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posted on: 7/8/2011 12:12:31 AM EST
Integrity
integrity, value, follow-thru, follow-up, wealth, health

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Integrity in ethics

Ethical meanings of integrity used in medicine and law refer to a quality of "wholeness" that must be present in the human body and in the body of law, respectively. Such wholeness is defined by "sacred" axioms such as unity, consistency, purity, unspoiledness and uncorruptedness.[citation needed]

In discussions on behavior and morality, one view of the property of integrity sees it as the virtue of basing actions on an internally-consistent framework of principles. This scenario may emphasize depth of principles and adherence of each level of postulates or axioms to those it logically relies upon.[citation needed] One can describe a person as having ethical integrity to the extent that everything that that person does or believes: actions, methods, measures and principles — all of these derive from a single core group of values.

One essential aspect of a consistent framework is its avoidance of any unwarranted (arbitrary) exceptions for a particular person or group — especially the person or group that holds the framework. In law, this principle of universal application requires that even those in positions of official power be subject to the same laws as pertain to their fellow citizens. In personal ethics, this principle requires that one should not act according to any rule that one would not wish to see universally followed. For example, one should not steal unless one would want to live in a world in which everyone was a thief. This was formally described by the philosopher Immanuel Kant in his categorical imperative.

In the context of accountability, integrity serves as a measure of willingness to adjust a value system to maintain or improve its consistency, when an expected result appears incongruent with observed outcome.[citation needed] Some[who?] regard integrity as a virtue in that they see accountability and moral responsibility as necessary tools for maintaining such consistency.

In the context of value theory, integrity provides the expected causation from a base value[citation needed] to its extrapolated implementation or other values. A value system emerges as a set of values and measures that one can observe as consistent with expectations.[citation needed]

Some commentators[who?] stress the idea of integrity as personal honesty: acting according to one's beliefs and values at all times. Speaking about integrity can emphasize the "wholeness" or "intactness" of a moral stance or attitude. Some[which?] views of wholeness may also emphasize commitment and authenticity. Ayn Rand considered that integrity "does not consist of loyalty to one's subjective whims, but of loyalty to rational principles".[5]
[edit] Subjective interpretations

In common public usage, people sometimes use the word "integrity" in reference to a single "absolute" morality rather than in reference to the assumptions of the value system in question. In an absolute context, the word "integrity" conveys no meaning between people with differing definitions of absolute morality, and becomes nothing more than a vague assertion of perceived political correctness or popularity, similar to using terms such as "good" or "ethical" in a moralistic context.

One can also speak of "integrity" outside of its prescriptive meaning, in reference to a person or group of people of which the speaker subjectively approves or disapproves. Thus a favored person can be described as "having integrity", while an enemy can be regarded as "completely lacking in integrity". Such labeling, in the absence of measures of independent testing, renders the accusation itself baseless and (ironically) others may call the integrity of the assertion into question.
[edit] Integrity in modern ethics

In a formal study of the term "integrity" and its meaning in modern ethics, law professor Stephen L. Carter sees integrity not only as a refusal to engage in behavior that evades responsibility[citation needed], but also as an understanding of different modes or styles in which discourse attempts to uncover a particular truth.[citation needed]

Carter writes that integrity requires three steps: "discerning what is right and what is wrong; acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong." He regards integrity as being distinct from honesty.[6]




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