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Moral Theories: Utilitarianism, Duty-Based Ethics and Virtue-Based Ethics

Introduction

Ethics and morals are close in meaning, interchangeable and quite often complementary terms. Studying ethics, people seek to assess the actions and their consequences from the moral point of view. In that sense, moral can be an abstract term, whereas the assessment of one’s actions’ morality is of practical importance, where applying different moral theories might lead to different actions, different consequences and accordingly a different justification of such action.

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Assessing moral theories, the main purpose is identifying universal norms for morals. This paper analyzes and compares three moral theories which are utilitarianism, duty-based ethics and virtue-based ethics, arguing that there is no single theory that might address every ethical aspect, where each theory contributes to a part of moral values.

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism can be defined as the theory according to which actions should be evaluated based on the happiness it brings and the consequence it causes. According to this theory the consequences of an action in terms of the happiness and unhappiness is actually measurable. In that sense, by measuring the “happy” consequences of an action and the “un-happy” consequence we might obtain a direct and clear suggestion of the morality of that action.

Utilitarianism, nevertheless, has several drawbacks which prevent it from being generally acceptable for all case. One of such drawbacks is the justification of immoral action in favor of a greater happiness, where for example, a lie could be justified if its positive consequences exceed the negative.

Another drawback is that within the positive and negative consequences formula people rights can be ignored. The third drawback of utilitarianism is that it does not consider the importance of the promises in calculating the consequences of a particular action. Additionally, dividing actions between obligatory and supererogatory, utilitarianism does not distinguish makes it hard to distinguish between them. In that sense, utilitarianism can be seen as constant devotion for the ultimate goal, i.e. happiness, ignoring many individual factors.

Deontological theory, or duty-based ethics, is an ethical concept that in contrast to utilitarianism, which focuses on the consequences, deontology focuses on the motives behind an action. In that sense, deontology will ignore bad consequences of an action and deem it as morally good, as long as the motives behind that action are good. In order, for the motives to be accounted for in this theory the will should become autonomous, i.e. independent of any outside effects.

In assessing the factors that might influence our will, the categorical imperative should be implemented, which states that the factor should be accounted for only if you can accept it as a universal law, and it does not prevent a rational agent from being autonomous. In that sense, a comparison between utilitarianism and deontology outlines that lies are accepted in the first case and rejected in the latter as it prevent a rational agent from being autonomous. Accordingly, this can be considered as the main drawback of Deontology, i.e. ignoring the consequences of the action.

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Virtue-based theory, unlike utilitarianism and deontology, does not focus on rules, duties, and obligations, but focus on the virtues of the agent. Defining virtues, according to Aristotle, they are character traits which are a means between two vices. In that sense, virtue ethics stress the importance of education, provide consideration of moral motivation and provide flexibility in assessing the morality of an action. Thus, virtue ethics can be implemented by performing actions that a virtuous person would, which points to the main drawbacks of virtue ethics, i.e. identifying a virtuous person and the actions of a virtuous personal in difficult ethical situations.

It can be seen from the three theories that there is no single theory that can be flawless in all situations. Nevertheless, from the assessment of each theory, it can be seen that virtue based ethics can be considered less pragmatic, a feature which is more suitable for moral assessment.

Works Cited

Rauhut, Nils Ch. Ultimate Questions: Thinking About Philosophy. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 20). Moral Theories: Utilitarianism, Duty-Based Ethics and Virtue-Based Ethics. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/moral-theories-utilitarianism-duty-based-ethics-and-virtue-based-ethics/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 20). Moral Theories: Utilitarianism, Duty-Based Ethics and Virtue-Based Ethics. https://studycorgi.com/moral-theories-utilitarianism-duty-based-ethics-and-virtue-based-ethics/

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"Moral Theories: Utilitarianism, Duty-Based Ethics and Virtue-Based Ethics." StudyCorgi, 20 Nov. 2021, studycorgi.com/moral-theories-utilitarianism-duty-based-ethics-and-virtue-based-ethics/.

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StudyCorgi. "Moral Theories: Utilitarianism, Duty-Based Ethics and Virtue-Based Ethics." November 20, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/moral-theories-utilitarianism-duty-based-ethics-and-virtue-based-ethics/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2021. "Moral Theories: Utilitarianism, Duty-Based Ethics and Virtue-Based Ethics." November 20, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/moral-theories-utilitarianism-duty-based-ethics-and-virtue-based-ethics/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Moral Theories: Utilitarianism, Duty-Based Ethics and Virtue-Based Ethics'. 20 November.

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