Ethics, Media, and Reasoning: Systems and Applications

Ethics, Media, and Reasoning: Systems and Applications

Mahmoud Eid (University of Ottawa, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6122-6.ch012
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Abstract

Due to the rapidly changing norms and constant developments in technology, media and communication educators and practitioners are expected to (re)evaluate the functioning of ethics and reasoning in this field. This chapter discusses the relationship between ethics, reasoning, and the media, and the integral role of ethical reasoning education for communication and media professionals. Ethical systems and theories are discussed to inform the debate on the importance of ethics and reasoning education. Globalization and the growing interconnectivity of global media systems are presented, providing insight on how different media systems function around the world. The large impact that the media have on society necessitates the possession of rational and ethical skills; thus, the connection between reasoning and ethics is explained.
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Ethics Theories And Systems

Understanding the scope of ethics requires an examination of existing definitions pertaining to this topic. However, defining ethics is not an easy task, as various methods for explaining and outlining this term exist. Despite varying definitions, the genealogy of the term “ethics” is considered an accurate point of departure in this endeavor. According to Larry Leslie (2000), the word “ethics” hails from the Greek word “ethos”, which means “character”. These origins lead us to understand that one’s character, and the daily-life values attached to it, ultimately commands one’s ethical behavior. Thus, Leslie provides this concise definition: “Ethics are moral principles for living and making decisions” (2000, p. 16). Morality is closely linked to ethics. It is derived from the Latin “moralis,” meaning “customs and manners” (Leslie, 2000). While popular usage of ethics and morality can be synonymous, most philosophers deem them dissimilar. Ethics refers to the individual’s thinking and conduct in matters of right and wrong, while morality pertains to a society’s set of beliefs and customs concerning proper conduct (Markel, 2001). Successful ethical decision-making benefits from a set of moral beliefs that strives to serve both the individual and the society. Ethical behavior is defined as an accepted or preferred and agreed-upon practice (Hanson, 2002).

Philosophy is the scholarly discipline under which ethics falls, containing many approaches, subcategories, and perspectives (Eid, 2008). The dominant paradigm in ethics has traditionally been ethical rationalism: “through reason the human species is distinctive and through rationality moral canons are legitimate” (Christians, 2005, p. 3). Therefore, Christians (2005) explains, the conventions of particular societies are independent of timeless moral truths that are rooted in human nature; however, the concept of a common morality and the idea of “the good life” might not translate across all cultures. Despite the potential for varying views between cultures pertaining to what is ethical and what is not, ethical principles are ultimately based on what is deemed proper conduct, or “doing the right thing”. For instance, when we face a decision that requires us to enact an outcome that may or may not hurt another person, we turn to ethical principles to decide on the best option.

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