Ethical Theory, Utilitarianism and Kant's Theory

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Ethics is a branch of philosophy which has a central concern of determining of how people should live their lives in accordance of distinguishing the right actions from wrong actions (Boatright, 2007, p. 7). In ethics normative theory propose different principles on how society can deal with this dilemma and that is through the introduction of deontological and theological ethical system.

Deontological ethics or non-consequentialist theory requires people to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do regardless of its consequences (Barry, Sansburry, & Shaw, 2009, p. 61). On the contrary, teleological or consequentialist approach sees action to be morally right or wrong due to its producing type of consequences like pleasure, welfare, knowledge, or happiness (Barry, et. al., 2009, p. 61).

Different approach on deontological and teleological ethics was introduced in explaining the different views of philosophers in accordance of decision making or resolving our daily problems. Firstly is Immanuel Kant, the famous deontologist introduced relationship between duty and the morality of human actions. He stated that an action can be considered moral if and only if it is in relation to our good will which is in accordance with the moral law instead of just basing it on our natural inclination (Boatright, 2007, p. 66). He specified that doing things based on our feelings or self-interest even though it might look like we are doing our duty it has still no moral worth. He then stated that we should relate our subjective choice on moral law which explained that in every intention on our acts should include maxim which is use by Kant’s to set the standard of morality or the categorical imperative (Barry, et. al., 2009, p. 72). He proposed that based on this maxim people can only act if this action can be become a universal law or which can possibly accepted by the majority. In addition to this, action should always be in respect on other people, that we should never treat others as merely means to our end or to use others for the attainment of our own interest. On the other hand, Jeremy Bentham, one of the first to develop the utilitarian theory, a form of teleological ethics; approach the issue by always relating our actions to the moral doctrine which stated that the morality of our action can be weight to its consequences, that if it results to the greatest good for the human welfare the action is right, if not then it is wrong (Barry, et. al., 2009, p. 72). He then added that a moral prescription of utilitarianism requires that consequences should not only be taken in consideration of an individual but also in respect of the common good.

Added to the consequentialist theory is egoism, which equates morality to the attainment of an individual’s long term interest (Barry, et. al., 2009, p. 59). As stated in Kant’s theory, maxim should always take into account other people which are a total rival to egoism in which the basis of moral act is self-interest. Another proponent of deontological approach was the British scholar W. D. Ross, a well-known opponent of utilitarianism. Ross emphasised other non-consequentialist perspective emphasizing our duty of care to those who depend on us (Barry, et. al., 2009, p. 72). Unlike utilitarianism we cannot have single obligation to maximise happiness for our obligations which develop out of different relationship or our different roles to others. For an instance, our duties as a mom to our children, sister to our siblings and a friend to colleagues vary on each.  Another deontological approach by Ross and other contemporary philosophers explained that our moral obligation is our prima facie (Barry, et. al., 2009, p. 73). In relation to utilitarianism’s ratio of good consequences over its bad outcome prima facie explains that one of our obligations can be overridden by a more important obligation that in reality there will come a time that we need to choose from...
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