Many of these terms are commonly used in the Defence Ethics Programme (DEP). This list also contains some technical terms that are important in applied ethics but are not commonly used in Defence or the Canadian government environment. The more technical definitions in the field of ethics are flagged by an asterisk (*).


Competing Values Dilemma
The competing values dilemma represents a special case of an ethical dilemma and involves a situation in which two or more ethical values support competing options in an ethical decision making situation. For example, options involving loyalty to others compete with options involving professional integrity.

Compliance Ethics Programme
A compliance ethics Programme has at its core a rule-based ethics and represents a legalistic approach to ethics. This type of programme tends to develop elaborate and comprehensive codes designed to deal with as many situations as possible and emphasizes compliance with rules. It shows a preference for rules, regulations and policies as a means of encouraging ethical behaviour. It is the dominant approach adopted by the United States government through its Ethics in Government Act. (See Deontology*)

Consequence-Based Ethics
A consequence-based approach to ethics gives priority to the value we attach to the results of actions. It emphasizes that the effects of our actions on ourselves and others tend to play an overriding role in ethical decision-making. It claims that we should assess the probable good and bad effects of the different options open to us in a situation and use these assessments as the basis for deciding what should or should not be done. (See  Utilitarianism*)
Cultural Relativism (Radical)*
Cultural relativists appeal to anthropological data indicating that moral rightness and wrongness vary from place to place. They maintain that the concepts of rightness and wrongness are contingent on cultural beliefs and that these concepts are meaningless apart from the specific context in which they arise. They claim that patterns of culture can only be understood as unique wholes and that moral beliefs about normal behavior are closely connected in a culture. As a result, there are no absolute or universal moral standards that could apply to all persons at all times. For the cultural relativist, a moral standard is simply a cultural product. (T. Beauchamp)


The term derives from the Greek word for duty, deon. Deontology involves any ethical system that centers on duty (e.g., truth telling, promise-keeping) to assess the ethical values of action, as contrasted with ethical theories that appeal to a good end (See Utilitarianism*) or right character (See Virtue ethics* ).
Any position in ethics which claims that the rightness or wrongness of actions depend on whether they correspond to our duty or not. (Hinman
Ethical systems that consider certain features in the moral act itself to have intrinsic value. For example, for the deontologist, there is something right about truth telling, even when it may cause pain or harm, and there is something wrong about lying, even when it may produce good consequences. (Pojman)

Defence Moral Decision-Making Model
Recent research in cognitive psychology has established evidence that there are two radically different kinds of mental pathways to individual action. These alternate pathways are sometimes termed Type 1 (intuitive, fast) thinking and Type 2 (reasoned, slow, effortful) thinking. Traditionally for ethically important or difficult decisions people focus on Type 2 thinking, since there is an assumption of reasoning processes that lead to a decision which can be justified with prevailing reasons. Thus, for example, we speak of looking at rules, principles, needs, circumstances, and weighing alternative options when we deliberate about the right thing to do in a difficult case. It is important to understand that we often act partly or wholly based upon intuitive or impulsive influences that don’t reflect complex reasoning. A decision making model that tries to privilege ethical reasoning cannot be directly applied to such pathways to predict the outcome. It is even possible that we act based on impulse and then try to explain the action based on a complex reasoning process that happens to fit it; this does not mean that the decision was in fact motivated by the person’s ethical reasoning.
Reasoning is difficult in proportion to conditions of high stress. Intuitive thinking is therefore especially useful in high stress environments such as for urgent needs in military operations. It may thus be unrealistic to try to guide ethical behaviour by teaching a reasoning process that is to be applied under high stress conditions. It may make more sense to teach ethical action in such environments by conditioning the desired response through repeated realistic simulations and rewards for the desired response. In the beginning, however, determining the right action that the instructor wishes to condition in the students will require that the instructor - or someone! - is capable of arriving at the right action through complex reasoning, and then using that knowledge to design the realistic training.
Thus, division of thinking into these two pathways does not imply that ethical reasoning is an illusion everywhere. Without the capacity to sometimes act based on complex reasoning, not only would ethics be impossible but so would science (including cognitive science!) and the rest of civilization. However, the importance of Type 1 thinking has major implications for ethics education and training, as well as for self-deception as to motives after the fact.
The alternate pathways are illustrated in the following schematic diagram. The traditional ethical decision making process fits within Type 2. Perhaps it is realistic to believe that Type 1 and Type 2 pathways often interact with each other in the case of making large or difficult decision.

Ethical Decision-Making Model
The DEP ethical decision-making model divides decision making into four stages: recognition, judgement, intent to act, and behaviour. It identifies five categories of factors that can be measured and that have been shown to influence ethical decision making: individual values, individual ethical approaches, organizational ethical climate, situational intensity, and individual moral development. The model was developed by the Defence Ethics Programme with the assistance of academic experts after an extensive review of the literature. It serves as the basis for a periodic CF and DND wide survey.

Doctrine of Double Effect*
The doctrine holds that there is a morally relevant difference between intending evil and foreseeing that it will occur as an unintended side effect of morally permissible acts. Its purpose is to justify an action having good results but also having potentially harmful effects. (Pojman)
Targeting in military operations can be considered an example of the doctrine of double effect. While only enemy forces can be legitimately targeted, it frequently happens that there is a risk or even a near-certainty of non-combatants being hit while targeting the legitimate adversary. An analysis of the comparative likely gains and losses and circumstances of such a proposed action is necessary to determine whether it is permissible. Notice that such a scenario demonstrates the importance and relevance of applying both consequential and deontological modes of ethical judgment (outcomes and intentions).


Ethical Decision-Making
In the social and management sciences, ethical decision-making is treated as a decision making process that includes ethical factors and gives them an overriding or constraining role in all situations requiring decision and action. A basic decision making process is considered to have a minimum of four stages: (See DEP Ethical Decision-Making Model)

 intention to act and

Ethical Decision-Making Model
The DEP ethical decision-making model divides decision making into four stages: recognition, judgement, intent to act, and behaviour. It identifies five categories of factors that can be measured and that have been shown to influence ethical decision making: individual values, individual ethical approaches, organizational ethical climate, situational intensity, and individual moral development. The model was developed by the Defence Ethics Programme with the assistance of academic experts after an extensive review of the literature. It serves as the basis for a periodic CF and DND wide survey.

Ethical Dilemma
A dilemma is a problematic situation for which there are two or more possible options to resolve it, but where each of the options is considered either equally valid and desirable or equally undesirable. In addition, there does not seem to be any other criteria available for choosing between the options.

Ethics in the Defence Ethics Programme is described as being concerned with:

  1. determining right and wrong;
  2. defining the principles and obligations that govern right action and practices of individuals and institutions in society;
  3. being a person of integrity; and
  4. choosing to do what is right.

The main approaches to ethics today that are included in the DEP are: care based, consequence based, rule based, self-interest based, virtue based, and a multiple-approach basis.Ethics is a discipline that is long in tradition and rich in variety. Its development in Western civilization has been subject to two main influences over the millennia: the Greek tradition focusing on the "good life" and Judeo-Christian tradition stressing and doing "what is right "These two traditions in combination with historical and cultural factors have produced a multiplicity of ethical systems. In general, the discipline of ethics involves: (Denise, White, Peterfreund)

  1. establishing the validity of an ideal of human character to be achieved, ultimate goals to be striven for, and norms and standards for governing behaviour;
  2. analyzing and explaining moral judgements and behaviour;
  3. investigating and clarifying the meanings of moral terms and statements 

Ethos can be described as the “characteristic spirit and beliefs of community, people, system, literary work, or person”. Ethics is at the heart of this spirit and represents a core subset of the beliefs. (See Military ethos)


Military Ethos
The military ethos embodies the spirit that binds the military profession together. It is a living spirit that finds its full expression through the conduct of members of the profession of arms. It clarifies how members view their responsibilities, apply their expertise, and how they express their unique military identity. It establishes an ethical framework for the professional conduct of all activities and military operations.
The uniquely Canadian military ethos is made up of three fundamental components: beliefs and expectations about military service; Canadian values; and Canadian military values. It affirms core notions of military service: unlimited liability, fighting spirit, discipline and teamwork. It reflects that the legitimacy of the profession of arms in Canada requires that it embody the same values and beliefs as the society it defends and that the values of the profession must be in harmony with the values of that society. It defines the subordination of the armed forces to civilian control and the rule of law. Finally, the ethos places a special emphasis on the Canadian military values of duty, loyalty, integrity, and courage.
Ultimately, it is the military ethos, incorporating fundamental Canadian values, that differentiates a member of the Canadian profession of arms from ill-disciplined irregulars, mercenaries or members of another armed force that lacks defining values. (Chapters 1-2, Duty with honour. Ch. 2 contains a full and detailed articulation of the military ethos). The DND and CF Code of Values and Ethics reflects all of: Canadian values, the distinctive ethical framework of an institution of the state (in this case, the combination of DND and CAF), and the distinctive professional Ethos of the Canadian military. Hence, while the Ethos is distinct from the DND and CF Code of Values and Ethics, it is fully compatible with it.
For CAF, the Ethos explicitly acknowledges that the Three Principles of the Code are a binding part of it. The Three Principles are listed in order of precedence. International law and universal ethical assumptions are implicit in the First Principle, Respect the Dignity of All Persons; Serve Canada before Self finds its highest expression in the Unlimited Liability of members; and Obey and Support Lawful Authority points to the rule of law and the subordination of military authority to civilian authority. For DND Civilians, the Three Principles apply equally but are expressed somewhat differently, given the major cultural differences between the military and civilian institutions.


The belief that there are multiple perspectives on an issue, each of which contains part of the truth but none of which contain the whole truth. In ethics, moral pluralism is the belief that different moral theories each capture part of the truth of the moral life, but none of those theories has the entire answer. For example, an ethics of character (See Virtue ethics*) must be completed by an ethics of action (See Deontology* and Utilitarianism*). For example, although we may possess the virtue of compassion, we must both take into account the consequences of our compassionate actions and treat other persons as ends in themselves when we exercise that virtue. On the other hand, an ethics of action must also be completed by an ethics of character. For example, a person with good character will not apply moral principles mechanically but will be sensitive to the nuances of the situation. He or she will have developed a practical understanding of life that allows one to balance the potentially competing concerns about rights, duty, and consequences. (Hinman)
Pluralist Approach to Ethics
A pluralist approach to ethics acknowledges the reasonableness of a multiplicity of approaches to ethics but does not give priority to any one of them. It treats the different approaches to ethics as a network of checks and balances that may or may not be in agreement. A pluralist approach to ethics argues that in some situations all approaches to ethics may agree on the right course of action - for example, all would agree that the torture of innocent children for fun is wrong. However, in other situations, individuals must either individually or in a group work out the best approach to decide what they should or should not do. Thus, in this perspective, disagreement may lead to a more innovative way of dealing with a situation. A pluralist approach to ethical decision making allows us to draw on one or a combination of approaches to ethics: care based, consequence based, rule based, self-interest based, and virtue based (See Pluralism*).

Positivism (Legal Positivism)*
Intending to oppose natural law theory, legal positivism denies any necessary "connection between law and morality";. Some of its central theses among a loose cluster are:

  1. law is definable and explainable without moral and evaluative predicates or presuppositions;
  2. the law (for example, of England today) is identifiable from exclusively factual sources (e.g. legislation, judicial precedence).

Most versions understand positive law as products of human will. Some versions of logical positivism will go as far as to deny that there is knowable moral truth. (Oxford Companion to Philosophy)

Preventative Ethics Programme
A preventative ethics programme adopts a two-prong approach to ethics: it combines a strong rules based component with a related values based component. Typically, a preventative programme begins by identifying areas of organizational practice that are considered to be exposed to high risks of non-compliance: for example, practices exposed to fraud. To encourage ethical behaviour, the programme emphasizes the importance both of the rules, regulations and policies governing those practices and of the related ethical values. A preventative approach served as the basis for the Australian Department of Defence's original Defence Ethics and Fraud Awareness Campaign (DEFAC) in 1991.

Prima Facie*
The phrase derives from the Latin meaning "at first glance". When used in the discussion of an idea or a principle, it will imply that the idea or principle should be accepted as valid until something leads us to reject it or to limit its scope.
In ethics, this phrase is usually associated with the concept of duty. A prima facie duty has an initial presumption of obligation in its favour. It is a duty that is considered binding but may, upon closer inspection, turn out to be overridden by other stronger duties given a set of particular circumstances. (Hinman; Pojman)

 Professional Ethic
The foundation of a professional ethic rests on a profession's existing traditions and values. Ethics tends to be understood in terms of the practices already present within the profession and of the attitudes, reasoning, and actions of its members. Although a professional ethic is open to change to address new issues, it tends to require that the profession's existing approach to ethics be the framework for all change. It typically includes formal and informal codes expressing rules and standards governing the conduct of members of a professional group: formal codes are written down and published in some form and informal codes are perpetuated through training and example.


Rights are entitlements to do something without interference from other people (negative rights) or entitlements that obligate others to do something positive to assist you (positive rights). Some rights (natural rights, human rights) belong to everyone by nature or simply by virtue of being human; some rights (legal rights) belong to people by virtue of their membership in a particular political state; other rights (moral rights) are based in acceptance of a particular moral theory. (Hinman)
A right is an entitlement to do, to demand, to enjoy, to be, to have done for us. Rights may be rights to act, to exist, to enjoy, to demand. We speak of rights as being possessed, exercised, and enjoyed. We also speak of our rights as being rights  to - as in the rights to life, liberty and happiness - not as rights against , as has so often mistakenly been claimed. (T. Beauchamp)
In their strongest sense, rights are justified claims to the protection of persons' important interests. When the rights are effective, this protection is provided as something that is owed to persons for their own sakes. The upholding of rights is thus essential for human dignity. (Oxford Companion to Philosophy)

Rule-Based Ethics
A rule based approach to ethics gives priority to rules, regulations and policies as a means of determining ethical behaviour. It assesses the right thing to do in a situation by checking for a rule that addresses or covers the situation. The law is considered an absolute in determining what should or should not be done. A rule-based ethics will prefer programmes that develop elaborate and comprehensive codes designed to deal with as many situations as possible and emphasizes compliance with rules. It. (See II - Deontology* and Utilitarianism*)


Utilitarianism is an approach to morality that treats pleasure or desire-satisfaction as the sole element in human good and that regards the morality of actions as entirely dependent on consequences or results for human (or sentient) well-being. (Oxford Companion to Philosophy)
The theory that the right action is one that maximizes utility. Sometimes utility is defined in terms of pleasure (Jeremy Bentham), happiness (J.S. Mill), ideals (G.E. Moore and H. Rashdall), or interests (R.B. Perry). Its motto, which characterizes one version of utilitarianism, is “The greatest happiness for the greatest number”. Utilitarian further divide into act- and rule–utilitarian. Act-utilitarians hold that the right act in a situation is one that results (or is most likely to result) in the best consequences, whereas rule-utilitarians hold that the right act is one that conforms to the set of rules that on the whole will result in the best consequences (as compared with other sets of rules). (Pojman)


Values are rooted in our culture and ways of life. They are part of the foundation upon which moral reasoning is based and serve as guides for decisions and actions. Some authors define them as enduring beliefs about what is considered to have important worth. They draw a useful distinction between values as means to obtaining something of worth (an instrument to an end) and values as something that is good in itself.

Values Based Ethics Program and compliance
Institutions of the Canadian Federal state including DND and CAF have universally adopted “values based ethics programs” as indicated by the adoption of official organizational codes of values. This means they have avowed that the keystone documents describing how organizations are to fulfil their missions articulate the “how” in terms of positive, broad and aspirational characteristics, such as values like “courage”, principles like “serve Canada before self”, and expected behaviours, such as “refusing to condone unethical conduct” (notice this one is a negative statement rather than a positive one, though it is still very broad in application).
While these aspirational statements are often very broad, they are not in any way at odds with the myriad rules and regulations adopted by these same organizations. The rules and regulations in fact attempt to support the values, just as they support the mission. Values-based organizations, then, are also compliance-based organizations when the core values statements accompany a complex set of rules requiring compliance.
Why does all this matter? A compliance - only regime - in which there is nothing but rules which must be followed - is one that appears to lack a deeper sense of identity, purpose, and motivation. It is in a sense minimalist (if you comply with the rules, that is good enough, and no further thinking is needed.) A values based approach acknowledges that rules of conduct cannot cover every possible situation and they do not encourage so much as deter. Instead, the code of values describes what fundamentally matters to the organization and what should be attended to in every situation requiring professional judgment.
Culturally speaking, the influence of compliance in DND and especially CAF is high. This tends to lead to an implicit belief that being ethical means adhering to clear rules. This in turn means that where there is no rule or the rule is unclear, one experiences an ethical disorientation. Greater internalization of aspirational concepts is thus seen as a way to further responsibilise individuals (by promoting autonomous ethical judgment), to motivate excellence (by going beyond a “good enough” mindset), and to acknowledge the complexity of professional roles and the need for balance among multiple, legitimate needs that are often in some tension with each other.
Ethics, ultimately, is not about compliance or prevention, but about what the organization stands for, and how that is reflected in the way it does its business.

Virtue Ethics*
One of the features of the concept of virtue is that it always requires some account of certain features of social and moral life in terms of which it has to be defined and explained. For example, virtue may be defined in terms of social roles or in terms of the good life conceived as the goal of human action. (MacIntyre)
A theory of virtue ethics was first put forward by Aristotle as aretaic ethics. Arete; is from the Greek and means goodness" [of function], "excellence" [of function] or "virtue". For Aristotle, the individual is essentially a member of a social unit and a moral virtue is a habit of behaviour, a trait of character that is both socially and morally valued. (T. Beauchamp)
For Aristotle, the basis of ethical assessment is character. Rather than concentrating on the ethics of actions or duties, his understanding of ethics focuses on the character and dispositions of the agent. Aretaic  ethics emphasizes being a certain type of person who will manifest who she or he is in appropriate actions. (Pojman)
Virtue Based Ethics
A virtue based approach to ethics gives priority to living a good life and to achieving excellence. In as much as it requires ethical decision making be based on what we achieve in life, a virtue-based approach has affinities with consequence-based ethics. However, rather than attach value to the results of actions, as does a consequence-based ethics, a virtue based approach focuses on the life-long goal to be achieved - being a person of good character. It starts with the idea that a person of good character will strive to do the right thing. Some of the virtues possessed by such a person are integrity, courage, compassion, and a sense of justice.  (See Virtue Ethics*)

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