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Traditional Approaches to Ethics Essay

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of ultimate value and the standards in which human actions are judged either right or wrong. However, this term is also applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles (Spinoza, p3). The main purpose of this paper is to discuss Noddlings ethics of care and traditional ethical theories. Traditional Approaches to Ethics There are four approaches to ethics. The first approach is called Utilitarian or consequentiality that was developed by British philosophers called Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

It posits that ethical actions are determined and judged by their consequences unlike in the deontological that deals with duties and rights of consequences. This approach pays attention on the instrumental value of actions. Often this is thought in terms of the greatest good to the greatest number, whereby each individual is given equal consideration. In this approach the chief good is considered to be happiness and it has intrinsic value. To determine happiness according to Jeremy Bentham, focus is on pleasure and pain while to Mill it includes social and intellectual pleasures.

Therefore, Utilitarian does support democratic concern with that encompasses welfare of all. Also it is used to determine and evaluate liberalized market economic concern with satisfying consumer demands. This approach has some limitations. For instance, it ends up justifying immoral means to acquire moral ends. This is because the welfare of a person is likely to be lost in search of aggregate value for the majority. Should an individual kill one to save other five? Limitation is that it is not easy to measure happiness.

How can one judge the greatest good? The second approach of ethics is called Deontological ethics or non-consequentiality that has been developed by Immanuel Kant. He postulates that ethical actions are determined and judged by the situation provided they fulfill duties and accord with the rights of others despite of their consequences. The major concept here is that people should be treated as ends and not as means and not as subjects but as objects. Chief end is that people should be given freedom and treated with equality.

In this perspective then, there is distinction between two kinds of right; negative rights and positive rights. Negative rights protect one from infringing on one’s right such as freedom of speech while the positive rights are for to certain goods for instance education or health care. The problem with this approach is that one can lose sight positive or negative effects of actions in pursuit of one’s duty. The main question here is that should one follow his or her sense of duty even if it has adverse consequences? The third traditional approach in ethics is Natural law ethics.

It is one of the major approaches in ethical theory that is as result of the work of Aristotle and other medieval theologians and has resemblance to the views found in Chinese thought. According to this approach all living things are endowed with certain natural characteristics and ends which are by themselves good and the main goal of natural law ethics is to act in away that will enable to fulfill them. To this view then, the way we ‘ought’ to act is a function of how we ‘are’ where ‘is’ and ‘ought’ are directly related.

In the same manner, the natural order of the world is good and it is a moral order and any attempt to act contrary to this is actually going against the good. However, this approach has experienced criticism in that not all things in nature are ‘good’. The last major approach to ethical theory is Virtue ethics. It does not focus on rationally determination of specific moral actions as in moral rationalism; utilitarianism or deontological but zeros in developing moral qualities or virtues in the individual.

This approach criticizes the moral rationalism of utilitarianism and deontological posing argument that these approaches reduce the complexity of moral issues in the search for the single correct moral view. According to the virtue ethics, moral rationalism does not achieve much but merely focuses only the training of one part of mind. The main goal of virtue ethics is to develop the good person instead of just correct moral reasoning in a particular situation. This is because reason is just part of moral person.

Virtue ethics make morality an essential part of one’s personality and disposition that encompasses both actions and attitudes which is the basic way to which we relate to the world. In order to develop the moral habits it needs practice and training (http://www. uwosh. edu/faculty_staff/barnhill/ES_375/ethics. html, 2007). Happiness, Pleasure, Human Psyche, Material Preconditions, Prudence and Mean According to Aristotle eudaimonia which is happiness, flourishing or living well is considered to be complete good and sufficient good.

By this it implies that it desired for it, it is not desired for the sake of anything else, it satisfies all desire and no evil is mixed with it and that it is stable. Aristotle considers the flourishing of plants and animals to be in their functioning well in accordance to their nature. To human beings Aristotle thinks it obvious that our proper function consist reasoning and in acting in according with the reason. This is the basis of the doctrine of virtue both moral and intellectual. Therefore the possession of moral and intellectual virtue is the vital element in our living well or happiness.

In the human soul virtues are habit by which one acts well and that virtuous actions are express of correct reason which are acquired through practice and habituation (http://www. btinternet. com/~glynhughes/squashed/aristotle. htm, n. d). Pleasure is closely bond up with human nature and it is considered to be good though some claim it to be bad. Pleasure is considered to be something complete at particular moment and vary with the senses. It seems to be keenest when the ears, eyes to mention but a few, they are at their best.

But pleasure of the intellect is different from those of the senses. Individuals who work with pleasure show better judgment and better precision. And since activities differ, each has a pleasure proper to it. Hence the pleasure proper to a worthy activity is considered to be good and that which is unworthy activity is bad. Aristotle postulates three kinds of disposition; that towards excess, towards deficiency and the virtuous mean. Mean because it is a virtue it must be deliberated about. We should aim at mean between deficiency and excess as right principle.

Because in the soul three things control actions namely sensations , intellect and appetite and moral virtue involves choice to achieve deliberate appetite then it happens that if the choice is to be good , reason behind it must be true and the desire right. Aristotle put it that the origin of action is choice and choice itself originate from appetite and purposive reasoning. He maintains that an individual who makes anything makes it with a purpose relative to a particular end. For action it is an end by itself and man is the causative union of reason and appetite.

There are five ways in which soul arrives at truth namely affirmation or denial, by art, science, prudence, wisdom and intuition. Art as means of arriving at truth is concerned with bringing something into existence. Because production is not the same as action, art is not concerned with action but has element of chance. Prudence or practical wisdom is considered to be in possession of a person who is able to deliberate rightly. Unlike science, prudence is not fixed but it is a virtue which is of calculative reasoning of the soul and still it is not a rational state because rational state can be forgotten but not prudence (Ibid).

Science is based on certain principles it follows that principles cannot by themselves be comprehended by science, art, prudence or even wisdom. But the state of mind that apprehends first principles is intuition. Wisdom is taken to be the most complete form of knowledge. It is scientific and intuitive knowledge which by nature is most precious. Therefore, we can rightly say that virtues are form of prudence and not merely a state of conformity to the right principle but inseparable from it. Noddlings’ Ethics of Care The term ethics of care is a normative ethical theory that is concerned with what makes actions right or wrong.

It belongs to one of the cluster in normative theories which were developed by feminist. It contrasts other ethical views such as utilitarianism and deontology. Feminist critics call this kind of outlook ‘justice view’ of morality. In morality of care it pays attention on the understanding of relationships as response to another in their terms. Focus is on the moral value of being partial toward the individuals with whom we have special and valuable relationships and also on the moral importance of responding to such as particular individuals with characteristics which requires a response which are not extended to others (Simson, p44).

Nel Noddings has been associated with the promotion of ethics of care on the ground that caring should be where ethical decision making should be based. She argues that care is basic in human life in all people want to be cared for. On the same ground she says that while men and women are guided by an ethic of care in ‘natural caring’ it is a form of caring that does not demand an ethical effort to motive it and have a signicant basis in women’s experience. However, it may required require some physical and mental effort when responding to the needs.

In this sense then, ‘Natural caring’ therefore is a moral attitude which can be referred to as a longing for goodness that rises out of experience or memory of being cared for. So, Nel Noddings in ethics of caring, she explores the notion the notion of ethical caring which is a state of being in relation, characterized by receptive, relatedness and engrossment (Butin, p66). According to Nel Noddlings neither utilitarianism which is based on making decisions on basis of anticipated consequence nor deontology which is principled reasoning can be able to provide a proper understanding of the way women approached ethical questions and concerns.

She maintains that unlike the approach of the father which is detached one, mother does not use law and principle approaches. But in this argument she does not reason that there are clear cut-line of different approaches that are empirically typical for men and women but rather she looks to a ‘feminine view’ in what can be considered to be deep classical sense that is rooted in receptivity, relatedness and responsiveness. For instance, natural caring like that of the mother for a child in this context it comes before ethical caring which Nel Noddlings prefers (Simson, p71).

This ethical view as expressed by Noddlings being feminine one does not implies that logic is to discarded or it is alien to women but it is an alternative views presentation that begins with the moral attitude or the longing for goodness and not necessarily with moral reasoning. Therefore, feminine view is reflected by women through attending moral problems in informal manner. Women attempt to place themselves in concentrate situations as possible while they assume personal responsibility for the choices they make and in so doing they define these choices in terms of caring these moral problems from one-caring perspective.

Work Cited: Butin, D. W. Teaching Social Foundations of Education: Contexts, Theories, and Issues. ISBN 0805851453, 9780805851458, Routledge, 2005, p66. Four Traditional Western Approaches to Ethics. Retrieved on 19th December 2008 from http://www. uwosh. edu/faculty_staff/barnhill/ES_375/ethics,2007. The Condensed Edition of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Retrieved on 19th December2008 from http://www. btinternet. com/~glynhughes/squashed/aristotle. htm. n. d Simson, R. S. Feminine Thinking. Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 31, 2005, p44. Spinoza, B. The Ethics. ISBN 1419161334, 9781419161339, Kessinger Publishing , 2004, p3.


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