Virtue theory, utilitarianism, and deontological theory have both similarities and differences. The foundation of utilitarianism theory is in the principle of utility. This principle emphasizes the need to rely on reason and not metaphysics. Furthermore, the law of greatest happiness is the main ideology behind this theory. Human beings seek to decrease suffering and maximize happiness. Hence, an action that is correct morally must lead to the greatest possible pleasure.
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On the other hand, the theory of deontology embraces the concept of duty. According to the proponents of deontology, actions should fulfill moral duties without caring whether they make people happy, or not. In other words, the theory of deontology holds that duties define right actions, regardless of their consequences.
Therefore, both deontology and utilitarianism have different approaches to what is morally right. Proponents of deontology embrace moral duties while those of utilitarianism embrace the greatest happiness. Nevertheless, both theories are similar in that they focus on moral actions. Utilitarianism judges actions depending on their consequences while deontology judges actions depending on whether they carry out some set duties.
Virtual ethics is another theory that explains moral actions. Aristotle came up with this theory. The theory describes the meaning of living well, for humankind. It considers the result of human existence as eudaimonia. The meaning of eudaimonia is flourishing. That is, human beings wish to live well. However, this theory does not refer to physical happiness, but that of the mind and soul. Aristotle divides virtues into the intellectual and moral virtues, which correspond to the happiness of the mind and soul. He considers virtue as a moral tendency of the mind, which occurs as voluntary action.
Moral virtue controls the actions of the emotional part. On the other hand, intellectual virtue determines suitable actions for particular feelings. According to the theory, the greatest happiness can only come from philosophical reflection.
Virtue theory resembles the theory of utilitarianism as both theories mention moral action and happiness. However, the two theories differ whereby utilitarianism theory refers to physical happiness as virtual theory refers to the happiness of the mind and soul. The key similarity among all the three theories is that they try to explain morally right actions.
A personal Incident to Explain the Relationship between the Three Theories
As I grew up, I took care of my younger siblings, since I was the firstborn in a family of five. Two of my siblings were girls while two were boys. My mother who was a nurse instructed me to make sure my two brothers got more food than my two sisters, who were older. Both of my sisters were in their teenage years while my brothers’ ages were 9 and 11 years. Every time during meal times, I served food as per the instructions, but my two sisters always seemed unhappy. I always felt that this was not right as their bodies were developing, but my mother would not change her mind. We lived in a society where women were less valued and men were highly esteemed.
The theory of deontology can explain this situation, as I followed rules despite them having undesirable consequences. I practiced the virtue of obedience, while I went against my values about equality for both men and women. Thus, I did what was morally right, but betrayed my values.