Ethical Theories

The English word ‘Ethics’ is derived from the great word ethikos which means the “character”. And the word itself comes from the word ethos which means the ” character”, moral nature.

Theory of ethics:

  • Deontology
  • Utilitarianism
  • Virtues
  • Right
  • Relativism

(1) Deontology-

Deontology is practically duty-based, and is not affected by the consequences. It insists that people should stick to their obligations and duties when confronted in decision-making. A deontologist believes that morality is the responsibility of everyone as well as duty. For example, a man steals three loaves and a gallon of milk to feed his family, it would be supported by a deontologist because of the moral responsibilities and obligations of the man to look after his family. Sometimes deontologists are unable to determine the nature of the action.

(2) Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is consequences-based. It is based on one’s ability to predict the consequences of an action. Utilitarianism is a moral theory that implements fair choices to ensure the least amount of harm to be done to all parties involved. The utilitarianism approach requires that you decide what course of action needs to be done and evaluate the outcome of every action. For example, Jack walks into a hostage situation, there are 20 hostages and he is told that if he shoots one hostage he will save the life of the other 19. Utilitarianism will support Jack’s killing of one of the hostages because the life of the other 19 hostages is a greater benefit, even though the cost would be one person’s life.

There are two types of Utilitarianism and are as follows:

(a) Act Utilitarianism- A person who performs the acts that benefit the most of the people, regardless of personal feeling or the societal constraints such as law.

(b) Rule Utilitarianism seeks to benefit most of the people in the fairest way and with the readiest.

(3) Virtues

The virtue ethical theory judges the person by his/her character and behavior rather than by the actions which may differ from his/her normal behavior. When observing an unethical person the virtues theory considers the person’s reputation and purpose for committing the act. If a high school student is temperate, modest, intelligent, and plagiarized on a class writing assignment the virtue theory analyzes the student’s past personality traits and interpersonal skills to determine whether the student is truly guilty.

(4) Rights

Rights are established by the society or by the government and are protected by them. Rights are considered ethical because a large number of people adhere to them.

(5) Relativism

It is a theory that deems your moral obligations and beliefs to be based on the individual environment. For example in America cannibalism is considered taboo while in other cultures the act of consuming another human flesh is accepted as sacrifice and ritual. Relativism determines morals and ethics according to the society that is being observed. Relativism argues that every society and culture believes differently thus each culture must be evaluated according to its particular patterns and influence and traditions.