Abraham Lincoln has been known as the man of ethics and morals. He never made any decision without appropriate reasons and justifying it with law. As a lawyer himself, he knew that honesty is the only attribute that is regarded amongst the people of his country and only in this way he would be admired by them. However, he never took any decisions just to make himself popular amongst the nation. According to him “being ethical means being honest” and “if you’re ethical, you’ll strive to use good judgment” (Griessman, n.d). These moral recommendations from him clearly interpret his philosophy of ethics that he supports both absolutism and situationlism. As usually national leaders like presidents have to take decisions in the best benefit of their nation, situationlism is good to implement as it entirely based upon the circumstances and their demand. Situationlism, combined with utilitarianism is what usually followed by the leaders, i.e., to take the best decision in the light of circumstances that could make the best positive affects overall and to avoid the negative effects as much as possible (Rockler 2007).
However, leaders like Lincoln also support Kanatian approach of Absolutism, according to which sincerity means goodwill for others and respecting others benefit by disregarding situational benefits. A good example to quote is Lincoln’s violation of the oath he took at the presidential ceremony in 1861, in which slavery was considered legal, but he eventually abolished slavery by disregarding it as immoral and unwanted for all human beings. According to him, it is unequal to support one man’s supremacy over another, just on the basis of skin and race. He also supported his arguments against slavery with the help of utilitarianism, that slavery is not in the interest of country and it has more negative effects than positive. For the greater benefit of the nation and US, slavery must be abolished. Hence his morality can be well-judged on the account of his struggle for equality and justice for all mankind, whether they belong to any ethnicity. It was his efforts that eventually abolished slavery in all the states of US in the form of 13th amendment to the constitution (Rockler 2007).
Lincoln repeatedly emphasized on the importance of truth and loyalty. This is what described in the duty ethics by Kant that human beings must tell the truth in order to dignify themselves (Rockler 2007). Lincoln stressed upon the same; with an addition that one must know how to tackle with the truth and evidence, i.e. if a truth is known then what must be done in order to impose and validate it. A truth must be handled carefully and must be revealed in an appropriate time and must be revealed on those who relates with it. Sometimes, it is even wiser not to reveal it at all in the greater interest of the majority. Thus one must incorporate truth, reasoning and honesty as much as it would be beneficial and be rewarded with positive outcomes. Thus one must apply the standards of ethics to justify between good or evil; and to identify the amount of each of them. If there is much good than evil in any decision, do not hesitate to accept it, or if the situation is worse than good, it would be rejected in the larger benefit. One must see the outcomes, as there are very few factors that are entirely good or entirely bad. It is easier to pick amongst such ones, but the reason comes where it is difficult to identify the elements of good or evil, and then to take a decision upon it. The decision is upon our judgment of things, so we must keep our eyes open in this regard (Griessman, n.d). Hence truth, justice and honesty are the three core principles of ethics of Abraham Lincoln, which he followed himself his entire life and advised his nation to adapt the same.
Griessman, G. (n.d). Abraham Lincoln On Ethics. Retrieved April 16, 2013 from http://www.presidentlincoln.com/lincoln%20on%20ethics.html
Rockler, M. (2007). Presidential Decision-Making: Utilitarianism VS Duty Ethics. PhilosophyNow. Retrieved April 16, 2013 from http://philosophynow.org/issues/64/Presidential_Decision-Making_Utilitarianism_vs_Duty_Ethics