Ethical Theory

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Ethical Theory







Ethical Theory

Different people have different ethical and moral principles, which influence the decisions we all make. In addition, the presence of different cultural practices and norms influence the values which I embrace as part of their lives. Moral theories form bases of explanations as to why people act in various ways including myself. They also form reasons as to why some norms are considered as acceptable and unacceptable in various societies.

Descriptive ethics relate to theories, which focus on studies about people’s beliefs about morality. In essence, it is a study of how I ought to act. It is a study that evaluates the behavior of individual people or groups of people. Moreover, the study entails the study to uncover the beliefs of people as to what they consider as morally upright. In addition, the ethical and moral considerations in relation to the choices that people make form the descriptive ethics theory. Moreover, the rationale behind making decisions, which are either morally upright or wrong, is determined by moral principles and beliefs, which fall under descriptive ethics. Different theories fall under the descriptive ethics theory. Value theory is whereby the study entails seeking to understanding the rationale behind why I consider certain things more valuable than others and others less valuable. The theory states that there are moral goods and natural goods. Moral goods are what relate to the conduct of an individual, which might lead to negative or positive consequence.

On the other hand, natural goods are what I can describe in form or real objects such as good food or good car. In terms of ethics, it only relates to the value of actions as to whether they are of moral value. The value theory relates to ethics that relate to personal values and how such values change under different circumstances. As part of a community, I might uphold values that are different in entirety in comparison to other communities that might hold varying values. Value theory is used in economics such that economists we attach value to a product if consumers find the product as valuable by attaching goodness to a product. Some natural goods may be valuable in an economic sense such as cigarettes and alcohol may be detrimental to my health as an individual.

On the other hand, normative theories of ethics are theories, which we use in our daily lives to identify actions that are right or wrong. Normative theories encompass the use of Utilitarianism, categorical imperative, Aristotelian virtue ethics, Stoic virtue ethics and Ross’ institutionalism. All these theories are used differently because of the different situations that I might find myself when making moral decisions.  I find Utilitarianism as a profound moral theory that people use unconsciously in their daily lives in relation to decisions that affect them and people in their surroundings. Utilitarianism is a theory, which bases my actions on the overall happiness accrued from such an action. I find it as a form of consequential moral theory because it focuses on the consequences of an action. Utilitarianism has different levels as they are broken down into the various types of Utilitarianism, which influences our acts. This occurs when, as an individual, I am faced with different options of acting that would derive various levels of pleasure. Different options would result in the same act, but they would accrue different levels of happiness. Thus, it is paramount to choose the option that accrues the most ‘happiness’ as stated by the theory. Rule Utilitarianism is whereby an act is governed by the different rules.

Such rules determine the end to an action as they are rules that apply each time identical circumstances comes forth, an individual is forced to follow his moral rules that he has set in relation to his daily acts. Utilitarianism has many applications in ones life. Killing people or committing murder is considered as morally and ethically wrong because people are considered of absolute value. Depriving a person the right to enjoy life would be tantamount to bringing utmost displeasure or sadness for that matter. It would bring grief to the families of the deceased and to the murderer it would give him guilt, which might cause him sleepless nights. Thus\, utilitarianism plays a significant role is prevention of heinous acts such as murder. Theft is also another act that a person has to contend with when he or she is unable to be satisfied with what he already has or is in need of something else. Stealing brings sadness to people who lose their possessions to theft. From such a perspective, I am able to develop ways to preserve my belongings to prevent them from theft.

However, the use of utilitarianism is contradictory because it considers some acts which people derive pleasure in but are criticized because they are considered as unethically improper. For expel homosexual, bisexual or lesbian acts are considered as pleasurable by people who practice them. However, in society they are considered as immoral and unethical. Some culture practice rituals that are considered as unethical and immoral in others yet the people who practice such derive much pleasure from such acts like sacrifices. Thus, utilitarianism is insufficient to explain the choices that people make in relation to decisions that might result in immoral and unethical results.

In comparison, Aristotle virtue ethics is the theory on happiness accrued by our acts. The theory is divided into two parts. The first part considers that happiness should be our core goal that should be promoted. The second part of the theory states that man should learn and form habits that accrue most happiness in our lives. The theory is credited to the philosopher Aristotle. He adds that the right habits and feelings are developed by an act of virtuousness. Our experiences should be our basis for developing good behavior; however, we should act to attain happiness to ourselves even if it means accruing sadness to other people. The point brought forth by Aristotle is that different situations necessitate varying actions whose goal is to bring the utmost pleasure to the doer. Aristotle’s pleasure can be interpreted to mean a good life. Thus, when I act as an individual I do so with the aim of bringing the utmost pleasure to my life. I tend to agree with Aristotle’s view that good behavior and habits bring forth happiness or satisfaction in one’s life. Habits according to Aristotle are unconscious thus when in any situation that needs making of either ethical or unethical choices one has to rely on his experiences or habits formed. Moreover, such experience s helps us form a basis for acting in similar circumstances or even slightly different circumstances. Aristotle’s views on morals and ethics can be described as simply virtue ethics as they relate to the virtue that an individual’s behavior accrues.

The differences between the laid out theories on morals solely lie in the approaches that they use to arrive at whether an action is tight or wrong. The value theory lays emphasis on what is considered as valuable. This might be in contrast to what is considered as morally acceptable yet it has significant value to an economy or society. Some goods are considered as economically valuable but they do not accrue valuable benefits from their use such as alcohol, cigarettes. However, they are considered as economically valuable but valuable in terms of health. In addition, utilitarianism is different in that it considers an act as morally and ethical upright if the doer derives the most pleasure for himself and the people who are affected by the action. An act might give pleasure to the doer and people affected by the action but might not be morally and ethically acceptable in a particular society. For instance it might be acceptable to give a sacrifice in the belief that the sacrifice will end drought or famine to give people food and water and thus alleviate their suffering. Moreover killing to is unethically acceptable in modern society, but in relation to the theory the doers of such an act might be compelled by the need to create utmost happiness to themselves by conforming to their culture at the same time bringing rain to the people. This is in contrast with Aristotelian view that good virtues should be nurtured to create good habits. Using the same example killing or making a sacrifice might not be a good virtue as it might create a killing habit whereby the individual or people committing such acts might form habits that view killing or offering sacrifices as a normal activity.

Rule Utilitarianism is impossible to use, as it is impossible to consider every act in terms of the rules that one should use. People act to derive the most pleasure for themselves and people close to them without consideration as to whether their acts will negatively affect other people. The ends justifies the means when one uses the utilitarianism theory because what matters most is whether the act will result in utmost pleasure even with use of unethical or immoral means.

Aristotle’s theory is the only sensible theory as it applies across all cultures and social settings. Virtue is created by behavior such that when one is presented with the choice of making an ethical decision it becomes automatic. This is in contrast with the rule utilitarianism whereby every act is first evaluated in terms of the rules. For example, an individual in line with Aristotle’s view is supposed to be courageous when there is need to be courageous, but afraid when he should be. This is actually practical because different people use their virtues based on the circumstances in which they find themselves.

In conclusion, the Aristotelian view is practical because I can use it in different approaches. In formation of bad behavior people form bad habits which eventually form bad behavior. On the contrary good virtues form good behavior because of constant acts of good habits. These good habits are formed by experiences such that one is able to reflect on such and form choices based on previous acts. One might have erred in behavior in the past but such experiences might enable one to form future decisions based on such experiences. When I am posed with the dilemma of making an ethical or moral decision, I determine such based on experiences or the virtues accrued over time, which are part of my behavior or habits.

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