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Describe the Three Main Kinds of Ethical Theory. Which Do You Thi...

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Describe the Three Main Kinds of Ethical Theory. Which Do You Think Is the Better Theory, and Why?

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  • October 1, 2008
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Ethical theories are the foundations of ethical analysis because they are the viewpoints from which guidance can be obtained along the pathway to a decision. Each theory emphasizes different points such as predicting the outcome and following one's duties to others in order to reach an ethically correct decision. There are three main kinds of ethical theory; deontology, utilitarianism and virtue ethics. Deontology meaning 'obligation' or 'duty' is an approach to ethics which says that the act of rightness or wrongness is not wholly dependent on the goodness or badness of their consequences (University of Aberdeen, 2007). The theory states that people should adhere to their obligations and duties when analyzing an ethical dilemma. This means that a person will follow his or her obligations to another individual or society because upholding one's duty is what is considered ethically correct (Brook, 2007). Utilitarianism is the ethical doctrine that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility in maximizing happiness or pleasure as summed among all persons. It means that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome – “the ends justify the means”. The theory is founded on the ability to predict the consequences of an action. To a utilitarian, the choice that yields the greatest benefit to the most people is the choice that is ethically correct (Markoczy, 2002). Virtue theory according to Rainbow (2002), is an approach to ethics which emphasizes character, rather than rules or consequences as the key element of ethical thinking. The theory judges a person by his character rather than by an action that may stray from his normal behavior. Although all of the ethical theories attempts to be applicable and valid by themselves, each theory falls short with its own flaws, there is without doubt, no one better theory than the other, and therefore one cannot have preference of a theory over the others. One weakness of...