Good or Bad?: How Ethics Can Help Us Decide

Powerful Essays
Good or Bad? : How Ethics Can Help Us Decide
Frances M Gierbolini
PHI208: Ethics and Moral Reasoning
Instructor: Victor Reppert
March 12, 2013

Good or Bad? : How Ethics Can Help Us Decide One of the more popular approaches to determining good from bad is to apply utilitarian ethics. This essentially means that if given a choice between two acts the act that benefits the majority should be chosen. Philosophers use the term “utility” to express this idea, and “utility” is defined as the “satisfaction one gets from something” (Bowles, 2010, Section ‘Utilitarianism,’ Para. 2). When considering whether an act is good or bad using the utilitarian approach one would consider whether the consequence of the act has a positive or negative impact on the majority of those affected. There are pros and cons to using utilitarian ethics when considering morality and both will be discussed here; however, in my opinion, it is better to approach solving moral issues by applying deontology and virtue ethics. Ethics provides us with the tools to determine what is right or wrong and good or bad. As Bowles indicates, “[e]thics, or moral philosophy, investigates how we can evaluate our behavior in terms of right and wrong, good and bad—in short, how we determine what we should do, what we should not do, and how to tell the difference” (Bowles, 2010, Section 2.1, Para. 1). Ethics also provides us with a way to identify our values and categorize them in order to apply them to the appropriate situations. Aristotle’s indicates that there is no ethical theory that can offer a set “decision procedure;” however, ethics can “help show what is attractive about the virtues, and they also help systematize our understanding of which qualities are virtues” (Aristotle’s Ethics, 2001, Section 5.2, Para. 1). In order to accomplish this it is necessary to have a standard of values to measure our goals and actions against. From a utilitarian perspective, the consequences of actions and



References: Aristotle 's Ethics. (May 1, 2001). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics. Duty to Others and the Golden Rule. (Feb. 15, 2011). Josephson Institute. Retrieved from http://josephsoninstitute.org/business/blog/2011/02/duty-to-others-and-the-golden-rule/ Gaus, G.F. (2001). What is Deontology? Part One: Orthodox Views. Journal of Value Inquiry, 35(1), 27-27. Retrieved from ProQuest Database Document ID 203937789. Mosser, K. (2010). Philosophy: a concise introduction. Retrieved from Ashford Library https://content.ashford.edu/books/AUPHI208.11.1 Rainbow, C. (2002). Descriptions of Ethical Theories and Principles. Retrieved from http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/kabernd/Indep/carainbow/Theories.htm Varner, G. (2006). Utilitarianism and the Evolution of Ecological Ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics, 14(4), 551-73. Retrieved from ProQuest Database Document ID 232417830.

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