Ethical Theories: Description and Application The purpose of this paper is to examine three major ethical theories. These theories include Deontology and Utilitarianism, as well as the moral theory of David Hume, which is a type of virtue ethics. I will outline each major theory and explain their strengths and weaknesses…
Utilitarianism is a specific brand of consequentialism, where the moral status of an action is based on the utility or usefulness of its consequences. The action that results in the greatest amount of utility is considered morally right, where any actions resulting in less overall utility are considered morally wrong. In Classical Utilitarianism, utility is usually defined as pleasure. In this theory, the morally prescribed action is often described as the action that results in the greatest amount of good, for the greatest number of people involved (Sinott-Armstrong, sec.1). If you take into consideration all of the consequences of a particular action, and that action results in more net good, than net bad, then that action is morally permissible (Sinnott-Armstrong, sec.1). Deontological systems of ethics are often explained in contrast to consequentialist ones, because they are essentially the opposite. Where consequentialist theories focus entirely on the consequences of the act, deontological theories focus on the act itself (Alexander, sec. 1). According to deontological theories, some acts are simply wrong and should never be done regardless of the consequences (Alexander, sec. 1). ...
See whether a world is even conceivable, where every person must complete that action, and if it is, whether you would rationally will that it become a universal law. If so, then that action is morally permissible (Johnson, sec. 5). Hume’s theory of Morality is more of a descriptive theory than a prescriptive one. Unlike Utilitarianism and Deontological theories, which are systems that give you a system on which to base your actions, Hume’s theory is empirical, meaning he describes his observations on how people tend to think and feel about morality. He observes how immoral vs. moral actions affect other people, and what people think about someone who acts morally vs. someone who acts immorally. As stated in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Hume’s theory of morality is based upon the following four theses: “(1) Reason alone cannot be a motive to the will, but rather is the “slave of the passions” (2) Moral distinctions are not derived from reason. (3) Moral distinctions are derived from the moral sentiments: feelings of approval (esteem, praise) and disapproval (blame) felt by spectators who contemplate a character trait or action. (4) While some virtues and vices are natural, others, including justice, are artificial” (Cohon, par. 1). In his first and second theses, Hume sets himself in opposition to traditional moral thinkers (including both deontological and consequentialists), who viewed morality as a struggle between reason and emotion. These philosophers thought that in order to act morally, one must behave in a way that is “rational” (Cohon, sec. 3). If you resist reason and give in to contrary passions then you will end up behaving in way that is immoral (Cohon, sec. 3). Hume, however, ...
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