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Ethical theories

Ethical theorie, teleology, deontology

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Ethical theories

  1. 1. DR.MANJIT KOUR
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION Several philosphers have given different theories of ethics. A moral theory is a mechanism for assessing whether a particular action or rule is ethically justified. More precisely, a moral theory can help us to sharpen our moral vision, it helps us determine whether an action or a rule is ethically right , wrong, or permissible. These theories help us in getting better understanding of ethics and guide us in making ethical decision making. All ethical theories can be classified into two different categories -Consequential ethical theories -Non-consequential ethical theories
  3. 3. Consequential Ethical theories(Teleology)  Consequentialism or teleological ethics is based on the premise that the morality of an action is contingent with the outcome of that action.  This implies that morally right action produces good outcome and morally wrong produces bad outcome.  The consequences are the effects caused by an action and the quality of these consequences depend on how much good they contain. Motives are the cause.  Some of the consequential theories are Utilitarinism, egoism, etc.
  4. 4.  Teleological moral theories locate moral goodness in the consequences of our behavior and not the behavior itself.  According to teleological (or consequentialist) moral theory, all rational human actions are teleological in the sense that we reason about the means of achieving certain end.  Moral behavior, therefore, is goal-directed
  5. 5. Non-Consequential Ethical theories ( Deontology)  The non-consequentialist approach or deontological approach or the duty ethics focuses on the rightness and wrongness of the actions themselves and not the consequences of those actions.  There are several variants of non-consequentialist approach such as Divine Command Theory; Natural Rights Theory etc.
  6. 6.  Deontological theories are by definition duty-based. That is to say, that morality, according to deontologists, consists in the fulfillment of moral obligations, or duties.  Duties, in the deontological tradition, are most often associated with obeying absolute moral rules. Hence, human beings are morally required to do (or not to do) certain acts in order to uphold a rule or law.  The rightness or wrongness of a moral rule is determined independent of its consequences or how happiness or pleasure is distributed as a result of abiding by that rule, or not abiding by it
  7. 7. Utilitarianism  Utilitarianism is a moral theory that advocates actions that promote overall happiness or pleasure and rejects actions that cause unhappiness or harm.  A utilitarian philosophy, when directed to making social, economic, or political decisions, aims for the betterment of society.  "The greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people" is a maxim of utilitarianism.  The philosophy is associated with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, two towering British philosophers, and political thinkers.
  8. 8.  Utilitarianism appears to be a simple theory because it consists of only one evaluative principle: Do what produces the best consequences.  In fact, however, the theory is complex because we cannot understand that single principle unless we know (at least) three things: a) what things are good and bad; b) whose good (i.e. which individuals or groups) we should aim to maximize; and c) whether actions, policies, etc. are made right or wrong by their actual consequences (the results that our actions actually produce) or by their foreseeable consequences (the results that we predict will occur based on the evidence that we have).
  9. 9. What is Good?  Jeremy Bentham answered this question by adopting the view called hedonism. According to hedonism, the only thing that is good in itself is pleasure (or happiness).  Hedonists do not deny that many different kinds of things can be good, including food, friends, freedom, and many other things, but hedonists see these as “instrumental” goods that are valuable only because they play a causal role in producing pleasure or happiness.  Pleasure and happiness, however, are “intrinsic” goods, meaning that they are good in themselves and not because they produce some further valuable thing.  Likewise, on the negative side, a lack of food, friends, or freedom is instrumentally bad because it produces pain, suffering, and unhappiness; but pain, suffering and unhappiness are intrinsically bad, i.e. bad in themselves and not because they produce some further bad thing.
  10. 10. Strengths of this theory  It is believed that actions are right if they are useful to a majority of people. It is most commonly applied ethical theory  In this theory, the worth of each action is judged primarily on its own merits
  11. 11. Criticism of Utilititarianism  The notion of utility is very vague. It is very difficult to determine what the maximal utility would be for all affected by a situation.  There is doubt regarding what is the “majority”. Sometimes its action may benefit the majority at the cost of exploitation of the minority  It may sometimes result in unethical and immoral choices as it judges morality by the results only, and not by the means  It is very much difficult to forsee the consequences with accuracy.  The ethical dilemma for managers is to measure the benefits and harms that will be done to each stakeholder group.
  12. 12. Universalism  Developed by Immanuel kant, a german philosopher(1724-1804)  Universalism is considered as deontological approach  This philosophy is centered in human autonomy  Human autonomy for formulating our own law on basis of our understanding and framework of our experiences  Being self conscious and thus aware of the reasons behind our actions is therefore one of the highest principles of Kant’s theoretical philosphy
  13. 13. Contd..  In kant’s opinion there should be one universal moral law which we should independently impose onto ourselves. He named it the categorical imperative.  The categorical imperative hold that every act we commit should be based on our personal principles or rules.  Kant refers to these principles or rules as maxims.  Maxims are basically the ‘why’ behind our actions  In order to ensure our maxims are morally sound, we should always ask ourselves if we would want them to be universal laws.  Would our maxim pass the test of universability?
  14. 14. Strengths of Universalism  Consistency-What is right for one should be right for all  Brings clarity in decisions  Focuses on intentions of decision maker-making him his own moral agent  Evokes a deep consideration for the well being of all parties involved in our actions
  15. 15. Criticism of Universalism  Universalizability is questionable. How can we claim, all people, all nations. All beliefs, and all cultures in every single act we implement  Equality based approach is too idealist
  16. 16. Ethics Case Study Raj knew he was smart. His classmates always turned to him for help on assignments and he always knew the answers to the questions his teachers asked in class. Raj just didn't study for tests so his grades were often mediocre. He knew he could do better in school, it was just that school was so... well, boring. School was coming to an end for the year and Raj needed to get a good job this summer, after all this was the end of his junior year. He desperately wanted to work at the famous Research Institute. Raj felt that if he got a job there as a summer intern, it would really boost his chances of getting admitted to the graduate engineering program of his choice. He knew the institute hired very few summer interns and generally these were students from private schools who had excellent academic records and high standardized test scores. So, Raj decided to "tweak" his resume. He rounded his GPA up from 3.0 to a more respectable 3.5 and listed his SAT scores as 700 verbal and 820 math (in reality they were 600 verbal and 720 math). Raj reasoned that these changes really didn't matter because he would show them who he really was through the quality of the work he did for the Institute once he was hired...
  17. 17. Questions Consider each of the following questions and evaluate the case study: 1. What is the action or inaction that is the cause for concern? 2. Who or what may be affected? 3. How will they be affected? (i.e., what are the possible consequences?) 4. What would have been course of action taken by you if you were Raj?

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