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Title: IT145 Professional Ethics for IT Practitioners
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Professional Ethics for IT
3rd Quarter (SY2011-2012)
School of Information Technology
MAPUA Makati

Overview of Ethics
• Ethics: also known as moral philosophy, is a
branch of philosophy that involves
systematizing concepts of right and wrong
behavior. In short, ethics is the study of what
it means to “do the right thing.”
• “All human actions serve some end or

Overview of Ethics
• Ethical theories are based on the assumption
that people are rational and make free
• Free choice and use of rational judgment are
capacities and characteristics of human
beings, as they are reasonably assumed as the
basis of ethical theory. However, neither of
these conditions is always and absolutely true.

Overview of Ethics
• Examples: 1) People act emotionally and they
make mistakes.
2) A person is not making a free
choice when someone else is pointing a gun at
• CASE: Describe a case in school where you
were asked or pressured to do something that
you thought unethical.

Overview of Ethics
• Ethical rules are rules to follow in our
interaction with other people and in our
actions that affect other people.
• Question: Is behaving ethically practical?

Overview of Ethics
CASE: A computer science professor in a
computer security class assigned students to
break into a computer system and bring back
specific files to prove that they had. The
owner of the system was unaware of the
assignment. Analyze this case from an ethical
perspective. Consider both the ethics of the
professor in making this assignment and
your response as a student in this class.

Survey of common ethical theories
I. Greek Philosophy
A. Socrates
- A person or moral agent must become
aware of every fact (and its context) relevant
to its existence if he wishes to attain selfknowledge. He posited that people will
naturally do what is good if they know what
is right. Evil or bad actions are the result of

Survey of common ethical theories
- If a criminal were truly aware of the mental
and spiritual consequences of his actions, he
would neither commit nor even consider
committing those actions.
- Any person who knows what is truly right will
automatically do it according to Socrates.
While he correlated knowledge with virtue, he
similarly equated virtue with happiness. The
truly wise man will know what is right, do
what is good and therefore be happy.

Survey of common ethical theories
B. Plato
- A human being is a combination of physical
body and non-physical soul. His ethical theory
focuses on the well-being of the soul.
According to the ancient Greeks, everything
has a purpose. Furthermore, an object is
better if it has characteristics that will help
fulfill its purpose well.

Survey of common ethical theories
- Such characteristics are known as virtues:
a. The purpose of the soul is to govern the
b. The primary virtue (i.e., the characteristic
that will enable the soul to govern the body
well) is what Plato calls “justice”. In this
context, justice means a proper balance
among the parts of the soul.

Survey of common ethical theories
C. Aristotle
- Advanced an ethical system that may be
termed “self-realizationism”. In his view, when
a person acts in accordance with his nature
and realizes his full potential, he will do good
and be content.
- At birth, a baby is not a person but a
potential person. To become a “real” person,
the child’s inherent potential must be realized.

Survey of common ethical theories
- Unhappiness and frustration are caused by
the unrealized potential of a person, leading
to failed goals and a poor life. Therefore, it is
imperative for persons to act in accordance
with their nature and develop their latent
talents in order to be content and complete.
Happiness was held to be the ultimate goal.
Self-realization, the awareness of one’s nature
and development of one’s talents, is the surest
path to happiness.

Survey of common ethical theories
II. Thomas Aquinas’ Cardinal Virtues
1. Prudence- able to judge between actions with
regard to appropriate action at a given time.
2. Justice- proper moderation between self-interest
and the rights and needs of others.
3. Restraint or temperance- practicing self-control,
abstention and moderation.
4. Courage or fortitude- forbearance, endurance and
ability to confront fear, uncertainty or intimidation.

Survey of common ethical theories
III. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason
- Morality is based on the concept of freedom
or autonomy. Someone with a free or
autonomous will does not simply act but it is
able to reflect and decide whether to act in a
given way. We can claim to have an
autonomous will even if we act always
according to universal moral laws or maxims
because we submit these laws upon rational

Survey of common ethical theories
- Kant recognizes that our status as moral
beings follows from our status as rational
beings. That is, our actions can be considered
moral or immoral to the extent that they are

Survey of common ethical theories
IV. John Rawls’ Theory of Justice
- In A Theory of Justice, Rawls attempts to
solve the problem of distributive justice. The
resultant theory is known as “Justice as
- First Principle of Justice: “First, each person is
to have an equal right to the most extensive
basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty
for others.”

Survey of common ethical theories
- The basic liberties of citizens are inviolable.
However, because various basic liberties may
conflict, it may be necessary to trade them off
against each otherbfor the sake of obtaining
the largest possible system of rights.

- Second Principle of Justice: Social and
economic inequalities are to be arranged so
a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the
least-advantaged members of society;
b) offices and positions must be open to
everyone under conditions.

Survey of common ethical theories
- Inequalities can actually just be on Rawls’
views as long as they are to the benefit of the
least well-off. His argument for this position
rests heavily on the claim that morally
arbitrary factors shouldn’t determine one’s life
chances or opportunities.

Survey of common ethical theories
V. Utilitarianism
- An ethical theory that the proper course of
action is one that maximizes the overall
“happiness”. It is a form of consequentialism,
meaning the moral worth of an action is
determined only by its resulting outcome and
that one can only weigh the morality of an
action after knowing all its consequences.

Survey of common ethical theories
- Types of Utilitarianism:
1) Act Utilitarianism: when faced with a
choice, we must first consider the likely
consequences of an action and from that
choose to do what we believe generates the
most pleasure.
2) Rule Utilitiarianism: If adherence to the rule
provides more happiness than otherwise, it is
a rule that morally must be followed at all

Survey of common ethical theories
• VI. Ethical egoism
- Ethical position that moral agents ought to
do what is in their own self-interest. However,
it does not require moral agents to harm the
interests and well-being if others when
making moral deliberation. In sum, ethical
egoism endorses selfishness.
- Ethical egoism has also been alleged as the
basis for immorality.

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