October 26, 2010
Ethical theories have existed for many years and are regularly challenged and debated by scholars and religions. The following paper will discuss four main ethical theories – rights theory, justice theory, utilitarianism, and profit maximization. It will also discuss one theory not mentioned in the readings for the week - virtue ethics.
Ethical Theories and Their Foundations
One of the ethical theories covered in this paper is the rights theory. Mallor, Barnes, Bowers, and Langvardt (2010) write, “Rights theory encompasses a variety of ethical philosophies holding that certain human rights are fundamental and must be respected by other humans” (p. 93). Rights theory is part of the deontological ethical theories which means the theory, “..focus on decisions or actions alone” (Mallor, Barnes, Bowers, and Langvardt, 2010, p. 93). Kantianism, created by Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, was primarily based on the Golden Rule which most know as, “Do to others as you would have others do to you”. The bases of rights theorists are near absolute in their decision making and often times contradict each other in the outcome. An example would be the argument for universal health care for all Americans. For some, this issue is very important and insist it should be made a requirement by the government and/or employers. Others feel this would lead to further government intervention into the daily lives of Americans. The second ethical theory is justice theory which Mallor, Barnes, Bowers, and Langvardt (2010), “..has concepts common to rights theory, but a focus primarily on outcomes” (p. 93). John Rawls wrote in A Theory of Justice, “..that it was right for governments to redistribute wealth in order to help the poor and disadvantaged” (Mallor, Barnes, Bowers, and Langvardt, 2010, p. 95). Rawls (1971) expanded on the justice theory with two key principles. The...