Ethical Theory, Utilitarianism and Kants Theory Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:06:56
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Ethics is a branch of philosophy which has a central concern of determining of how people should live their lives in accordance of distinguishing the right actions from wrong actions (Boatright, 2007, p. 7). In ethics normative theory propose different principles on how society can deal with this dilemma and that is through the introduction of deontological and theological ethical system. Deontological ethics or non-consequentialist theory requires people to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do regardless of its consequences (Barry, Sansburry, & Shaw, 2009, p. 1).

On the contrary, teleological or consequentialist approach sees action to be morally right or wrong due to its producing type of consequences like pleasure, welfare, knowledge, or happiness (Barry, et. al. , 2009, p. 61). Different approach on deontological and teleological ethics was introduced in explaining the different views of philosophers in accordance of decision making or resolving our daily problems. Firstly is Immanuel Kant, the famous deontologist introduced relationship between duty and the morality of human actions.

He stated that an action can be considered moral if and only if it is in relation to our good will which is in accordance with the moral law instead of just basing it on our natural inclination (Boatright, 2007, p. 66). He specified that doing things based on our feelings or self-interest even though it might look like we are doing our duty it has still no moral worth. He then stated that we should relate our subjective choice on moral law which explained that in every intention on our acts should include maxim which is use by Kants to set the standard of morality or the categorical imperative (Barry, et. al. , 2009, p. 72).

He proposed that based on this maxim people can only act if this action can be become a universal law or which can possibly accepted by the majority. In addition to this, action should always be in respect on other people, that we should never treat others as merely means to our end or to use others for the attainment of our own interest. On the other hand, Jeremy Bentham, one of the first to develop the utilitarian theory, a form of teleological ethics; approach the issue by always relating our actions to the moral doctrine which stated that the morality of our action can be weight to its consequences, that if it results o the greatest good for the human welfare the action is right, if not then it is wrong (Barry, et. al. , 2009, p. 72).

He then added that a moral prescription of utilitarianism requires that consequences should not only be taken in consideration of an individual but also in respect of the common good. Added to the consequentialist theory is egoism, which equates morality to the attainment of an individuals long term interest (Barry, et. al. , 2009, p. 59).

As stated in Kants theory, maxim should always take into account other people which are a total rival to egoism in which the basis of moral act is self-interest. Another proponent of deontological approach was the British scholar W. D. Ross, a well-known opponent of utilitarianism. Ross emphasised other non-consequentialist perspective emphasizing our duty of care to those who depend on us (Barry, et. al. , 2009, p. 72). Unlike utilitarianism we cannot have single obligation to maximise happiness for our obligations which develop out of different relationship or our different roles to others.

For an instance, our duties as a mom to our children, sister to our siblings and a friend to colleagues vary on each. Another deontological approach by Ross and other contemporary philosophers explained that our moral obligation is our prima facie (Barry, et. al. , 2009, p. 73). In relation to utilitarianisms ratio of good consequences over its bad outcome prima facie explains that one of our obligations can be overridden by a more important obligation that in reality there will come a time that we need to choose from which of our moral duties must outweigh.

But then again, unlike utilitarianism, prima facie recognize a genuine obligation that the reason behind this decision is because of the inherit act itself, like breaking our promise to attend to a friends party over bringing someone injured to the hospital. Although, we can see that deontological theory is somehow totally contradicting to teleological theory we should still put into account that both views what makes right acts right.

As stated earlier, utilitarianism presents moral action based on the greatest happiness for the greatest people. Utilitarians hardly believe that the principle of utility should be the one universal moral code. Principle of utility describes as the greatest happiness principle, that whenever people need to make a choice they should consider the one that can maximise their happiness and minimise their unhappiness for the benefit of the greatest number of people (Boatright, 2007, p. 33).

Within the scope of the theory of utilitarianism is the existence of its two subdivisions namely the act of utilitarianism and the rule of utilitarianism which is somehow coincides with each other but in a way see the said theory in a different point of view. Both act and rule utilitarianism agree that an ethical decisions should merely be based on its consequences, that any chosen decision which minimizes the utility is morally wrong and whatever will result in maximising utility is considered to be morally right (Boatright, 2007, p. 2). In addition to this, both views that an individual must aim to act in regards to maximising the happiness of the group as a whole, not just on acting based on their intention to maximise their self-interest (Boatright, 2007, p. 33 ). However, in regards to the assessment of maximising the greatest happiness of the people conflicts arises between the said subdivisions of utilitarianism.

Act of utilitarianism is said to be more straight forwards who entails that always do whatever act that will create the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (Boatright, 2007, p. 36 ). Jeremy Bentham believed that the only criteria for an action to be moral if it will result to the maximisation of utility. He based his moral theory in accordance with hedonism, that whatever is pleasurable for human is good and whatever is painful is bad thus, he insisted that pleasure and happiness is the ultimate intrinsic value or our act.

Bentham introduced the hedonistic calculus which can serve as an individuals guide to act based on the maximisation of utility. This calculation states that individual must rate in accordance to seven proposed consequences: intensity, duration, certain or uncertainty, remoteness, fecundity, purity, and extent. Once the individual equates all the said pleasures and pains on each side, he can then decide to which action result to more pleasure for the common people involve.

This approach of Bentham received negative feedback from other utilitarians because of lack in providing overall happiness in the future. Other utilitarians specified that hedonistic calculus is unclear of how long and individual must wait to whether their actions is right or wrong. The inconsistency that was observed in Benthams hedonistic approach gave rise to the formulation of rule-utilitarianism. This approach gave emphasis on the relationship of act and the context in which the act occurs.

It considers more than just a singular situation by taking into account various types of situation and the respective right actions which both should be based in a set up rules to maximize utility. This set up rule is grounded by harm principle which states that rightful actions should prevent harming people. Another basis of the said rule is the golden rule which states that individual should not do something which he cannot be accepted by everybody and standard of judging should not only be based on single happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness in total(Boatright, 2007, p. 8). Compare to act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism is said to provide stronger foundation for the accomplishment of ethical decisions for it satisfied both present actions and present situation, but also considered present actions and future situations. On the other way around, rule utilitarianism and Kants theory which we just mentioned earlier can present the often confusion that people faced in reality of which of the said approach will bring the most moral act.

Both of them set some standards in which we can base our actions to determine its morality. Kants theory proposed that our actions can only be seen as morally right if it is relation to our good will which is in accordance to the moral law. In here, Kants stated that our every intention should include maxim which can be either an act than can be accepted universally or a deed that will take into consideration the respect for other people which generally explained by the golden rule.

Same with rule utilitarianism, Bentham introduced the set up rules as standard of moral act which is also grounded by the golden rule and the principle of harm which in a way is relative to the universal acceptance, that harming people in our actions just for maximising our utility cannot be accepted by society. In contrast, Kants insisted that moral obligation has nothing to do with the consequence in which rule utilitarianism is promoting. Our actions to be moral should just arise from a moral law that is binding on all rational beings.

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