A Comparison of Ethical Theories

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A Comparison of Ethical Theories Megan O’Gorman A Comparison of Ethical Theories Every person, no matter how immoral or how moral, has a code of behavior to which they adhere. This code can come as a result of family life, learned from friends at a young age, influenced by coworkers and peers as an adult or could be a set of societal norms that a whole community conforms to. Philosophers have developed many theories regarding the reasoning behind the most common moralities, some as far back as Aristotle and others more recent, such as Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill. The three most common theories of morality are best exemplified by these three men; Aristotelian moral theory, Kantian ethics and Mill’s utilitarianism. While these theories hold much in common regarding how they see morality, they differ greatly in their reasoning for why they think that way. Aristotelian virtue ethics focus more on the person as a moral creature at heart and their desire for morality to be the driving force behind moral behavior. An excellent example of the difference in the three theories in this instance would be a situation involving lying. Dishonesty is considered morally wrong by most theories of ethics, but all of the moral theories approach it differently. Deontology, as espoused by Immanuel Kant, would argue against the morality of lying from a moral absolutism standpoint. Lying is wrong no matter what, and any good that comes from it is discounted by the evil of lying. Utilitarianism, as espoused by John Stuart Mill, would consider lying to be acceptable as long as a greater good for society at large to come from it. A virtue ethicist such as Aristotle would look less at the act of lying but more at the decision to tell a lie and what that says about the person in question as a moral being. A person that lies to protect someone’s feelings or pride isn’t
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