Paul's Criminal Justice Page

Paul's Justice Blog

 !! INTERNET EXPLORER USERS - IE is blocking a script for a scrolling navigation menu. Allowing the script improves website functionality !!

Home > CJ Ethics > Introduction  | Buy CJ Ethics

Overview of Ethics & Moral Reasoning

[excerpted from Jeffrey Reiman's Introduction in Criminal Justice Ethics

By “morality,” is meant the standards of rightness and goodness by which we judge human behavior: fairness, non-malevolence, tolerance, and truthfulness are such standards.  In contrast, “ethics” means the philosophical study of morality, the search for principles that justify the moral standards that we seek to apply. And second, “ethics” means those moral standards that are appropriate to particular occupations (so we speak of legal ethics or medical ethics, rather than of legal or medical morality).  In both these senses, the study of whether and how criminal justice is moral is rightly called criminal justice ethics:  It is a philosophical undertaking, and it seeks to understand and justify those moral standards that are appropriate to the occupations that comprise the criminal justice system. 

Utilitarian ] Virtue Ethics ] Relativism ] Deontological ] Communitarian ] Contractarian ] Teaching Ethics ]

General Resources on Ethics

Ethics Updates is highly recommended because of its extensive collection of resources, including many in RealVideo format, on a wide range of topics. Check out their Introduction to Moral Theory.

Why are Values Important to a Company's Success?

Criminal justice can only be distinguished from crime, if criminal justice is moral while crime is immoral.  This is what led the great thinker and teacher, Saint Augustine, to ask rhetorically: Without justice, what are kingdoms but great robberies?  In short, only morality can distinguish the state’s force as right from the criminal’s force as wrong.  Only by being moral can criminal justice be distinguished from the very crime that it condemns! The morality that will make the difference between criminal justice and crime, between right and mere might, must be in some sense a morality which is rationally justifiable.  That is, it must be a morality whose credentials lie not simply in that is accepted, but rather a morality that can be shown worthy of acceptance on the basis of rational arguments. 

Morality is not simply the standards that people accept, but rationally justifiable standards of behavior. When someone gives a moral justification, she means to show that her actions are not simply selfish or self-interested.  This suggests that morality is a kind of neutral standard.  Moreover, when someone offers a moral justification, she means to show that her actions are good in some way.  Thus morality suggests a neutral standard of goodness. And finally, if someone offers a moral justification, she assumes that others can understand the content of the moral principle to which she appeals.  Morality is not private, not secret, not esoteric.  In order to expect people to accept moral justifications, indeed, in order to expect people to be moral, we must believe that morality is something accessible to all people--at least all people sane and mature enough to be held responsible for their actions.  And this in turn suggests that people can understand how morality is good, how it is good for them and for others.  Thus we can say--without yet having said what standards comprise the content of morality--that morality means standards of behavior that are good in ways that are neutral among people and in ways that all reasonable people can understand.  For this reason, the moral philosopher Kurt Baier has wisely characterized morality as indicating “the good of all people alike.”  Morality is not just good for you or good for me, or for my family or your country--it is neutral and thus good for all people alike.  

Moral Systems & Issues

Virtue Ethics
Teaching Ethics

Buy CJ Ethics

Recommended reading: Profit Without Honor When It Comes to Ethics, Business Schools Get an F: It was in 1987 that John S.R. Shad, then chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, made a personal donation of some $20 million to Harvard Business School to support the teaching of ethics. On April 21, 1989, after months of contentious debate, an initial proposal was put up for a faculty-wide vote. Reactions ranged from distrust to outright hostility. One economist argued that "we are here to teach science." Another faculty member wanted to know, "Whose ethics, what values, are we going to teach?" And a third pointed out that the students were adults who got their ethics education at home and at church. By meeting's end, the project had been sent back to the drawing board.

What Is Ethical? Politics, Circumstances, Excuses Can Blur What Is Right (ABC News report): Complicating things further is the difficulty of defining what's ethical — particularly in the face of different viewpoints, evolving public mores, and trying circumstances that occasionally might turn dishonesty into a more ethical course. All the complications can make it hard to know if you're a bad person rationalizing ethically bad behavior, or an honest one trying your best to navigate life's ethical shoals - especially with just about everybody giving excuses, the experts say. 

 Ethics for the New Millennium

by Dali Lama

The journal Criminal Justice Ethics (several of the articles in our book are from it) has a website that includes links for applied and professional ethics. 

The Centre for Applied Ethics has resources on moral and ethical decision making, professional ethics and starting points in applied ethics.

The Ethics of Star Trek: Using episodes from all four series, as well as examples from Plato, Aristotle, Sartre, and other great philosophers of the past, The Ethics of Star Trek explores important ethical questions

Up ] [ Ethics Overview ] 1: Morality of Law ] 2: What Should Be A Crime ] 3: Police Ethics ] 4: Courts & Lawyers ] 5: Penology & Punishment ] 6: Emerging Issues ] Appendix: Ethical Codes ]

Home ] Up ] Critical Criminology Journal ] Class, Race, Gender & Crime ] Rich Get Richer ] Classes & EMU Info ] Paul? ] Private Prisons ] Corporate Crime ] Careers & Jobs ] Photo Gallery ]


Search Web Search Search

Support this site

Amazon Hostway

Copyright © 2000 - 2010 Paul Leighton. Permission is freely given to link to these pages or use them for non-commercial purposes, including distribution of printed copies at or below cost. For other uses, please contact the owner