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How Ethical Thinking Applies to Real Life

Part of the Ethics For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Studying ethics can help you arrive at clearer positions and arguments on real life issues — and can help you apply them, too. In fact, thinking more about ethical theory may even change your mind about issues in today’s world. Here are some ways you can apply ethics to your life:

  • Consider how you interact with animals. Some folks may think animals don’t ethically matter. However, most ethical theories disagree. So before you abuse a dog, take a bite out of that next steak, or raise cattle inhumanely, you have to consider some ethical arguments. After all, animals feel pain and suffer just like humans. Perhaps this possibility of pain and suffering entitles them to rights and considerations that you’re ethically expected to respect.

  • Be kinder to the environment. People typically see recycling or using certain kinds of household products as neutral lifestyle choices. However, ethics may actually demand a particular sort of interaction with the world around you. Sawing down a tree is innocent enough, but when you think of trees as parts of ecosystems that keep humans alive, things become less clear-cut.

  • Respect and defend human rights. What are the basic things to which humans are entitled just because they’re humans? This question forms the basis of an inquiry into human rights. Ethics has a lot to say about what those rights are, who has them, and why. Many 21st century debates about torture, genocide, women’s rights, free speech, and welfare all focus on human rights

  • Become more ethical in your career. Ethical professionals are better professionals. Lawyers, engineers, doctors, accountants, and journalists must avoid conflicts of interest and be sensitive to the ethical requirements of their jobs. However, keep in mind that being ethical in your profession can lead to surprising results. Lawyers, for instance, have to defend some pretty shady characters in order to give everyone a fair defense.

  • Engage with medical advances. Some of the most contentious ethical problems of today arise in the practice of medicine and with the use of biotechnology. Human cloning, abortion, euthanasia, and genetic engineering challenge long-standing beliefs about human life, identity, and dignity.

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