December 3, 2012
The subject of ethics can be quite controversial, especially when the three major theories are vying for front-line attention. Understanding why people react to specific situations the way they do is beneficial from any stand point in life whether profession or personal.
In the following paragraphs ethics will be defined, as will the three theories; virtue, deontology, and utilitarian. The similarities and differences of these three theories will be discussed, as will the differences in how each theory addresses ethics and morality. Lastly, utilization of a personal experience will be used to explain the relationship between virtue, value, and moral concepts as they relate to one of the three theories; deontology, utilitarian, and virtue ethics.
Ethics according to the text, Basic ethics: Basic ethics in action is defined as the science of the right and wrong in human actions. The study of ...view middle of the document...
Essentially, utilitarianism suggests that an action is morally right when the benefit to the group or community outweighs that of all other options
Virtue theory, also called agent-based or character ethics, is most closely aligned with the concept of absolute good and takes the view point that in living life one should try to cultivate excellence in all that one does and all that others do (Boylan, 2009).
The similarities in the three theories are based on value, virtue, and moral concepts. Each theory is based on good to one degree or another. In this instance good is the virtue and the degree of good is the value. The moral concept is another aspect that is of varying degree. In Deontology (the strictest of the three theories) doing right is a moral obligation, a command that must be fulfilled without thought of the consequences that completing this action will do harm to the person taking the action. On the other side of that scope though is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is team orientated in that the ends justify the means, not necessarily the right means just the means that provide the greatest good for the greatest number. Absolute good is the concept most closely aligned to virtue ethics and it’s proclivity for perfection. The belief that one should try for excellence in all that one does and to expect no less of other.
The differences of the three theories are the varying degree that the beliefs are followed. Deontology being the strictest regardless of the harm to self for following the rules the rules must be followed, Utilitarianism promoting the greatest good for the greatest number, and Virtue ethics which asks what as good person would do in this situation whose definition of “good” are we to use to measure by?
To show an example of deontology, as a manager for a local convenience store chain I caught an employee helping themselves to store merchandise without paying for it. I fired this person even though doing so would increase my workload, increase the number of hours I would have to put in and require that I change plans with my family for a get a way we had planned. I believe that right is right that the rules must be followed and there are no shades of grey.
Boylan, M. (2009). Basic ethics: Basic ethics in action (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.