Ethics Views 1
Module 3 - Learning Activity: Your Ethics Views
Penn State, World Campus
GEOG 030, Spring Semester
Professor Seth Baum
January 23, 2011
Ethics Views 2
Is it more important to be a good person or to perform good acts (virtue ethics vs. action
A person can only be good as their actions, and because of this it is imperative for a
person to do actions that are of a wholesome nature. The relationship between a person’s actions
and their respective character is very intimate. A person can be good but of what purpose is a
“good” person if they simply exist and do not act according to their personality? I believe the
difference in my perspective from others may be I think in terms of social benefits rather than
individualism. I do think people can be inherently good and simply live out their lives; however
I think it is more important for a person to do good things rather than do nothing.
Do the ends justify the means (ends ethics vs. means ethics)?
It is not only as ambiguous as people’s personal perspectives, but this question is also
highly situational. I cannot say that all instances, upon completion, are justified given the means.
If a situation entails a minimal loss with a maximum gain, then yes certainly the end would
justify the processes. However, if a situation arises where the “means” has questionable social
/economic costs and the outcome would produce little benefit, then obviously this supports the
doctrine that not all ends justify the means. I feel that most blanket statements such as this one
are purely individually based and can never be verified or made into truth.
Does the process by which decisions are made matter more than the outcomes of these
decisions (procedural justice vs. distributive justice)?
Ethics Views 3
Critical thinking is arguably one of the most import activities a person can practice.
Desired outcomes are near impossible to predict, this is due in part of the fact humans are
imperfect but also that nature has unseen and incalculable variables. Critical thinking, the
process, allows individuals to limit the amount of variables and increase the chance of a desired
outcome. Understanding this principle show us why the process of decision making is far more
important than that of the actual outcome. Humans can always affect the quality of decision;
nonetheless the actual outcome of process is under very little control.
Do ecosystems matter for their own sake, or do they only matter to the extent that they
impact humans (ecocentric ethics vs. anthropocentric ethics)?
This question is not about moral obligations as much as it is about simple logic. Humans
are just as isolated on this planet as any other creature. With this is mind, any damage to the
global ecosystem can determine the livelihood of our species. Destroying ecosystems for
temporary benefit solves a small static problem but it inevitably leads to terrible repercussions.
The Earth survives and continues to remain alive by utilizing a complex series of interconnecting
ecosystems. These ecosystems all provide support for their respective neighboring ecosystems.
With continual destruction of local ecosystems our species can destroy the complex balance that
keeps the Earth sustainable and subsequently keeps us alive.
Do the pleasure and pain of non-human animals matter as much as the pleasure and pain
of humans (speciesism)?
Ethics Views 4
Yes I do believe animals deserve to share some of the innate moral rights that our species
lives by. However, it is important to be realistic. Humans must eat to survive and given this
natural law, it is understandable that humans fulfill their position in the food chain and consume
meat when needed and when in abundance. Animals that are harvested for food should be
treated well, not only to maximize the health of the final product but fundamentally because we
can. The purposeful torture of any creature highlights possible sociopathic tendencies in humans.
On a separate note, I do feel that on this planet there are certainly different levels of
consciousness within the animal kingdom and subsequently I think it is a natural crime to kill
animals of relative consciousness like Apes and Cetacea.
Is my own life worth more than the lives of others, the same, or less (selfishness vs.
First we must determine what is meant by the “worth” of an individual. In this example I
will use the term “worth” to represent the current and potential benefit of an individual - in
regards to the whole of society. Using such a definition I would have to say that my life is
equally worth the same, less, and potentially more depending on the individual being compared
to. For example my life may be considered worth less than a person who has had a tremendously
positive impact on society (think Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mother Theresa to name a
few). My life is most likely worth the same as most people who are inherently kind and help
whenever. However, I do consider my life to be worth more than people who cyclically engage
in criminal and antisocial behavior. These types of people care very little for the rest of the
world and live for the sole purpose of individual benefit.