A Backgroun in Ethical Theory

A Backgroun in Ethical Theory

Robert A. Schultz (Woodbury University, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-779-9.ch002
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Abstract

In this book, “ethics” is a general term for concerns about what people should do. The term “ethics” comes from the Greek word ethike, which means “character.” Indeed, the ancient Greeks conceived issues about what people should do in terms of impact upon character—whether people were of good or bad character (Aristotle, 350 BCE). Our concern with good reputation reveals this kind of thinking, but bad actions and bad performance can be more important than any amount of good reputation if they are bad enough. Not even the most capable network troubleshooter could survive the discovery of large amounts of downloaded kiddie porn on his workstation. William Bennett’s A Book of Virtues (Bennett, 1993) is a more recent example of a character-based ethics very similar to Greek ethics. The central term of Greek ethics, ethike arête, is usually translated as “virtue”—the literal meaning is “excellence of character.” “Good character traits” is probably the nearest translation. Bennett’s list of virtues or good character traits includes: self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, and faith. His selection of virtues overlaps with the classic Greek virtues or good character traits. Plato’s list was: courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice. (Plato, 360 BCE). Aristotle added liberality, pride, good temper, friendliness, truthfulness, and ready wit. Although all of these—Plato’s, Aristotle’s, and Bennett’s—are good character traits to have, having them doesn’t answer many important questions about what actions to do, especially when virtues conflict. Is perseverance in constructing a computer virus a good thing? Clearly the rightness or wrongness of the action in which we are persevering is very important. Or what about loyalty to an organization ripping off poor people? Here honesty (and compassion) may be more important than loyalty and responsibility. Indeed, Bennett’s list omits justice, considered the most important virtue by Plato. Since justice is primarily a virtue of institutions rather than individuals, Bennett’s list leaves out issues about how well society is arranged. We have made some progress on these issues since Greek times.1 The point is that character-based ethics is incomplete. Bennett himself, in replying to critics of his compulsive gambling behavior, seems to believe that as long as an individual has the “virtues,” that is, the good character traits, then other actions are irrelevant. Most of the rest of us in these non-classic-Greek times believe otherwise. Nowadays, “ethics” is an inclusive term for concerns also referred to as “morality,” “value,” and “justice.” Besides character, ethics in this inclusive sense is also concerned with the rightness and wrongness of actions, the value or goodness of things and situations, and with the justness of institutions. The basic terms of ethics are: right, good, and just.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Douglas J. Cremer
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1
Robert A. Schultz
Most discussions of ethics and information technology focus on issues of professional ethics and issues of privacy and security.1 Certainly these... Sample PDF
Ethical Issues in Information Technology
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Chapter 2
Robert A. Schultz
In this book, “ethics” is a general term for concerns about what people should do. The term “ethics” comes from the Greek word ethike, which means... Sample PDF
A Backgroun in Ethical Theory
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Chapter 3
Robert A. Schultz
A few other background issues deserve clarification before I examine specific ethical problems of information technology. IT always appears in the... Sample PDF
The Context of IT Ethical Issues
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Chapter 4
Professional Duties  (pages 44-59)
Robert A. Schultz
It is perhaps easiest to begin the application of ethics to information technology with the ethical responsibilities of IT professionals. Several... Sample PDF
Professional Duties
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Chapter 5
Robert A. Schultz
As we saw from the last two chapters, the ethical IT professional is embedded in contexts of management, organization, and society. Ethical behavior... Sample PDF
Justice in a Market Economy
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Chapter 6
Robert A. Schultz
In a competitive market economy, one is required to serve the interests of one’s employer or corporation. As we saw in Chapter IV, Professional... Sample PDF
Trust Issues in a Market Economy
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Chapter 7
Robert A. Schultz
Removal of jobs from one country to another to exploit lower paid workers tends to raise objections from those whose jobs are removed. However... Sample PDF
Offshoring as an Ethical Issue
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Chapter 8
Privacy and Security  (pages 107-118)
Robert A. Schultz
Privacy and security are the first topics involving the interface of the individual with information technology. The two topics of privacy and... Sample PDF
Privacy and Security
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Chapter 9
Copyright and Piracy  (pages 119-132)
Robert A. Schultz
As I noted in Chapter II, information technology’s basic feature of easy reproduction of digital information gives rise both to new benefits and to... Sample PDF
Copyright and Piracy
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Chapter 10
E-Problems  (pages 133-143)
Robert A. Schultz
In Chapter I, I observed that new uses of IT will be built on four basic features of information technology: • Speed of information processing •... Sample PDF
E-Problems
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Chapter 11
Robert A. Schultz
Besides being of interest in its own right, the question of the value of information technology (IT) has ethical implications, primarily for... Sample PDF
Valuing Information Technology
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Chapter 12
Robert A. Schultz
In the previous chapter, we saw how difficult it was to determine the value of information technology, even with a clearly defined point of view... Sample PDF
The Ultimate Value of Technology
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Chapter 13
Robert A. Schultz
In order to conclude our discussion of the value of information technology, we need to answer these questions: What characteristics does IT share... Sample PDF
The Ultimate Value of Information Technology
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Chapter 14
Conclusion  (pages 196-200)
Robert A. Schultz
Writing this book was very much a learning process for me. I began with the idea that the theories of John Rawls might be able to illuminate ethical... Sample PDF
Conclusion
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About the Author