deontology and utilitarianism

Describe the main principles of the two normative ethical theories of deontology and utilitarianism. Compare and contrast the two theories, bringing out any problems or limitations you see in each. INTRODUCTION:- Bioethicists ask these questions in the context of modern medicine and draw on a plurality of traditions, both secular and religious, to help society understand and keep pace with how advances in science and medical technology can change the way we experience the meaning of health and illness and, ultimately, the way we lve.

Bioethics is multidisciplinary. It blends law, philosophy, insights from the humanities and medicine to bear on the the complex interaction of human life, science, and technology. Although its questions are as old as humankind, the origins of bioethics as a field are more recent and difficult to capture in a single view. When the term “bioethics” was first coined in 1971 (some say by University of Wisconsin professor Van Rensselaer Potter; others, by fellows of the Kennedy Institute in Washington, D. C. , it may have signified “biology combined with diverse humanistic knowledge forging a science that would set a system of medical and environmental priorities for acceptable survival. ” However, ensuing elaborations stressed the vital interrelationship among humanistic studies, science, and technology. Utilitarianism:- Deontology: – Deontology is an alternative ethical system that is usually attributed to the philosophical tradition of Immanuel Kant. Whereas utilitarianism focuses on the outcomes, or ends, of actions, deontology demands that the actions, or means, themselves must be ethical.

Deontologists argue that there are transcendent ethical norms and truths that are universally applicable to all people. Deontology holds that some actions are immoral regardless of their outcomes; these actions are wrong in and of themselves. Kant gives a ‘categorical imperative’ to act morally at all times. The categorical imperative, in its most widely used formulation, demands that humans act as though their actions would be universalized into a general rule of nature. Kant believes that all people come to moral conclusions about right and wrong based on rational thought.

Deontological moral systems are characterized by a focus upon adherence to independent moral rules or duties. To make the correct moral choices, we have to understand what our moral duties are and what correct rules exist to regulate those duties. When we follow our duty, we are behaving morally. When we fail to follow our duty, we are behaving immorally. Deontological moral systems typically stress the reasons why certain actions are performed. Simply following the correct moral rules is often not sufficient; instead, we have to have the correct motivations.

This might allow a person to not be considered immoral even though they have broken a moral rule, but only so long as they were motivated to adhere to some correct moral duty. Nevertheless, a correct motivation alone is never a justification for an action in a deontological moral system and cannot be used as a basis for describing an action as morally correct. It is also not enough to simply believe that something is the correct duty to follow. Duties and obligations must be determined objectively and absolutely, not subjectively.

There is no room in deontological systems of subjective feelings; on the contrary, most adherents condemn subjectivism and relativism in all their forms. Perhaps the most significant thing to understand about deontological moral systems is that their moral principles are completely separated from any consequences which following those principles might have. Thus, if you have a moral duty not to lie, then lying is always wrong — even if that results in harm to others. Deontology is roughly associated with the maxim ‘the means must justify the ends. EXAMPLE:- STRENGHTS AND LIMITATIONS:- Both Utilitarianism and Deontology have their own strengths and weakness. The following are the strengths of utilitarianism; 1. It is a moral philosophy which holds that the moral worth of actions is to be judged in terms of the consequences of those actions. 2. It also asserts that the maximisation of pleasure or happiness is therefore the moral end. But this ought not to be taken in simplistic terms. 3. It is a situational ethics. In other words, each case is judged on its own erits, at least in principle. The limitations of Utilitarianism are as follows; 1. Utilitarianism has been criticised for leading to a number of conclusions contrary to “common sense” morality. For example, it might be argued that it is “common sense” that one should never sacrifice some humans for the happiness of other humans. Utilitarians, however, argue that “common sense” has been used to justify many positions on both sides of this controversy. 2. Many argue that pleasure is not quantifiable and cannot be compared on a measurable scale. 3.

It relies on the capacity to predict outcomes, yet most lack the foresight to be able to do so with accuracy. Utilitarianism has thus been dubbed the ‘Swine Ethic’. The following are the strengths of Deontology; Deontological moral theory is a Non-Consequentialist moral theory. While consequentialists believe the ends always justify the means, deontologists assert that the rightness of an action is not simply dependent on maximizing the good, if that action goes against what is considered moral. It is the inherent nature of the act alone that determines its ethical standing.

Deontological limitations are as follows; Deontologists create concrete distinctions between what is moral right and wrong and use their morals as a guide when making choices. Deontologists generate restrictions against maximizing the good when it interferes with moral standards. Also, since deontologists place a high value on the individual, in some instances it is permissible not to maximize the good when it is detrimental to yourself. Utilitarianism’s first answer to deontology is to say that there are no ‘universal moral truths. ‘ Such truths are difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain.

On the other hand, the benefits and disadvantages of actions are much more easily calculated. Thus, rather than relying on amorphous, vague moral truths to guide action we should look to more concrete ways of determining the ethics of a particular act. Also, utilitarianism would argue that deontology leads to morally untenable outcomes, such as in the example above. Utilitarians would argue that the outcome of ten deaths is much less desirable than one. Thus, we should always look to the ends rather than the means to determine whether an act is ethical or not.

Deontology’s first answer to utilitarianism is to say that the ends are illusory. That is, it is impossible to predict the outcomes of one’s actions with absolute certainty. The only thing one can be sure of is whether his or her actions are ethical or not based on the categorical imperative. Additionally, deontologists believe that we can only be responsible for our own actions and not the actions of others. Thus, in the example above you are only responsible for your decision whether to kill the prisoner or not; the villain is the one making the unethical choice to kill the rest of the prisoners.

One is only responsible for following the categorical imperative. Finally, deontologists argue that utilitarianism devolves into dangerous moral relativism where human beings are allowed to justify heinous acts on the grounds that their outcomes are beneficial. SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES:- What utilitarianism and deontology do not share in common is their analysis of what makes a particular act good or bad, right or wrong. As we have seen, the whole topic deals with the difference between these two.

Utilitarianism in short, is the way of living in total happiness and the actions are usually the ones with regards to the result. Whereas Deontology deals with action itself without caring about what the result might be. CONCLUSION:- REFERENCES:- http://www. practicalbioethics. org/cpb. aspx? pgID=878 http://www. physicsforums. com/showthread. php? t=15622 http://economics. about. com/od/economicsglossary/g/utilitarian. htm http://atheism. about. com/od/ethicalsystems/a/Deontological. htm http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/consequentialism/ http://www. appraisercentral. com/research/Deontological%20Moral%20Theory. htm

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