Consequentialism / Ultilitarianism
Consequentialism is the idea that an act can only be considered “right” or “wrong” based upon the results of the act itself, and the consequences of which the act produces. The more positive the results, the more “right” an act is considered to be. Therefore, consequentialism states that a person’s moral judgement should solely be based upon the consequences of the act (in this case, to maximize the positive and while doing so, avoid negative consequences). For instance, we know that lying is wrong because of the consequences that are involved after. There are 2 major forms of consequentialism– ultillarianism and hedonism. Utilitarianism is the idea that people should maximize utility (human satisfaction, well being and welfare), ultillarianism solely focuses on increasing or reducing happiness, whereas hedonism states that people should maximize pleasure that is gained in respective to the act itself. However, is consequentialism really ethical? Say for instance, I murdered a man but the police never found out who did it, and I was never caught. The consequences of the act were not negative, they were avoidable. So does this mean that murder is “right”? Or say for example, I was a train driver, and there were 2 tracks I could take. The first track had 1 person tied to it, the other had 10. Strong supporters of the consequentialism idea will argue that the right track to take would be the track with 1 person tied to it as there will be less consequences and thus less negative results. However, who are we to judge whether life is equivalent to that of 10 lives? and is it fair for us to play God in this situation?
Situational ethics is a christian ethical theory, it states that moral judgements can be very flexible, there is no universal solution and all the judgements we make depend on the situation itself. Situational ethics takes on a case to case basis. “Love is the ultimate law”- In situational ethics, the moral codes of christianity and love must be taken into account. Love in this situation means to desire and act to promote the well being of people. Nothing is considered good or bad unless it helps or hurts a person. The highest good is human welfare and happiness (love).
Duty Ethics / Emmanual Kant and the Categorical Imperative
Duty ethics is only concerned with the the action of the person and not the consequence. Strong supporters believe that if you have the incentive, or the thought of committing something or “immoral” no matter the consequences, it is considered wrong. It teaches that actions are regarded as wrong or right themselves, despite the consequences.
Duty ethics stand by 4 simple rules:
- Do the right thing.
- Do it because it’s the right thing to do.
- Don’t do wrong things.
- Avoid them because they are wrong.
Deontologists live in a universe of moral rules: It is wrong to kill innocent people, to steal, and to tell lies. It is the right thing to keep promises. They believe that it is in our duty to do the right thing, and our moral judgements should not be based on the consequences that occur after the choice has been made. For example, philosopher Kant describes that it is wrong to lie in order to cover up a murder. Compared to consequentialists, we can see that consequentialists focus on what the “right” or “wrong” thing to do is by looking at the possible outcomes evolved in the decision making process. The process with the most number of positive outcomes is described as the correct thing to do. However, as I have explained above, it is difficult to weight out the pros and the cons of each decision we make as it is not in our power to do so, especially if someones life is at risk. Deontologists on the other hand, believe that the right thing to do, is the moral choice we should make, despite the consequences which may evolve.