Unit I Essay: Conflicting Roles and Responsibilities

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Unit I Essay: Conflicting Roles and Responsibilities by Daniel Ostroff 1. Utilitarianism is a type of consequentialism developed by the philosophers, Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill. It functions on what Mill’s calls “the greatest happiness principle,” and is also referred to as the principle of utility. This principle examines the consequences of any act aiming to achieve the greatest happiness or “the greater good for the greatest number”. The theory’s central question is: how we ought to act. Through a cost-benefit analysis, impartial decisions on actions should be made as long as the end result measures an increase of happiness for the majority. To the contrary, Kantian ethics focus on the intrinsic value and moral standing of human beings as rational agents with autonomy; therefore, they must be treated equally and with dignity. An action is not made right according to its consequences but on the consistency of one’s ethical course of action by means of reasoning to attain the right behavior. The main concepts behind Kantian theory are generated from the Categorical Imperative, used as an ethical rule for decision-making to determine the right action. The CI specifies that one should never treat another as a “means to an end.” Humans must be treated as ends in themselves with dignity, respect, and equality, not as objects that can be manipulated. Kant also believes in “the universal law” (a version of the Golden Rule) which states that one has a duty not to act on reasons in which one would not want others to do. If one’s motive for action, or maxim, is in accordance with the CI, then the action is permissible. 2. The main conflict between Utilitarian and Kantian moral reasoning relates to the question of what makes a right action right. Utilitarians believe that “the ends do justify the means,” therefore, the act is good if it

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