The word ethics comes from the Greek word ethos, which means morals. Ethical theories are the basics of ethical analysis because they are the perspective from which guidance can be attained along the pathway to a decision. Each theory highlights different points such as forecasting the outcomes and following one’s responsibilities to others in order to attain an ethically correct decision. “The moral rightness of an action, unlike the cultural or legal or religious rightness of an action, is not necessarily about whether the action conforms to the laws of some culture or government or religion. Therefore, the moral rightness of the ethics theories does not always line up with cultural values and can suggest being harmful to the society. There are many Ethical Theories available and different individuals follow different ethical theories. In the paragraphs below I will discuss Utilitarianism Theory, Egoism Theory, and Rights Theory; and the behaviors each theory suggests. John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism is a moral theory that bases its decisions on the consequences of individual’s decisions.
The main question under this theory is what would provide the “greatest good for the greatest number of people. ” The Utilitarianism Theory “(1) Recognizes the fundamental role of pain and pleasure in human life, (2) approves or disapproves of an action on the basis of the amount of pain or pleasure brought about i. e, consequences, (3) equates good with pleasure and evil with pain, and (4) asserts that pleasure and pain are capable of quantification (and hence ‘measure’). ” Therefore the outcome of an individual’s choice must take into account others feelings while making a decision.
Essentially utilitarianism suggests that if majority of the people who are affected by a decision or action are not happy then the decision or action is wrong. This theory supports that individuals should not follow what culture expects of us, instead they should concentrate on the greatest good by taking the necessary actions that has better consequences for everyone in the society. This theory is not always realistic or ethical because it is hard to make everyone or majority of the people happy. Firstly, it is hard to quantify or define happiness and sorrow.
Secondly, many people may enjoy watching a small number of people getting hurt but that is not an ethical act. Lastly, many times people deserve different treatment depending on their performance. For example, one salesman may get promoted into a management position while his senior co-workers did not; this action is not supported by Utilitarianism Theory even though the act was ethically right. Another Ethics theory is Egoism and it concentrates on self fulfillment instead of the wellbeing of the society as a whole. According to Dr.
Alex Mosely “In the strong version [of Egoism Theory] it is held that it is always moral to promote one’s own good and it is never moral not to promote it. ” That is why following this theory is easier than all the other ones; due to the fact that individuals can strongly follow their desire instead of being concerned about others’ needs and wants. “Ethical egoism is the most efficient at satisfying needs because each of us knows our own needs best and how to meet them. ” This results in selfish but wise decisions for them because they get what they want. “In egoism, the way to define right vs. rong is by the consequences to self. ” As a result, individuals who follow the egoism theory can many times harm others by taking wrong actions as long as the action produces right consequences for him or her. However, Egoism Theory is inconsistent because it cannot prove solutions for conflict of interests. For example, an individual might want to murder another individual; however the other individual does not wish to be murdered, which creates a conflict of interest. Also, this theory can be morally wrong because it suggests considering one’s own best interest even if it harms others.
An ethical theory that I subscribe to is the Rights theory. “In the rights ethical theory the rights set forth by a society are protected and given the highest priority. Rights are considered to be ethically correct and valid since a large or ruling population endorses them. ” So, what is “right” and what is “wrong” is decided by the culture and the individuals who follow this theory will strongly follow what the culture advices. Rights Theory suggests that “Individuals may also bestow rights upon others if they have the ability and resources to do so. This theory strongly supports society’s rules and keeping promises. For example, if an individual lend a DVD to a friend for a week then, the friend has the right to keep the DVD for a week. I subscribe to this theory because in a highly civilized country, such as America, the rights set forth by the society are mostly well constructed. Therefore, following these rules created by the society keeps peace within the society and creates an equality system; where everyone has the right to fight for themselves and gain what they deserve.
A major complication of this theory on a larger scale, however, is that one must decipher what the characteristics of a right are in a society. The society has to determine what rights it wants to uphold and give to its citizens. In order for a society to determine what rights it wants to enact, it must decide what the society’s goals and ethical priorities are. Therefore, in order for the rights theory to be useful, it must be used in conjunction with another ethical theory that will consistently explain the goals of the society Ethical theories convey important characteristics to the decision-making process.
Even though all of the ethical theories try to follow the moral values in order to be applicable and valid by themselves, each theory contains some complex flaws. The main similarity between the Utilitarianism Theory and Egoism Theory is that they are both usually hedonistic theories. The difference between the two is whose interests count when determining the rightness or wrongness of an action. An individual who believes in the Egoism Theory would think that only the interests of himself or herself counts, while the utilitarian would think that majorities interests count.
Egoism Theory and Rights Theory are similar because they both require the exercise of rationality. Egoism Theory supports rational decisions because individuals have to make wise decisions to follow the path to follow the Egoism Theory and achieve the best results out of it. While Rights Theory supports rational decisions while making the societies rules for individuals to follow. The Rights Theory and the Utilitarianism Theory is fundamentally similar. Both of the theories concentrate on the greatest good while making a decision by keeping the majority of the affected people or societal rules in mind.
Due to all the flaws in the theories many times it is wise to follow more than one ethical theory to achieve the best moral decisions.
Bibliography Rainbow, Catherine. “Principles and Theories. ” Biology @ Davidson. 2002. Web. 10 Nov. 2010. . Jones, Nicholaos. “Introduction to Ethical Theory. ” Scribd. 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2010. . Smith, Richard. “Common Criticisms of Utilitarianism. ” Utilitarian . org – Flying the Flag! 2007. Web. 10 Nov. 2010. http://www. utilitarian. org/criticisms. html Mosely, Dr. Alex. “Egoism [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]. ” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2005. Web. 10 Nov. 2010. .