the individual and those around him.
Different religions typically establish specific guidelines for personal ethics.
Being a supportive friend is often part of a person's ethics.
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  • Written By: Kristin Wood
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 13 December 2014
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Personal ethics is a category of philosophy that determines what an individual believes about morality and right and wrong. This is usually distinguished from business ethics or legal ethics. These branches of ethics come from outside organizations or governments, not the individual's conscience. These branches of ethics occasionally overlap. Personal ethics can affect all areas of life, including family, finances and relationships.

There is some disagreement on where ethics originate from. Some philosophers use man's sense of morality to support the existence of God. These philosophers typically agree that a divine power instilled personal morality in humankind, creating a basic universal system of right and wrong.

Evolutionists might explain humanity's personal ethics through survival of the fittest. They might teach that a species that did not place value on life could have kill itself off gradually, while a species with an ethical system that frowns upon violence and murder would be given a greater chance to reproduce and evolve, thus passing their peaceful ethics onto new generations. Evolutionists might conclude that modern humanity now genetically inherits the ability to discern between rights and wrongs that benefit the community.

Other philosophers argue that ethics are not inherent at all and that children learn right and wrong solely from social conditioning. This could be the cause of the differing personal ethics found throughout the world. These philosophers typically suggest that a person's ethics are learned from families, friends and teachers. Some ethics might also be adapted from individual experiences.

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The purpose of personal ethics is often debated. Ideas can range from pleasing a personal god to creating a thriving community to learning the best way to please oneself. Religion inspires a large portion of ethics. Many devoted followers are willing to adhere to a specific morality system on faith alone.

Others are motivated by humanitarian interests. These personal ethics can breed lofty goals. Some people shape their actions and priorities around ending world hunger, slowing global warming or encouraging world peace. Humanitarian efforts can also be more subtle, such as random acts of kindness for a neighbor or volunteering as a tutor. Sometimes different motivations can blend together. A religious person might make personal ethical choices that simultaneously please her god while also helping her community.

Another possible motivation for personal ethics is to serve the individual. Philosophers might argue that a child will learn to share, tell the truth and work hard because he sees that these actions benefit him. For example, when a child chooses to break the rules of a game, he is creating conflict and building a barrier between himself and his peers. On the other hand, the child who plays by the rules enjoys friendship and intimacy with his peers, ultimately benefiting himself.

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anon292997
Post 3

I liked reading this because I got to understand the meaning of ethics and philosophy better. It was very interesting.

suntan12
Post 2

Sneakers41-Values and ethics can also relate to how you do business. People with low values and a poor sense of ethics might bribe another person in order to develop a significant business advantage.

Those that accept the bribe are also suffering from poor ethics and values. Many politicians and judges have gone to jail for violating these ethical tenants.

Personal ethics versus professional ethics is really the same. If you are honest in your personal life, the chances are high that you will be honest in your professional life.

People that are ethical see things as black and white. They do not gray the lines of ethics like some people do. They don't need to try to justify their actions by saying things like, “Everybody does it” but in realty this is a justification of immoral behavior in order to make yourself feel better.

sneakers41
Post 1

Social and personal ethics related to ones degree of honesty and integrity. Ethics like values are concrete and there are no grey areas. Either you are honest or you are not.

Ethics and values will shape how two people will see the same circumstance. For example, a friend of mind who was living in his deceased parent’s home began receiving pension payments even though he informed the company that his father was deceased.

He continued to inform the company and return the checks every month because this money did not belong to him.

I know of another case of a person collecting and cashing payroll checks after being terminated but the company continued mailing checks to this person for years. Needless to say, the latter case ended in a fraud conviction and the person is now sitting in jail because they took money that did not belong to them.

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