What does a Code of Ethics Assume?

One primary assumption that needs to be made when defining a Code of Ethics is an assumption that people strive to find ways to agree about what is right or wrong, thus by implication, an assumption that there is a universal morality (either broadly or narrowly defined). This week, we can bring our course discussions full circle to where we started almost 8 weeks ago – that is, the idea behind a universal or moral framework.


A Code of Ethics is a set of core values set forth describing a series of appropriate or inappropriate actions one should or should not take towards another human being. As I discussed in an earlier post in this course, like the ideas put forth by C.S. Lewis in his books Mere Christianity and the Abolition of Man, appealing to someone’s sense of right or wrong in a code of ethics assumes that there is a standard in which people can agree upon what is indeed right and wrong, disagreeing on what is right or wrong shows with even stronger veracity an external standard being appealed to.


When I write a Code of Ethics that states “It is wrong to steal”, I am asserting, not only that I think that it is wrong to steal something that doesn’t belong to me, but I am asserting it is wrong for anyone to steal something that doesn’t belong to them, and I am appealing (if not just recommending) that the world would be a better place if everyone agreed.


Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is going to agree that “it is wrong to steal”, some might feel that it is right to steal only in certain situations, or right to steal all the time, however, once again, to take a position of opposition, is ipso facto to assume that there is a universal moral framework that can be appealed to.


Whether formalized or not, all human beings have a Code of Ethics – How they believe they should treat people, and how they believe people should treat them. Thus, I posit this provides a safe assumption that deep down inside, all human beings understand there to be a true sense of right and wrong; otherwise to write a Code of Ethics is like a breath taken outside on a cold winter day: it may be there for everyone to see, but it’ll last but a second, and have no impact on affecting the surrounding world.



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