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How Utilitarianism Compares To Deontology

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The Basic idea of utilitarianism is that “the right action is the one that will go the farthest toward increasing happiness for the community as a whole.” (South University Online, 2015, para. 1). When considering what the right action is, it should be an action in which the likely outcome maximizes happiness. To put it another way “more pleasure and less pain for the greatest number of people.” (Mitchell, 2015, p. 402) Utilitarianism assumes that the highest desire of all humans is to be happy. Utilitarianism recognizes that human beings are social in nature. Therefore, in utilitarian ethics, the decisions people make should be in accordance with what makes the most people in the social community happy. Also, utilitarian’s should avoid doing anything that will unpleasantly affect human happiness. For example, you are at a pizza party with twenty other people, and there is just enough pizza for everyone, if you indulge yourself and eat an extra slice, this will make you happy, but could take away the happiness of another who would have to give up a slice for you. Therefore you have to think about the overall good for community or society. Utilitarianism seems like a pretty good theory of justice when you include the happiness of all people in society first, however, there is a flaw to the theory, which is that it intrudes on basic human rights. For example, if ten people needed my blood, the utilitarianism philosophy would require I give it up. The want of the many outweighs the want of the few. But basic human rights would say I have the right to keep my own blood. Utilitarianism will also fail most basic economic rights and liberties. For example, if I own a house and it makes me happy, great. But if ten people who do not own a home want to live on my property because it will make them happy, I am not inclined to give up my home to them. Owning my own piece of property that I worked hard for is my own basic human right. Likewise if you are at the grocery store and all the customers agree that everything should be fifty percent off today because that would make everyone happy, the store owner should not have to give in if it does not make him/her happy.

“Deontology, on the other hand, is based upon the idea that there are universal ethical duties that can be discerned via rational reflection.” (South University Online, 2015, para. 7). Deontology is primarily based on Immanuel Kant’s ideas. “Kant argues that relying on consequences is problematic because we may not be able to accurately predict them.” (South University Online, 2015, para. 2). The deontology philosophy is about duty and honor, where people have a duty to act ethically in all situations. Acting ethically is a moral obligation in deontology. This may sound like a military code of honor, but deontology philosophy is different than that. Deontology philosophy has no set of universal moral laws. Instead, Kant established a tool that he calls the categorical imperative. Kant argued that this tool enables all rational beings to reach the same ethical conclusions. These ethical conclusions become a universal law, which Kant calls a maxim. (South University Online, 2015, para. 2) The categorical imperative is the method used to reach a maxim, and the maxim must be universal, so that it can become a universal law that is ethical. The method to reach a maxim work like this: take action “A” if and only if, action “A” can become a universal maxim. Here is a real life example: there is a certain intersection that has a sign that says “no right turn on red.” Now one day road construction begins on the left side of that intersection and they demo the road there and put up a wall. Now every day on your way to work you approach that intersection and catch the light red, and every day you want to turn right. Now at this point you know that sign that’s says “no right turn on red” is outdated and does not even make since to be there anymore because nobody can possibly be coming from the left because the road is not even their anymore, there is just a wall their now. Now, do I obey the left over outdated road sign, or do I take the action of turning right. The categorical imperative says; take action “A” if and only if, action “A” can become a universal maxim. I would say “yes” take action “A” because all rational beings will come to the same conclusion that is universally acceptable for all people to take action “A” (making the right turn) in the same situation.

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Now what is better utilitarianism or deontology? This is the known as the consequentialism debate. This debate can going on for a lifetime and beyond. But if you want to cut through all philosophical ideas and get the short answer. The short answer is deontology is the better practice more often than not, because utilitarianism based more on personal opinions of happiness and deontology provides a tool in which all rational beings can reach the same ethical conclusion. Furthermore, deontology does not have the personal rights issue that utilitarianism has.

Virtue ethics

“Virtue ethics is based upon the belief that if we develop good character, we will act ethically.” (South University Online, 2015, para 1) Virtue Ethics is different than that of both utilitarianism and deontology in that both utilitarianism and deontology are about what actions people should take. Virtue Ethics on the other hand is a philosophy that states people should develop good character, and that our good character will ultimately lead us to make the right decision before we act. A modern day definition of virtue ethics is “an ethical theory that uses as a moral standard what a virtuous person would do, rather than consequences or obligations; the primary question is, What kind of person should I be?” (Mitchell, 2015, p. 465) Aristotle believed that there are “two types of virtues, intellectual virtues (like wisdom) and ethical virtues (like courage and honesty).” (South University Online, 2015, para 1) I would agree with this, and this is a good way of categorizing virtues. “Intellectual virtues are developed through education” (South University Online, 2015, para 2). Biblical education will teach you to think about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, these are all virtues. (Galatians 5:22 NLT). Aristotle believed that the purpose for human beings is “ultimately about developing virtue” (South University Online, 2015, para 1) When you put into practice virtues, such as the ones listed above, you are building good character in your life.

Aristotle himself did not give us any virtues, but gave us the idea of the Golden Mean. “The Golden Mean is the idea that virtue lies somewhere in between excess and deficiency; thus, it emphasizes moderation and self-discipline without completely excluding pleasure.” (South University Online, 2015, para 3) It was Aristotle’s idea that people develop virtuous character when pursuing for the golden mean. Virtuous behavior should start in the home, with children learning respect from their parents. Then it becomes cultivated as they grow in school, becoming a life habit. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” (Mitchell, 2015, p. 465)

The care ethics philosophy includes virtual ethicist but adds on the concept that “Ethics should also be concerned with developing the ability to genuinely care for others.” (South University Online, 2015, para 5). A caring personality would nurture a habit of caring and would be concerned with relationships. In care ethicists philosophy “the ideal would be interconnectedness rather than autonomy or separateness” (Mitchell, 2015, p. 466) The refinement of behaviors of virtue applies to care ethics, but the ideal is of a caring self rather than a rational self is predominate in care ethics. The question then becomes, not “What would a rational person do in this situation?” but “What would my ideal caring-self do?” (Mitchell, 2015, p. 466) Living the care ethics philosophy life, you will most likely make a shining example of both the golden rule and the silver rule. The golden rule is this: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” (Mitchell, 2015, p. 471) The Silver rule is this: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” (Mitchell, 2015, p. 471) When you are the person in need of care, it is hard not to want your caregiver to follow the golden and silver rules.

Existentialism

“Existential ethics is based upon the artichoke view of the self.” (South University Online, 2015, para 7). However Existentialism takes it too far. Existential ethics goes to extremes and is in contradiction of known truths, thus making it more of an anti-ethics philosophy. Furthermore existential ethics often disregards basic critical thinking skills and what should be common sense. Existential ethics holds the idea “that God is dead.” (South University Online, 2015, para 7). That quote is an oxymoron because, if it can die, then it is not a God. Therefore if it is a God, it cannot die. The idea “that God is dead” is just a silly stupid existential idea. Existential ethics philosophy states “we have no fixed essence and are both self-creating and determined by the situation in which we find ourselves, we are both free and not free at the same time.” (South University Online, 2015, para 7). There are many things wrong with this one existentialism statement. How can you be both free and not free at the same time? Either you are, or you are not. This is a known truth, that applies to many things. This is just a silly stupid existential idea. How can you have no fixed essence? Are you mutating between human and fish on a daily or monthly biases? No, you are a human being from womb to tomb. This means you have a fixed essence. “We have no fixed essence” is just another silly stupid existential idea, and the stupid ideas that come from existentialism just on keep coming. For example, the idea that we are self-creating, pause right here, humans are self-reproductive but not self-creating. Let’s not blur the line between the two. A blurred line between two different but similar things leads to ignorance, and many false ideas. Humans did not create themselves.

According to existential ethics “there are no universal moral values but, rather, we co-create meaning within our community.” (South University Online, 2015, para 7). This leads to the concept of “good is just a point of view.” If ethics, or doing what is right, is just a point of someone’s view, then any criminal such as a thief or rapist could claim they were acting ethical, because from their point of view, it was good for them. Their defense would should like this; they were just acting ethical from their point of view, how dare you call them a rapist and toss them in jail! This existential philosophy shows a solid lack of intelligence. Furthermore, existentialism leads to form of anti-ethics. The more I study it the more I realize existentialism is an unethical, foolish, and even a dangerous philosophy. The Nazis generals of WW2 did what was good from their point of view, the advancement of their career. Their existential philosophy entitled them to kill millions and called it a good thing, for the greater good of Germany and the advancement of their careers of course.

The political side of Existentialism deals with authenticity and freedom. Are our politicians authentic? Do they keep their commitments? Are political ideas approved in freedom or are they approved because of the idea that is what everybody else does. Well quite frankly, you do not need existentialism philosophy to answer these questions. The answers is no to all of these questions. That’s just modern America.

Social justice issue

Low wages and unemployment have been a social issue for a long time, even more so since the recession of 2008-2009. Income inequality makes the rich richer and leaves the poor struggling to keep a roof over their head. This is not justice. Companies like Walmart and McDonalds, and many others, have owners that are some of the richest people in the country while they pay the majority of their workers minimum wage, or close to minimum wage. This is a great social injustice. “a just state will promote decent wages and decent work” (Rogers, 2014, para 3). Some politicians call for higher minimum wages to combat income inequality. Some political philosophers think it would be better to leave the minimum wage as is and give the low earners bigger tax breaks and tax credits. Other political philosophers claim that there should be mandatory profit sharing, giving every employee a share of the overall company profit. I think all these philosophies of combating income inequality should become law, to eliminate the income inequality problem in this nation, an restore social justice. There has not been a greater time in the lifetime of most living Americans than now, in which income inequality has been so extensive. This is because many people have become unemployed or underemployed since the recession of 2008-2009. Many people who regained employment again are under employed, not using their full skills, and earning only a fraction of what they use to earn. Their loss of wages due to their unemployment gap, along with their new lesser wages have hit them hard financially, and causes income inequality to continue to grow worse and worse. It is time to fight income inequality with new legislation, even if the legislation is only temporary, until income inequality decrease dramatically.

Both the utilitarianism philosophy and the virtue ethics philosophy would agree that we need to fight income inequality. The utilitarianism philosophy would no doubt suggest that income inequality cause more pain and stress to the lower wage workers. Therefore the wealthy should give up their wealth to fight income inequality. They utilitarianism philosophy would be pro minimum wage increase, pro profit sharing, and pro tax breaks for the lower income workers. If the super-rich had any virtue ethics, they would not wait for the government to do something about the income inequality problem. They would volunteer either profit sharing or wage increases for their workers because they cared for their fellow citizens, and wanted to ensure they are well taken care of. Unfortunately that is not the case.

Conclusion

There are four common philosophical ethical theories, Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue ethics, and Existentialism. These theories can be applied to modern day social issues.

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