The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior (Fieser, 2009). Many of the decisions one faces in a typical day could result in a multitude of outcomes. At times it can be hard to determine whether or not the decision you are making is an ethical one. Many philosophies have been devised to illustrate the different ways of evaluating moral decisions. Normative ethics focuses on assessing right and wrong behavior. This may involve reinforcing positive habits, duties we should follow, or the consequences of our behavior (Fieser, 2009). Of the many normative philosophies two stand out to be most accepted; teleology and deontology. Although they oppose each other in how actions are evaluated, they uphold many similar characteristics under the surface.
Normative ethics involves either a single rule or a set of principles to evaluate moral conduct. Teleology stipulates that acts are morally acceptable if they produce some desired result. Deontology on the other hand, focuses on the preservation of individual rights and on the intentions associated with a particular behavior. In summation, teleological philosophies consider the ends, or consequences, associated with an action whereas deontological philosophies consider the means (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2011). This is why teleology is commonly referred to as Consequentialism. In addition to the rule, deontology also cites individual absolute rights: freedom of conscience, freedom of consent, freedom of privacy, freedom of speech, and due process. Deontologist employ this set of freedoms because they believe certain rights should never be violated even if it is to produce a greater good (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2011). This is in opposition to Teleology’s view that the consequences of the action should always determine what one ought to do in a particular situation.
Utilitarianism is a form of Consequentialism due to its claim that the morality of an action depends entirely on the consequences the action produces. It holds that we ought to bring about, “the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2011).” The Utilitarian approach was brought about by a concern with legal and social reform. The fundamental motivation was the desire to see useless, corrupt laws and social practices changed (Driver, 2009). Lack of utility was sighted as the main reason a law was deemed “bad,” Jeremy Bentham felt that if the law or action didn’t do any good then it wasn’t any good (Driver, 2009). Utilitarianism also relies upon some theory of intrinsic value: something is held to be good in itself, apart from further consequences, and all other values are believed to derive their worth from their relation to this intrinsic good as a means to an end (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011).
Both Utilitarianism and Deontology can be further divided into Act and Rule segments....