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Classical Theories & Contemporary Perspectives Essay

2028 words - 8 pages

Ethics can be defined as "the conscious reflection on our moral beliefs with the aim of improving, extending or refining those beliefs in some way." Kantian moral theory and Utilitarianism are two theories that attempt to answer the ethical nature of human beings.AristotleThe Greek philosopher Aristotle defined good as something that fulfils its purpose e.g. a good tool is one which performs its function, regardless of the possible hazard, which it may present if that function is abused.The Roman Catholic tradition takes a very different view; the deontological view. Other denominations and religions, including atheists can also take this view. There are two types of deontology. The Roman Catholic tradition relies heavily on the idea of the nature of the action e.g. the main purpose of sexual intercourse is the production of children. Therefore, sexual intercourse is good as long as it produces children. Anything which prevents sexual intercourse from producing children must be bad; such as contraception and homosexuality.John Stuart MillAnother view is the Utilitarian view, which goes as far as self-sacrifice if necessary. This is a 19th century theory developed by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The principle behind this view is that something is good if it provides the greatest good for the greatest number. Bentham uses this in the terms of the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of people. To apply this Bentham developed a method for measuring the pleasure and pain an action produces. This is known as The Hedonic Calculus. In this calculus, seven elements need to be weighed:1. The intensity of the pleasure/pain caused.2. The duration of the pleasure/pain.3. The certainty/uncertainty of the pleasure/pain resulting.4. The propinquity/remoteness of the pleasure/pain.5. The fecundity of the pleasure/pain, the chance of a succession of pleasures/pains.6. The purity of the pleasure/pain not being succeeded by pleasure/pain.7. The extent of the pleasure/pain or the number of people involved.For example, a man known to be rich passes by a poor man badly in need of a drink in the street. The rich man accidentally drops his wallet; the poor man picks it up and finds 200 dollars inside. Should the man return the wallet? Assuming that the man keeps the wallet, using the Hedonic Calculus, the pleasure and pain of both individuals can be measured. Some factors can be dismissed immediately- the extent: there are just two individuals involved.Certainty and propinquity can also be dismissed because both will experience some pleasure and some pain, and they will both be felt as soon as the wallet was dropped. If the poor man still decides to keep the money, purity would count against him because his pleasure would also contain some pain (feeling of guilt at taking the money, the after-effects of the drink).The poor man´s pleasure at finding the money will probably more intense than the rich man´s irritation at losing his wallet. Also,...

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