Four Ethical Approaches- By Buie Seawell. Daniels College of Business. University of Denver There are many ways to specify “ethics. ” about every bit many as there are ethicians. For our intents. let’s usage this definition: Ethical motives is the subject and pattern of using value to human behaviour ( every bit good as to the concepts of human civilization peculiarly to morality. imposts and Torahs ) ensuing in meaningfulness. From the earliest minutes of recorded human consciousness. the ethical subject has exhibited four cardinal “approaches” These four attacks are frequently called “ethical decision-making models: ” Utilitarian Ethics ( outcome based ) . Deontological Ethical motives ( responsibility based ) . Virtue Ethics ( virtue based ) and Communitarian Ethical motives ( community based ) . Each has a typical point of going every bit good as typical ways of making the cardinal ethical undertaking of raising and replying inquiries of value. It is besides of import to understand that all four attacks have both convergences and common elements. Some of the “common elements” of all four attacks are the undermentioned:
· Impartiality: weighting involvements every bit · Rationality: backed by grounds a rational individual would accept · Consistency: criterions applied likewise to similar instances · Reversibility: criterions that apply no affair who “makes” the regulations These are. in a sense. the regulations of the “ethics game” . no affair which school or attack to ethics one feels the closest individuality. The Utilitarian attack is possibly the most familiar and easiest to understand of all the four attacks to moralss. Whether we think about it or non. most of us are making useful moralss a much of the clip. particularly those of us in concern. The Utilitarians asks a really of import inquiry: “How will my actions affect others? ” And they go on to try to “quantify” the impact of their actions based on some “least common denominator. ” like felicity. pleasance. or wealth. Therefore. Utilitarians are besides called “consequentalists” because they look to the effects of their actions to find whether any peculiar act is right or incorrect. “The greatest good for the greatest number” is the Utilitarian slogan. Of class. specifying “good” has been no easy undertaking. and what some people think of every bit good. others think of as worthless. When a bourgeois does a “cost benefit analysis. ” he/she is making Utilitarian moralss. The least common denominator is normally money.
Everything from the cost of steel to the cost of a human life must be given a dollar value. and so one “just does the math. ” The Ford Pinto was a merchandise of merely such concluding 30 old ages ago at the Ford Motor Company. Repairing the gas-tank job Ford reasoned would be more than human lives were deserving. Stuff ( like rear-end accidents ) happens. Folks dice. The most familiar usage of “outcome based reasoning” is in legislative commissions in representative democracies. How many components will profit from a revenue enhancement recognition vs. how many will be diminished is the inquiry before the Revenue Committee at revenue enhancement rectification clip. Representative democracies depend on most determinations being decided on the greatest good for the greatest figure. Democratic authoritiess are of course majoritarian. But in constitutional democracies there are some things that can non be decided by “doing the math” . i. e. adding up the ballots. Some inquiries should non even be voted on. The laminitiss of our state expressed this cardinal construct with three words: certain inalienable rights.
Enter the Deontological Ethicists. Immanuel Kant is the quintessential deontological ( responsibility based ) ethical theoretician. Kant. who lived in eighteenth Century Prussia ( 1724-1804 ) . was one of the most astonishing minds of all clip. composing books on uranology. doctrine. political relations and moralss. He one time said. “Two things fill the head with of all time new and increasing esteem and awe. . . the starry heavens above and the moral jurisprudence within. ” For Kant there were some truths as ageless as the stars. “Deontological” merely means the survey ( or scientific discipline ) of responsibility. Kant did non believe that worlds could foretell “outcomes” ( future effects ) with any significant grade of certainty. Ethical theory based on a “guess” about future effects appalled him. What he did believe was that if we used our alone ( alone among the higher animate beings ) installation of ground. we could find with certainty our ethical responsibility. but whether or non making our responsibility would do things better or worse ( and for whom ) . he was agnostic.
Duty-based moralss is tremendously of import for. though systematically ignored by. at least two sorts of folks: politicians and concern people. It is besides the key to understanding better our duties as members of squads. Teams ( like workgroups or political run commissions ) are narrowly focused on accomplishing really clearly defined ends: winning the election. successfully presenting a new merchandise. or winning a sailing boat race. Sometimes a manager or a foreman will state. “Look. merely do whatever it takes. ” Ethically. “whatever it takes” means the terminals justify the agency. This was Kant’s cardinal unfavorable judgment of the Utilitarians. For Kant. there were some values ( responsibilities ) that could ne’er be sacrificed to the “greater good. ” “So act” . he wrote. “as to handle humanity. whether in thine ain individual or in that of any other. in every instance as an terminal withal. ne’er as a means merely. ” Fellow squad members. employees. run staffs. clients. spouses. file: ///C|/Documents and Settings/kobrien/My Documents/4100/ethical_frameworks/Ethical Approaches. htm ( 2 of 6 ) 9/22/2004 7:54:09 AM etc. are ever to some extent “means” to our assorted ends ( terminals ) . but they are besides individuals. And individuals. Kant believed. can non be “just used. ” they must besides be respected in their ain right whether or non the end is achieved.
He called this absolute regard for individuals a “Categorical Imperative. ” In any squad state of affairs. the end is critical. but handling team-members with regard is imperative. Teams fall apart when a team-member feels used or abused. that is. treated as less of import than the overall end itself. Great leaders ( managers. foremans. presidents ) carry the dual load of accomplishing a worthwhile terminal without doing those who sacrifice to accomplish the end being trashed as simply expendable. Persons are ne’er simply a agency to an terminal. They are terminals in themselves! We owe that understanding to Immanuel Kant. It is one thing to understand that there are responsibilities which do non depend on effects ; it is rather another to develop the character to move on those responsibilities. This is where Aristotle ( 384-322 B. C. ) comes in. Aristotle wrote the first systematic intervention of moralss in Western Civilization: The Nicomachean Ethic. Today we call this attack to moralss today “virtue moralss. ” For Aristotle “virtue” meant ( as it did for other Grecian minds ) “the excellence of a thing. ” The virtuousness of a knife is to cut. The virtuousness of a doctor is to mend. The virtuousness of a attorney is to seek justness. Ethical motives in this sense is the subject of detecting and practising virtuousness. Aristotle begins his believing about moralss by inquiring. “what do people want? ”
And he discovers the usual things – wealth. award. physical and psychological security – but he realizes that these things are non terminals in themselves ; they are means to stop. The ultimate terminal for a individual. Aristotle taught. must be an terminal that is self-sufficing – “that which is ever desirable in itself and ne’er for the interest of something else. ” This terminal of terminals. Aristotle designates with the Grecian word “eudemonia” . normally translated by the English word “happiness. ” But felicity does non make Aristotle or his moralss justness. Yes. eudemonia means felicity. but truly so much more. “Fulfillment” or “full flourishing” or “being all that you can be” are the kind of words needed to understand the construct contained in the Grecian word eudemonia.
And that is where virtuousness and character come in. Aristotle thought that one discovers virtuousness by utilizing his/her alone gift of human concluding. that is. through rational contemplation. “The unexamined life is non deserving life. ” wrote Socrates about 100 old ages before Aristotle. And like Aristotle and Aristotle’s teacher Plato. Socrates knew that we two legged animals need to prosecute our encephalons before we open our oral cavities or spring into some decisive action. For Aristotle. the focal point of that brainwork was chiefly about how to equilibrate between the frights and surpluss in which the human status ever abounds. Between our frights ( shortages ) and exuberances ( surpluss ) lies a sweet topographic point. a “golden mean. ” called virtuousness.
An illustration. At times of physical hazard. state in a large storm on a little sailing boat. one may be immobilized by fright and unable to work seting at hazard non merely his life. but that of crewmates as good. Or the antonym could go on. A carefree attitude in the face of existent danger can as easy lead to catastrophe. Courage is the virtuousness located at the mean between cowardness and heedlessness. But placing such a virtuousness and doing that virtuousness a portion of 1s character are two quiet different things. Aristotle called one “intellectual virtue” and the other “practical virtuousness. ” Practical virtuousnesss were features – a portion of a person’s character – developed by pattern. Practice is how 1 learns to cover with fright ; pattern is how 1 learns to state the truth ; pattern is how 1 learns to confront both personal and professional struggles. and pattern is the mastermind of Aristotle’s part to the development of moralss. Virtues do non go a portion of our moral musculus fibre because we believe in them. or recommend them. Virtues become features by being exercised.
How does one learn to be brave in a storm at sea? “Just do it. ” And the ultimate end of developing features of virtuousness: eudemonia. a full flourishing of ego. true felicity. Many of us from the Judaic-Christian tradition tend to believe of moralss ( or morality ) as the concern of calculating out how to be good instead than bad. That was non the true terminal of moralss so far as Aristotle was concerned. The terminal. the ultimate end. of developing character was fulfillment. going who you genuinely are. being your best in every sense. Merely as the virtuousness of the knife is to cut. or the virtuousness of the boat is to sail. the virtuousness of yourself is going who you basically are. This is happiness ( eudemonia ) . Merely as the well-trained athlete negotiations about “being in the zone. ” that province of perfect public presentation. achieved by pattern. so Aristotle wrote about a genuinely virtuous life. To utilize a seafaring metaphor. when you get a sailing boat absolutely trimmed. in the grove. you’ll experience it. and that’s the boat’s eudemonia.
All three of the attacks to moralss described above are chiefly focused on the person: the remarkable scruples. rationally reflecting on the significance of responsibility or duty. and in the instance of Virtue Ethics. the ethical jock practicing and instilling the capacity to carry through that responsibility. Communitarian Ethics has a rather different point of going. non the person. but instead the community ( or squad. or group. or company. or civilization ) within which the person topographic points him/herself is the critical context of ethical decision-making. The Communitarian asks the of import inquiry. “What are the demands ( responsibilities ) that the community ( Internet Explorers ) of which I am a portion brand on me? ” The Scots ethicians W. D. Ross ( himself a pupil of Aristotle ) focused his ain ethical Hagiographas on the inquiry of. “Where make responsibilities come from? ” And his reply was that they come from relationships. We know our responsibilities toward our fellow human existences by the nature and quality of our relationships with them. The responsibility we owe a co-worker in the workplace is different from the responsibilities we owe a partner. and those responsibilities different from the responsibilities we owe our state.
The Communitarian asks us non merely to look within to understand how values should be applied to human behavior. but to look out. and to confront up to the responsibilities of being a animal for whom societal interactions are unequivocal. We define ourselves and our duties by the company we keep. Communitarians are rather critical today of the attitude of so many in our society who while adamant about their single rights are negligent of their societal responsibilities. The “me. me. me generation” has given rise to a new strain of ethicians who insist that from household and vicinity to state and planetary ecosystem. the communities in which we live require of us significant duties. Environmentalists. vicinity militants. women’s rightists. globalists are some of the groups slackly identified today with the Communitarian Movement. Amitai Etzioni ( Spirit of Community: Rights. Duties and the Communitarian Agenda. Crown Publishing 1993 ) is a taking interpreter for this slightly disorganised “movement. ”
Etizioni’s thesis is that we need to pay more attending to common responsibilities as opposed to single rights. Our vicinities. he believes. can be safe once more from offense. without turning our state into a constabulary province. Our households can boom once more without coercing adult females to remain place and otherwise go againsting their rights. Our schools can supply “essential moral education” without indoctrinating immature people or go againsting the First Amendment’s prohibition of “establishing faith. ” The key to this societal transmutation the communitarian believes is the reconciliation of rights and duties: “Strong rights presume strong duties. ” In a long. but individual sentence. Etzioni states the Communitarian Agenda: Correcting the current instability between rights and duties requires a for-point docket: a moratorium on the minting of most. if non all. new rights ; restoring the nexus between rights and duties ; acknowledging that some duties do non imply rights ; and. most carefully. seting some rights to the changed fortunes.
Here. if nil else. is a frontal onslaught on the Libertarian mentality of our age. But Communitarianism is non new. at least if one defines it as an attack to moralss and value citing important communities of significance. Most of the world’s great faiths — clearly Judaism and Christianity — are in this sense “communitarian. ” It is the “community of faith” out of which the faithful individual develops a sense of ego and duty. Ethical motives can non be separated from the ethos of the spiritual community. The new communitarian — the women’s rightist. the conservationist. the vicinity rights advocate — may or may non be sacredly inclined. but each is clearly a portion of a tradition of ethical attack every bit old as clip.
In the context of squads. the communitarian attack to ethics has much to commend itself. How much of your ain personal docket are you willing to give for the overall end of winning a sailing boat race? Under what conditions are you willing to allow the values or civilization ( spirit? ) of the squad alter your ain ethical dispositions? To what extent do the relationships you have with squad members give rise to responsibilities that you are willing to honour? How willing are you to portion the recognition when the squad succeeds? How willing are you to accept the incrimination when the squad looses? Under what conditions would you interrupt with the squad? All of the above are inquiries asked by communitarians. If Ross is right ( and I suspect he is to a greater extent than most of us are willing to acknowledge ) that duties come from relationships. paying attending to the “company we keep” may be more than a societal duty. It is possibly our ethical responsibility.