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Ethics: Theory and Practice - Essay Example

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Ethics: Theory and Practice

First of all, let us briefly analyze the details of the situation Katia is in. It is wartime, which means that all people suffer in an approximately the same manner. At the same time, it is safe to suppose that normal ways of punishment, like possibility of arrest and trial which might scare the girl under normal conditions, are not working because of the shift in priorities to the need for a town to survive. So, the factor of the fear of punishment is weakened for Katia, which adds to this case the additional relevance as it turns it into a purely moral dilemma that Katia faces before stealing. Now, let us adopt a view that the followers of the tradition of egoism in ethics would promote. According to egoism, one is and should be always motivated by self-interest, which definitely justifies Katias act of stealing, and on a superficial level even makes it justified during hard but peaceful times. However, the problem for ethical egoism is to find out what is ultimately in ones interest. Clearly, there are cases when altruistic deeds may turn out to be more useful for ones own good, and it seems reasonable to suggest that during peacetime Katia should not steal to avoid possible unpleasant consequences. But during the war, when there is no assurance that one will live through the current day, her deed is formally allowable for egoists.
The school of ethical utilitarianism claims that the ultimate measure of all actions is linked to the achievement of the greatest utility for as many people as possible. This utility is represented by the notion of good that includes pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, etc. From this point of view, it might seem that a utilitarian must demand the additional data about the case, such as for instance the number of members of Katia family versus the number of the people living in the house the girl broke in. If the number of people who would survive after the theft would be larger, then Katia may be said to be justified in stealing. Still, utilitarianists have developed limitations that would offer a special treatment of such controversial cases, otherwise those who offer to base morality on utilitarian principles would for example have to admit that the murder of one person for medical purposes to save lives of two persons is justified, which of course is unacceptable in modern societies. So, one of responses of utilitarianism to this dilemma is by pointing out that the likely future consequences of actions should be considered before deciding what has the greatest benefit. For one, if medical system were to kill healthy people to save more of sick ones, then ultimately no one would attend medical institutions, and it would lead to the general increase of suffering. Similarly, despite a possibly of a larger number of members in Katias family, she should not steal food as the desperation of the owners of the house may make them repeat the theft and thus perpetuate the circle of actions that will only increase suffering. Of course, ethical utilitarianism would keep the same negative stance towards the possible theft during peacetime.
Another approach to definition of morality is contained in the philosophy of Kant, who ...Show more

Summary

There are some basic concepts that people use on a regular basis, and which to a large degree make our interaction with the world and with others meaningful. The notions of ethics and morality definitely belong to the list of such important conceptions, and can even be considered superior to many other ones as without our assurance that our beliefs are morally justified we can hardly hope to effectively cooperate in the social environment, which in its turn would clearly render us quite helpless in our everyday life…
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Ethics: Theory and Practice essay example
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