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Virtue ethics theory
This theory is guided by the question of whether a course of action respects human rights or not. Every human being is endowed with certain inalienable rights and entitlements. The rights and entitlements underscore the importance of treating all human beings with dignity, fairness and equality irrespective of their cultural backgrounds.
The rights criterion is valid in qualifying actions as right or wrong, ethical or unethical. Rights have to do with doing justice to every one irrespective of his or her physical characteristics. The criterion is based on the intrinsic value of life and social justice. Every human being is entitled to all good things and all deeds which are just. According to virtue ethics, there is no human being who qualifies for more entitlements than others because all human beings are equal. According to the theory therefore, morality and ethics are based on the perceived nature of an action. If an action has an outcome which is perceived to violate natural rights and justice, then it is considered both as immoral and unethical.
This theory belongs to a branch of ethics known as normative ethics. According to utilitarianism, the principles of human interactions are based on the overall good. In this sense therefore, ‘good’ is looked from an objective sense in that what is good is seen as what produces good outcomes for the maximum number of people (Scarre, 1996). Utilitarianism can be explained using the principle of ‘the end justifies the means’, meaning if the end of a process or action is good, then the means of arriving at that end are also good and justifiable (Schofield, 2006).
According to the theory therefore, for an action to be considered as ethically or morally correct, it should have an outcome which benefits the maximum number of people. What this means is that people should focus on the end of a process but not the means of arriving at that end (Ruggiero, 2011).
Just like utilitarianism, deontological ethics belong to the branch of normative ethics. In deontological ethics, employees are required to perform their duties according to the laid down procedures. They are supposed to discharge their duties as instructed because doing otherwise amounts to unethical practice (Ruggiero, 2011). In other words, morality and ethics are based on a person’s duty, meaning that for one to be considered as morally and ethically correct, he or she must do his or her duties as instructed. The reasoning is that God is the one who knows what is right for us and what we are supposed to do in any particular place and time and therefore doing otherwise is going against God’s wish which amounts to unethical and immoral behavior.
My personal experience pertaining how virtue ethics relate to utilitarianism is that virtue is linked to maximum good. If an action produces good outcomes for maximum number of people, then it is virtuous. Utilitarianism relates to the concept of value in that the quality of something which is good is measured by the value attached to it. If something is of a higher value than another, then it is considered as better. In regard to how morality relates to utilitarianism, my view is that all actions which have good outcomes for many people are moral and ethical. Consequently, it means that there are actions which have a high degree of morality than others depending on the number of people who benefit from the actions.
Ruggiero, V.R. (2011). Thinking critically about ethical issues. Dubuque: McGraw-Hill. Web.
Scarre, G. (1996). Utilitarianism. New York, NY: Routledge. Web.
Schofield, P. (2006). Utility and democracy: the political thought of Jeremy Bentham. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Web.