Formal essay

Name of student:

Course name:

Class name:

Date assignment due:


Aim of the topic. 2

Introduction. 2

Ethics and religion. 3

Ethics and professions. 3

Ethical issues in the family. 5

Ethical issues in the government. 6

References. 8

Aim of the topic

This essay explores the meaning of ethics in today’s society as well as traditional societies. The entire essay is an attempt to explain that ethical issues are as important today as they were in the past. The universality of ethical issues is also discussed with special emphasis being put on how the issues relate to professions and morality.


The essay focuses on the main areas where ethics are applied: religion, family, professions and government. In each of these areas, ethical issues are shown to be as important today as they were in the past.


Ethical issues are at the heart of the moral fiber of every society. In fact, ethics are commonly defined as referring to a theory, set of principles or a system of a society’s moral values. As a study, ethics is an inquiry into the general nature of human morals as well as specific moral choices that people make in the course of their lives. All professions are governed through different codes of ethics, which all members of that profession have to adhere to while performing their duties. Ethical issues are as important today as they have been throughout the course of man’s existence.

            Ethics addresses questions of universal importance such as right and wrong; religious beliefs; compliance with the law and standards of behavior. Man has always wanted to lead an orderly life. While he is in pursuit of this kind of life, it becomes important for him to define certain social norms. Most ethical regulations that exist in modern society are codified and enacted within institutions such as religion, family, professions, and government. Each of these institutions has been of help to a man in the past as well as today.

Ethics and religion

Although ethics cannot be identified solely in terms of religious standards, most religions require those who profess them to display high ethical standards in society. If ethics were to be confined to religion alone, they would apply only to the followers of that religion. However, Jenkins (2003, p. 112) says that religion is always instrumental in setting the standards for morality and ethics in every society.

Being ethical, according to Gadamer (1999, p. 154) means doing what is acceptable to society. Religions exist in different societies since they have been accepted. Some people, especially those who are religious, insist that there can be no morality without religion. Some even say that there is no way in which atheists can be moral. The main problem with such a claim is that they are not based on proper reasoning.

Ethics and professions

All professionals require that a certain code of ethics be adhered to by all members of that profession. When people do not conduct themselves in the right way in their professional duties, they have acted in an unethical manner. In most cases, a code of ethics of a profession like, say medicine, is universally applied. In this case, all medical practitioners are bound by the code of ethics to preserve, safeguard and respect human life while conducting professional duties.

According to Black & Barney (2004 p. 162), the ethical guidelines that govern law as a professional also draw on moral standards that enable them to become better arbiters in cases where there are conflicts. Man has always needed, and in most cases preserved, a justice system within the provisions of moral and ethical standards. This is not to say that all laws that exist are based on proper ethical standards. For instance, in colonial South Africa, apartheid laws, though unethical, were used to oppress people of certain races by denying them equal access to national resources.


In every society, professions exist only to improve the wellbeing of an individual as well as collective wellbeing. Sometimes, conflicts may arise on what is good for an individual or a section of the community and what is good for the entire human race. Such conflicts arise all the time in all professional. When there are proper ethical guidelines in place, these issues are resolved very easily.

Although professionals in a certain society may be acting in accordance with the laid-down codes of ethics, their actions may be wrong if these ethical guidelines themselves have not been properly constituted, that is, unethical. For example, according to Corey, Corey&Callahan’s (2005 p. 284) arguments, doctors who worked for the Nazi government in Germany, though acting in accordance with the guidelines provided by the government of the day acted unethically whenever they facilitated Jewish executions. Nazi Germany is a classic example of a morally corrupt society.

            For this reason, ethics may be defined as well-founded standards (of what is right and what is wrong) that describe what human beings ought to do in terms of obligations, rights, fairness, benefits to society and specific virtues. This definition does not allude to any dynamism in the definition. Therefore, something that was unethical for media practitioners to do in the 15th century remains unethical for media practitioners to do in the 21st century. The issue of acceptability in professions does not conflict with the human understanding of ethics. For instance, in many societies, prostitution as a profession, is often looked down on yet some actions by a member of this profession can easily be classified as ethical and others as unethical

Ethical issues in the family

For the institution of the family to remain stable, there is a need for ethical considerations to be taken by each member of the family on a daily basis. Issues of personal freedoms, rights, obligations, and responsibilities, when handled in the right way in the family setting, have far-reaching implications, one of them being cementation of the relationship between couples as well as among parents, children, relatives, and the entire society.

Christie & Hoffmaster (1986, p. 88) say that on the family front, ethical issues involve advance care planning, health care, relationships with family and friends, right to privacy and health care. Regardless of one’s age, advance planning entails preparedness to live’s emergencies that may alter the structure and outlook of the family. It is the ethical responsibility of parents to make advance care planning decisions on behalf of their children or any other members who, owing to different circumstantial reasons, are not able to make such decisions on their own.

In terms of medical care, issues of medical ethics apply to members of the family, considering that the family is the most fundamental institution in any society. When medical practitioners engage in professionally unethical practices, the first sufferers are family members of the patient.

According to an observation made by Walrond-Skinner & Watson (1987, p. 25), it is often taken for granted that when family members cater for all the needs of one of their own when he is sick, they are responding to the ethical call of responsibility and moral obligations. However, a family member has a right to prevent medical practitioners from sharing certain medical information with family members. Ethically, he also has every right to prevent doctors from disclosing his treatment preferences to family members. It is unethical for family members to take that right away from the patient, either through coercion or unacceptable forms of intimidation.

Matters of ethics and family also involve aspects such as privacy and religion. It is ethical for a spouse to offer his or her mate some privacy whenever it is demanded on morally acceptable grounds. Likewise, it is ethically acceptable and possible for spouses to follow different religions. The issue of family religion and ethics has always been an important one for all societies. However, the recommendations offered in different communities differ depending on cultural and social practices. Although these social and cultural practices tend to change, the basis of making ethical decisions never changes.

Ethical issues in the government

Throughout history, ethical issues have always constituted an important yardstick of evaluating the success of governments. Various debates relating to ethical issues and concepts as applied by governments remain an attractive area of inquiry by historians and political scientists. In modern times, just like in modern times, governments attract great public interest since they are an embodiment of a social contract between the government and the governed.

Government ethics are very important since they prevent politicians and leaders from waywardness, which as history has taught us, they are very capable of. Government ethics determine how the affairs of the state should be run on a daily basis. According to Bowie (1981, p. 198), they also define the obligations, rights and moral responsibilities of leaders as representatives of electorates and as individuals, such that it becomes easy to tell when they behave unethically

For Rosenbach et al (2006, p 15), ethics have everything to do with the governments that exist today, just as it was the case with all governments that have existed throughout human history. Geuras & Garofalo (2005, p. 25) agree that government ethics constitute a form of professional ethics. They are important determinants of behavior and conduct of all government officials, including elected leaders, elected representatives, public servants or political staff.

In the past, notes rulers always made reference to practical ethical considerations when making decisions, either for their own benefit or for the benefit of their subjects. Sometimes, they disregarded ethical codes of conduct at their own peril. In today’s democratic societies, elected leaders also pay attention to the ethical code when making decisions that affect electorates. In conclusion, ethical issues are as important to humankind today as they were in the past.


Black, J, & Barney, R, 2004, Ethics across Professions: A Special Double Issue of the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, London.

Bowie, N, 1981, Ethical Issues in Government: Philosophical Monographs,   Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.     

Christie, R & Hoffmaster, B, 1986, Ethical issues in family medicine, Oxford University Press, London.

Walrond-Skinner, S, & Watson,D, 1987, Ethical Issues in Family Therapy, Routledge & Kegan Paul, New York. 

Corey, G, Corey, M, Callanan, P, 2005, Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions, Thomson Books, Belmont.

Gadamer, H, 1999, Hermeneutics, Religion, and Ethics: Yale Studies in Hermeneutics, New York.

Geuras, D, & Garofalo,C, 2005 Practical Ethics in Public Administration, Management Concepts, Inc., Vienna.

Jenkins, Joe, 2003, Ethics and religion, Heinemann Educational Publishers, Oxford.

Rosenbach, W, & Lewis, R, Taylor, 2006, Contemporary Issues In Leadership, Westview Press, Berkeley.

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