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Ethics: Definition of Term and Analysis Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 13th, 2021


Ethics is a system of moral principles or behavior and also it’s a branch of philosophy that defends the concept of both right and wrongdoings whereas ethical is the act of being morally good. According to philosophers ethical theories are classified into metaethics, applied ethics, and lastly normative ethics. (John L. 1977) Ethical issues raised in the readings are as follows-:

Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)

Civil disobedience is the unwillingness to follow certain laws of a government without involving any physical violence. Thoreau believed that people should be self-reliant and should not have to fight the government physically if they are not in support of all its ideas and deeds. Another ethical issue is that one was not supposed to keep anger because in so doing he could not retreat no matter the opponent’s assaults. No one was supposed to neither resist arrest nor insult the official because in so doing he put his own life in danger. In U.S civil obedience was seen when anti-abortion groups legalized abortion. The rights of both gays and lesbians have been protected and this ethically contradicted with the rules of the church. Thoreau believed it was ethical for citizens to stop the government’s injustice. (Henry David Thoreau 1849)

Roe v. Wade

Roe believed that laws that did not support abortion violated the rights of a constitution. Roe believed that abortion should be allowed for any reason a woman gives as long as the fetus is living in the mother’s womb. If a woman was raped and coincidently conceived she was allowed to terminate her pregnancy and this led Roe to pursue her case as a fundamental right and it was later approved despite the fact that a case like Gonzales v. Carhart does not support the case of abortion. Roe thought it was ethical for every woman to have the right to privacy without anyone interfering with it. It was believed that those women who believed in abortion were capable of involving themselves in sexual conduct which was not in accordance with the law. Roe v. Wade was criticized in that life begins at conception hence nobody has the right to take the life of a fetus and they should be given legal protection. According to Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox Roe failed to come face to face with the terms of the abortion issue and this made her suggestions appear like hospital rules and no lawyer would have been convinced that all of Justice Blackmun’s advice was part of the Constitution. (Peter Charles Hoffer 2001)

Boy Scouts v. Dale

This case explains how James Dale an assistant scoutmaster attended a seminar on gay and lesbian teenagers and was interviewed in an interview that was later published and in this interview he confessed that he was gay. According to the Supreme Court, the rights of the Boy Scouts of America were violated and the arguments of the case were made on 26th April 2000 and the decision made on 28th June 2000. Ethically the Boy scouts of America believed that homosexuality contradicted their values in the sense that their nonprofit organization is the one that taught the young people good values.

The Boy Scouts of America lost the case because ethnically it was considered that Dale’s action could not affect the member’s work and this was also considered as discrimination in society and finally Dales current position did not allow the scouts to put any message across.The Boy scouts appealed the case and Chief Justice William Rehnquist outlined that forcing a group to accept members who did not meet their standard could weaken the group’s ability to express their intended views. Chief Justice William Rehnquist quoted that “freedom of association… plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate.” The Boy scout’s objective was to prepare young people to make ethical choices and take full control of their life. The Scout group was considered to have straight morals since it did not support homosexuality and it had intentions of good faith of helping the young people grow with good moral behaviors. Justice Stevens quoted that “An organization can adopt the message of its choice, and it is not this Court’s place to disagree with it. But we must inquire whether the group is, in fact, expressing a message (whatever it may be) and whether that message (if one is expressed) is significantly affected by a State’s antidiscrimination law. (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 2000)

Brown v. Board of Education (Plessey v. Ferguson)

In this case, state laws started separate public schools for black and white students hence denying black students equal opportunities for learning. The Plessey v. Ferguson case held that if both blacks and whites were treated equally then there was no violation of the fourteenth amendment which expressed that a state was not allowed to exclude a person whom the law considered should be offered equal protection. The case was ruled in the favor of the Board of Education since Plessey v. Ferguson held a state law demanding “separate but equal” needs for both whites and blacks. Ethnically the case tried to emphasize that everyone should be treated equally no matter the race. This racism would have caused the mental emotions of the discriminated parties to feel inferior and this is not considered being ethical. Another ethical issue that Plessey believed in was that equal protection was only felt if people were not divided or separated by race. People who violated their civil rights were not protected by the government. The case Plessey v. Ferguson had a positive influence and this led all the parties to have constitutional rights.

In conclusion, Ethics supports that actions should be put into consideration in that they have good effects on individuals and society at large. Ethics acknowledges people’s interests, their freedom, rights to life and it also protects the law in that people should not violate it. Finally, if a case with negative issues has a lot of benefits then it becomes morally approved and an example of such a case is Roe v. wade which supported abortion. (Medley, Keith Weldon 2003)


Mackie, John L. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, New York: Penguin Books, 1977.

Anscombe, Elizabeth. Modern Moral Philosophy, 1958.

Medley, Keith Weldon. We as Freemen: Plessey v. Ferguson, Pelican Publishing Company, 2003.

Elliott, Mark, Color-Blind Justice: Albion Tourgée and the Quest for Racial Equality from the Civil War to Plessey v. Ferguson, 2006.

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 2000.

Peter Charles Hoffer. Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History, 2001.

Garrow, David J. Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade, 1998.

Henry David Thoreau. Civil disobedience, 1849.

Peter Suber. Civil Disobedience, From Philosophy of Law, 1999, vol. I, pp. 110-113.

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