Ethics is always a hard topic to discuss. There is so much 'gray area' involved with ethics, that pinning down right and wrong can be very difficult. Also, ethics can have conflicting interpretations of a single act. In looking at people, if we see a person perform a good act, or an ethical act, we can say that they are behaving ethically or in the good. Similar, in this same act, we can say that this person is acting good because it is in the eyes of the public, and is motivated to be seen in this positive way.
This was the point made by Peter at On Philosophy in his post, Good People. I agree with Peter in his views regarding people and what motivates them to act. We recognize that there are people who act in good ways and to not get recognized for it. They would be acting in an inherently good way and not motivated by the public recognition and public opinion.
At the end of the post, Peter provides a comically yet insightful example about people acting in a positive way and simultaneously wanting to be perceived in the positive way, not doing it inherently. His example is a demonstration on how to identify a person who feels the need to not be outdone, and so after they pay the bill, you leave a generous tip and watch as that person tries to show you how he is not outdone in this situation or did something even more generous at a different time.I really liked Peter's post and thought he hit the nail on the head. People are not always acting good just to act good, but rather are looking for a return on their actions, which is usually to be seen in 'good light' by others around them. Our society is based on the same set of ethics and acting in a ethically good manner is reward while acting in a ethically bad manner is punished. The type of a system allows for problems in that it is difficult to identify if a person is acting inherently good or is seeking a reward.
~A subject for a great poet would be God's boredom after the seventh day of creation. . . Friedrich Nietzsche