There are different systems in which an individual or a company could make ethical decisions. They can vary depending on the issue at hand and they relate and different in certain ways. In this writing I will compare the similarities and differences between virtue theory, utilitarianism, and deontological ethics. I will include a description of the differences in how each theory addresses ethics and morality. And I will give a personal experience to explain the relationship between virtue, values, and moral concepts as they relate to one of the three theories. Ethical systems based on abstract values are described as virtue theory.
Virtue theory is based on character ethics. It is the viewpoint that in living one’s life one should try to cultivate excellence in all they do and in all that other do. This is the system that would address ethics and morality from the perspective of living with high values and with great character (Boylan, 2009). Quoting Boylan (2009) from our book, “Utilitarianism is a theory that suggests that an action is morally right when that action produces more total utility for the group than any other alternative” (pp. 153). Utilitarianism focuses on what is best for the group or team as a whole. This theory asks, “What ethical decision will profit the most for the largest amount of people?” Deontology is a moral theory that emphasizes one’s duty to do a particular action just because the action, itself, is inherently right and not through any other sorts of calculations (Boylan, 2009). Calculations like what the consequences of that action might be. Deontology is a duty-based theory when addressing ethics and morality.
In comparing these three, a utilitarian working for ATT might overlook a bad credit report to make a deal because the deal would help the company and the client. Therefore it’s a win-win. A deontologist might make the same decision based on the fact that the client needs a cell phone to be able to take care of business in order to take of her children. The simple fact that the action is inherently right regardless of the consequences is the bases for the deontologist. And to the contrary only a virtuous worker would have integrity and do what was in the best interest of the company. A personal experience of mine to relate these topics would be a girlfriend of mine just got out of a bad relationship where she was not married, but had a child with this man.
She lived with the father of her child for many years although he was abusive and was providing home that was unsafe and insufficient for her and her child. She stayed for many years making decisions as a utilitarian until one day she changed to a deontologist. She chose to leave the state and ignore the rights of the father on the grounds that he was abusing both her and her son. She valued her and her son’s health over anything. She was virtuous in that she rose above the desire to retaliate and pursued only their protection. And all of her actions where based on her moral concepts, according to her beliefs and understanding.
In conclusion, there are many different theories and ways to make ethical decisions. I have related and compared the virtue theory, utilitarianism, and deontology. I have also shared a personal experience to relate virtue, values, and moral concepts to one of these theories. Life and business are about making decisions and these concepts and theories are a foundation to a healthy life and a healthy business.
Thompson, S. (2014). What is the relationship among virtue, values & moral concepts in individual and business contexts?. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/relationship-among-virtue-values-moral-concepts-individual-business-contexts-69097.html Boylan, M. (2009). Basic Ethics. : Prentice Hall.