Normative Ethics Essay

778 words - 3 pages

Unlike religion and law which determines ethical standards based on authority and because ethical relativism is limited to the perspective of sole individuals or societies, philosophers have established an ethical standard through logic and reason that can be applied universally based on the basic needs or overall ‘well-being’ of the human experience; arguing that the meeting of these needs produce the most contentment and satisfaction with life on a fundamental level. These needs pertain to the material conditions necessary for survival and ways in which individuals have the right to be treated. For example, every individual has a basic need for shelter, food, and clothing. In addition, every human being has the basic need for freedom, the ability to choose, personal security, as well as the right to be treated equally, fairly, justly, with dignity, and so on. However, this ethical standard aspires that in pursuing our own needs, we should also be diligent not to compromise the same fundamental needs of others. Two approaches that philosophers use to do this are through the application of results-oriented or Teleological Ethics (Utilitarianism), and act-oriented or Deontological Ethics.

Utilitarianism argues that those actions whose consequences produce a greater degree of pleasure as opposed to pain are more ethically acceptable as measured by Betham’s hedonistic calculus. Stuart Mill adds that not only the quantity but also the quality of pleasure and the importance of long-term and short-term consequences should be considered in evaluating wrong and right actions as well. Deontological ethics on the other hand, argue that duty and the nature of an action outweigh the consequences, emphasizing that making the decision to act in a way which is right because of the intrinsic value of the action itself is what makes being ethical meaningful.

Understanding ethics from the philosophical perspective of ‘well-being’ is important because it gives me a neutral and flexible standard from which to make ethical decisions in my life. It opens up my options and forces me to consider ethical choices objectively and rationally. Say for example, upon leaving the bank, I step on something in the parking lot. Looking down, I see a fairly thick...

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