Analyzing Different Ethical Theories - Business Morality, Ethics In Context - Essay Research Paper

1487 words - 6 pages

In our varying list of ethical theories, some focus on the morality or
intention of an action and others that look to the outcome of it. These
doctrines that base their ethics on the outcomes of actions are called
consequentialist ethical theories. Probably the most significant of these
is Utilitarianism. Essentially, this doctrine is based on the belief that
maximizing utility or happiness is the greatest principle of morality. In
its earliest forms, Utilitarianism could almost be considered a “cost-
benefit analysis”1 . However, it has become more progressive with time
with some slight additions and altercations. To discuss Utilitarianism one
must understand that distinction between act and rule Utilitarian
Act Utilitarianism is the belief that an action is morally right when it
produces the greatest utility for the greatest number of people, “only if
the balance of benefit to harm calculated by taking everyone effected by
the act into consideration is greater than the balance of benefit to harm
resulting from any alternative act”2. While rule Utilitarianism is the
belief that the moral correctness of an action depends on the correctness
of the rules that allow it to achieve the greatest utility. Take this example
to help differentiate the two. There is a convict that committed a violent
crime in the past but the judge undoubtedly knew that the convict would
not commit a crime again. The convict would be happy to be free. Also,
the victim’s family has forgiven the convict and it would not cause them
pain to see the convict let free. An act Utilitarian would let the convict
free because it increases the most happiness and does not cause any pain.
On the other hand, a rule Utilitarian would not let the convict free
because the judge should follow the rule even if it is not necessary in
this case. 1
1 Sandel, Michael. Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? New York: Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 2009.
When opposing Utilitarianism, often times very extreme situations are
presented. Would it be justified to kill one old man to harvest to use all
of his vital organs to save ten children? This question and ones similar to
it are intended to emphasize that the action itself is not considered in a
Utilitarian approach, just the outcome.
The next ethical theory we will delve into is Deontology. The father
behind Deontology is eighteenth century German philosopher, Immanuel
Kant. Kant emphasized that every individual is a rational being worthy
of respect. And because humans are rational and worthy of respect, “then
it’s wrong to treat them as mere instruments of the collective
While the outcome determined the morality of an action for
Utilitarianism, Deontology goes more in depth into the motive or
intention behind the action. Kant thought that every person should aim
to act out of good will because persons of good will “do their duty
because it is their duty and for no other reason”4. For example, if I chose
not to steal f...

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