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Ethics are rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad. (Merrriam-Webster.com) This paper is to compare the similarities and differences between virtue theory, utilitarianism, and deontological ethics. I will do this by studying these ethical theories and by comparing them along with showing the details on how each theory relates to ethics and morality. It will also include an example of a personal experience to describe the relationship between virtue, values, and moral concepts as they connect to one of the three theories.
Virtue ethics focuses on how to be; studies what makes the character traits of people. A person who has these traits will act by habit in certain ways not because of a person’s values, but because it is what a moral person would do. (Boylan, 2009) A police officer’s pledge is an example of virtue ethics because he pledges to uphold the law.
Utilitarianism theory of ethics states “that an action is morally right when that action produces more total utility for the group than any other alternative. Sometimes this has been shortened to the slogan, “The greatest good for the greatest number” (Boylan, 2009). In other words, utilitarianism specifically looks at the advantages of happiness, providing the greatest balance of pleasure, along with reducing suffering. For example, if you are asked to go to two cookouts on the same Sunday, depending on which cookout you decide to go to, will affect the happiness of both sides.
Deontology is defined by Boylan (2009) as a “moral theory that emphasizes one’s duty to do a particular action just because the action itself is inherently right and not through any other sort of calculations – such as the consequences of the action.” For example, if you find a wallet in the supermarket parking lot. Two decisions can be made, first you can keep it or second you can return it either to the supermarket or the person it belongs too. To compare all three theories, let us look at the following example: borrowing money in tough times knowing that the money cannot be paid back. According to deontology, it is morally wrong not to pay back the loan.
However, utilitarianism allows borrowing that money without paying it back, supposing that the money allows more happiness that it would by not asking for the loan. Virtue ethics would not allow the loan not to be paid back, because the action of not paying is not moral and honest. Although deontology and utilitarianism are categorized as “ethics of conduct,” they are different in their ethical theory. Deontology recommends an action based on a moral rule or principle, while for utilitarianism an action is right if it gives the best results or happiness to the action. Virtue ethics is categorized as “ethics of character” looks at how people should be instead of what actions people might take.
Virtue ethics is how I am built. I use the tools I was taught in the Marine Corps to apply to my everyday life, and pass them down to my children. I believe in doing the right thing no matter what. I believe that self-respect and honor are what is missing in today’s society. In my opinion, if society would do the right thing a majority of the time we would be better off. If society would not just think about themselves but take in consideration other people’s feelings the world would be a much better place.
Boylan, M. (2009). Basic Ethics in Action: Basic Ethics (2nd ed.). : Pearson Education.
Merriam-Webster.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/