February 24, 2014
What exactly does it mean when one says that a decision is ethical? The answer to that question depends on that person’s perception of ethics. Ethics is a perception of a situation or culmination of situations, decision, and resultant factors. To answer the question fully, one would have to consider the ethical values of the person. Is the person basing the decision on virtue ethics, utilitarianism, or a deontological standpoint? A careful review of these three standpoints would reveal one’s situational perception of ethics.
There are similarities within the three perspectives of virtue, utilitarianism, and deontological ethics. In virtue ethics, one would be making an ethical decision if that decision is aligned with an effort to strive for excellence. “It takes the viewpoint that in living your life you should try to cultivate excellence in all that you do and all that others do” (Boylan, 2009, p. 133). This is an obligation to personal development. Similarly, from the utilitarianism viewpoint, one would consider whether the decision would result in the best outcome for community or society. With deontological ethics, one would have to take into consideration the duties of that person and how one fulfills obligations to self and community. All three perspectives judge the ethical decision with consideration for whether or not the decision considers personal responsibilities and quality of life.
The three standpoints have their differences as well. When considering a decision with virtue ethics in mind, one considers one’s own advancement and makes the conscious decision to further personal goals. With utilitarianism, one considers the furthering of community. “Utilitarianism is a theory that suggests that an action is morally right when that action produces more total utility for the group than any other alternative” (Boylan, 2009, p. 153). The decision has to further