which theory of ethics do you favor—virtue ethics kantianism vs utilitarianism why
Unlike the duty of justice, which aims at preserving the autonomy of others, the duty of beneficence is, in Aristotelian terms, corrective (Aristotle 1990 , 1131 a 1). It makes sense in contexts in which the capacity of autonomy has been badly affected and in which its aim is “to correct”, i.e. to recover the lost capacity.
It would seem therefore that, if the duty of justice safeguards that each person retains his ability to consent, after he has known all the relevant facts of the situation, and so keeps his autonomy, the duty of beneficence appears after the capacity for making autonomous choices and performing free actions has weakened, and its aim is to foster one’s capacity of setting one’s ends and to recover one’s capacity for autonomy. But while in the case of the duty of justice, autonomy is something that all people possess, and they should act in ways that do not violate it; in the case of the duty of beneficence, autonomy is seriously threatened by external, natural or man-related factors. The duty of beneficence consists precisely in this: to help those in need and disasters recover the capacity of autonomy which under the circumstances they have lost, and so enable them to promote and develop their own ends (O’Neill 2016 , 40–41). Sometimes helping the other recover his autonomy may be difficult or may take time. This is why the duty of beneficence is primarily concerned with fostering the others’ ends as if they are our own, until the others acquire the capacity to promote and develop their ends themselves.
Repetti Summaries of Three Ethical Theories: Utilitarianism, Kant, and Virtue Theory
Utilitarianism/consequentialism: the idea that the only objective moral values are the ones nature biologically provided, namely, pleasure and pain. Since any sentient being (a being capable of sensing/feeling pleasure/pain) may be harmed or benefitted by an action, “good” just means “benefits some sentient being” and “bad” just means “harms some sentient being”, or, more precisely, “good” is whatever produces the greater benefit for the greater number of sentient beings that would be affected by the decision and “bad” is whatever produces the greater harm or dis-benefit for the greater number of sentient beings that would be affected by the decision. The utility principle says to choose whatever produces “the greater good for the greater number” (whatever has greater utility or usefulness). Because this suggests a cost/benefits analysis, whereby one weighs the consequences or potential costs and benefits of a decision to determine its utility, utilitarianism is a form of “consequentialism”. The idea that “the ends justify the means”, for instance, is a consequentialist principle. Utilitarians come in tweo varieties: act and rule. Act utilitarians think each action must be judged individually for its specific consequences; rule utilitarians think each rule must be judged for the consequences expected to result over the long run from everyone adopting that rule. A single lie, for instance, might save lives, but adopting the rule that lying is permissible will lead to disastrous results, so act and rule utilitarians are divided over even the single lie that would save lives now. Utilitarianism has many things in its favor. It is natural (based on pleasure and pain, or benefit and harm), equalitarian (everyone’s harms/benefits count equally), democratic (what is right will benefit the most), and realistic, in the sense that it doesn’t require any religious or other peculiar beliefs, and fair, in that it doesn’t require membership in any particular culture, nation, or other social group (for example, wealthy white male heterosexual English-speaking property owners). It also accounts for cultural diversity and the possibility of objectivism (pleasures/pains and harms/benefits may be measured) and universals in ethics (arguably all cultures follow some meta-principle of utility, namely, select those rules that have utility or promote the common good). It is used in law, insurance, industry, and a variety of domains, and its use generally seems to promote the common good. Problems riddle the theory, however. Suppose research supports the view that slavery of 10% of any population always promotes the greater welfare of the other 90%, and the costs are offset clearly the benefits. Utilitarians would have to endorse it, but clearly that is immoral, so the theory is flawed. Similarly, if a Peeping Tom is never caught, and only he benefits and nobody else is harmed, utilitarians seem required to say that it is ok, but surely that seems wrong, morally, so there is another defect in the theory. Many similar objections may be leveled against the theory. One is that it might promote the greater good to periodically punish everyone, or to periodically publicly execute someone for a crime they didn’t commit, and a variety of similar absurdities. Utilitarianism also seems to suggest that each of us must take into consideration the needs of all sentient beings whenever we make any decision, and redistribute our wealth, energy, labor, and time to almost everyone else, so long as we keep a minimally sufficient amount for ourselves, giving us nearly infinite duties. All of this seems wrong. On the other hand, we should move somewhat away from totally self-centered thinking, and ought to consider the consequences of our actions as they may affect all other sentient beings. This sort of thinking has given rise to the animal rights movement, spearheaded by the most outspoken utilitarian of our times, the Princeton philosopher Peter Singer. Fair-minded thinking about harms/benefits to sentient beings suggests that species membership is morally similar to racial membership (speciesism is analogous to racism), and so ought not to be considered a morally relevant criterion in itself. Despite its flaws, most moral philosophers think there are many valuable insights and principles to be drawn from utilitarianism, and that utilitarian thinking must inform most public policy, law, and any large-scale institution where many competing interests and possibilities for harms/benefits must be considered fairly.
4. Practical, clear-cut procedure : Utilitarianism doesn’t rely on vague intuitions or abstract principles. It allows psychologists and sociologists to determine what makes people happy and which policies promote the social good [ Warning/paper advice: Do not use this as your main reason why you like this theory – flipping a coin as Two Face in “The Dark Knight” is a simple ethical decision procedure, but that by itself does not make it a good theory ].
6. Alternative: Consequences? Can we ever be completely sure about the consequences of our actions? Haven’t there been times when you thought you were doing the best thing, based on the anticipated consequences, but the results turned out badly? Kant’s view avoids consequences in making ethical decisions, so it doesn’t have such a problem.
Historically, accounts of virtue have varied widely. Homeric virtue should be understood within the society within which it occurred. The standard of excellence was determined from within the particular society and accountability was determined by one’s role within society. Also, one’s worth was comparative to others and competition was crucial in determining one’s worth.
Moral theories are concerned with right and wrong behavior. This subject area of philosophy is unavoidably tied up with practical concerns about the right behavior. However, virtue ethics changes the kind of question we ask about ethics. Where deontology and consequentialism concern themselves with the right action, virtue ethics is concerned with the good life and what kinds of persons we should be. “What is the right action?” is a significantly different question to ask from “How should I live? What kind of person should I be?” Where the first type of question deals with specific dilemmas, the second is a question about an entire life. Instead of asking what is the right action here and now, virtue ethics asks what kind of person should one be in order to get it right all the time.