Normative Ethical Theories

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NORMATIVE ETHICAL THEORIES
Objective • Discuss the normative ethical theories

L2: Normative Ethical Theories
Beliefs about how people should behave can be classified into at least 2 major categories: Teleological theories (Consequentialism) Right actions are those that produce the most or optimize the consequences of one’s choices. Behaviour is ‘ethical’ if it results in desirable behaviour 1. 2. 3. 4. Ethical egoism Ethical elitism Ethical parochialism Ethical universalism Deontological theories (Duty and Rights) Duties are set down as rules which must be followed. Rights are behaviours that a person expects of others. Actions are intrinsically right or wrong regardless of the consequences which they produce. 1. Theological ethics 2. Rationalism 3. Social contract theory

Ethical Egoism
• Based on the belief that people should act in a way that maximises the ‘good’ of the person making the decision. – For e.g. ethical egoists would not stop to help the victim of a road accident if that would make them late for a dinner reservation. They are not concerned with rules or accepted behaviour but behave in a way which is in their own interest. • Hedonism: Ethical behaviour for hedonist would be that which gratifies a desire for pleasure and minimises pain.

Ethical Egoism
• Adam Smith:
– Advocated the pursuit of maximum self-interest. – Believed that such a policy pursued by individuals would lead to the maximisation of society’s interest. – An invisible hand restrained the individual from behaviour that would damage the interests of society.

• Milton’s Friedman’s Restricted Egoism:
– “There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud”. – Suggests that the behaviour of individuals seeking to maximise their selfinterest should be constrained by the law and the conventions of competition and fair play. – Would not allow breaking the law or the violation of accepted codes of behaviour in pursuing self-interest.

Ethical elitism
• Suggests that society is stratified and that ethical behaviour should maximise the interests of only the top stratum or the elite. • Examples: – (a) Sending thousands of soldiers to their deaths in a battle would be ethical behaviour if it improved the general’s reputation, – (b) The dismissal of a ‘mere’ accounts clerk to protect the reputation of the accountant would be regarded as ethical behaviour by a society that subscribed ethical elitism.

Ethical parochialism
• Assumes that ethical behaviour should protect the interest of the individual’s ‘in-group’. – The ‘in-group’ could be the individual’s family, friends, professional associates, religion, gender, etc.

• Ethical parochialism would regard lying to protect a family member as ethical behaviour. Similarly preferring as employees former students from the employer’s old school.

Ethical universalism (John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism)
• Suggests that ethical behaviour should be concerned with the good of all people and that individuals are all of equal value. • Any behaviour which pursues the interests of an individual at the expense of others would be unethical. • Mill modified Bentham’s theory. Bentham argued that when individuals seek to maximise their utility, the community’s utility is also maximised. Mill’s greatest happiness principle meant that an individual should not act to maximise personal utility but the utility of the community as a whole.

Ethical universalism (John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism)
• Moral principle of utilitarianism: Persons ought to act in a way that promotes the maximum net expectable utility, that is, the greatest net benefits or the lowest net costs, for the broadest community affection by their actions. • An extreme example: This theory would accept an...
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