Comparing Ethical Theories

Topics: Ethics, Virtue ethics, Normative ethics Pages: 3 (872 words) Published: June 24, 2012

Comparing Ethical Theories
Joseph Spor
May 28, 2012
Ralph Hutton

Comparing Ethical Theories
The philosophy of ethics has been studied and debated for many centuries. While there are varying definitions of ethics, many who study the topic would agree that ethics can be described two ways. First, ethics can be considered to be the standards of right and wrong that outline what a human being ought to and ought not to do. In other words, they are the standards that tell us to be honest and give to others, rather than to lie and steal. Second, ethics can refer to the actual study of ethical standards. The term study can be understood in different ways as well. One can study ethics by simply trying to understand what ethics are. Others can study ethics by digging deeper into what they believe to be right versus wrong. When studying ethics, one will begin to learn about normative ethics. The “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy” (2009) website explains normative ethics as ethics that involve arriving at moral standards that regulate right or wrong. It explains normative ethics as a type of “proper behavior litmus test.” Three strategies of normative ethics include virtue theory, utilitarianism, and deontological ethics. These three strategies will be explained in further detail here. Virtue ethics can be considered ethics regarding character. According to Boylan (2009), virtue ethics “takes the viewpoint that in living your life you should try to cultivate excellence in all that you do and all that others do.” When Boylan speaks about cultivating excellence, he is implying that a person should develop good habits of character. These habits are not just rules of “yes or no” or “right or wrong”, but they are the actual habits that define those outcomes. Utilitarianism is the theory that an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness (“Utilitarianism”, n.d.). “Happiness”...

References: Boylan, M. (2009). Basic Ethics (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2009). Ethics. Retrieved from (n.d.). Utilitarianism. Retrieved from
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