Week of Sept 23rd: What does it mean to be ethical?
This week we discussed what it means to be “ethical” and “moral” with students around Duke’s campus. Several students asked whether it makes sense to apply one set of ethics to our globalized world. One student remarked that ‘to have an American set of ethics could be very different than a French or Chinese set of ethics.’ What we see as right may clash with what other cultures would approve of. Others argued that in many situations, there do seem to be global norms and principles. Bridging these two viewpoints, students agreed that while murder is universally considered to be wrong, ideas about treating others are more dependent on cultural context.
Looking at universal human rights, one student asserted that the complexities of a globalized world make it hard to get everyone to agree to one ethical framework. This ethical disconnect, she believes, is why addressing human rights issues in other countries can be so difficult.
Other students looked towards their own communities and families to understand the differences between ethical and moral behavior. Lying may be ethically wrong, but in the case of telling white lies, it is not always a bad thing to do, one student pointed out. Another saw ethics as a set of rules and standards that one inherits from one’s family and community, and that “we know how to follow these rules because we are born into them.”
In examining the differences between what is ethical and what is right, Duke students questioned and challenged how they related to these words, striking a fine balance between universal standards and community values.
Next week, we will be talking with Duke students about the Ethics of research.. Find out more about our future couching times HERE.