Alarm Blockers: Non-Ethical Considerations

Non-Ethical Considerations

These are human wants, needs and desires that distract all of us from purely ethical analysis. They are not necessarily unethical; indeed, they include most of the  motivations that get us through our lives. Comfort, avoidance of pain; money, greed, and the need to be able to buy necessities or luxuries; hunger, fun, sex or lust; shame, fear, anger, jealousy, revenge, envy, ambition …you can name many more. The list is as long as human nature is complex. These non-ethical considerations act as magnets pulling the clapper of our ethics alarms away from the bell.

Non-ethical considerations can be very powerful, and almost every ethical decision involves them. Sometimes they are so powerful that they win out and overwhelm the ethical and moral arguments. Staying alive is often a non-ethical consideration, for example. The activating virtues are especially necessary to overcome non-ethical considerations when they are particularly strong.

When strong non-ethical considerations oppose an ethical course of action, it is called an ethical dilemma.

Compliance vs. Ethics

It is important to remember that the desire to avoid punishment or sanctions for bad conduct is itself a non-ethical consideration. This is why the current emphasis on compliance in professional and business ethics is, to some extent, a detriment to ethical thinking. Compliance means following rules because you have to; ethics is doing the right thing because you want to, or realize that it is in the best interest of others, stakeholders and society. An individual only interested in compliance will look for loop-holes in law, rules and regulations. If such an individual can accomplish his goals and stay technically compliant, he will do so even if his conduct causes harm.

An ethical individual, in contrast, is concerned about meeting the spirit of rules and laws, and mere compliance will not be sufficient if the conduct isn’t also good and right.