Friday, February 24, 2012

The meanings of integrity

Sometimes integrity is simply used as a substitute for the good or the right. Richard DeGeorge uses the term in this way: ‘‘Acting with integrityis the same as acting ethically or morally.’’ There is certainly something right about this definition; integrity does have a normative meaning. In fact it has several meanings, and each one can help us understand its significance, not as a substitute for ethics, but as a significant addition to other ethical standards.

To understand these various meanings, we need to begin with its original meaning, which comes from the notion of ‘‘integral.’’ An integral represents a whole. Wholeness, of course, always implies the presence of parts, so integrity requires not only wholeness, but also the right relationships among the parts of a whole.

To create integrity, therefore, is to integrate the parts into a whole. The relationships between the parts and the whole offer various meanings of integrity, including integrity as consistency, as
relational awareness, as inclusion, and as pursuing a worthwhile purpose.

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