In this chapter of “A gift of fire”, Sarah Baase makes an introduction to the different ethics theories. The issue of doing things right has occupied the work of many philosophers during history, thus many different theories have been formulated.
Some ethicists separate the theories between deontological and consequentialist theories. Whether the first ones determines if a behavior is ethic based on the intention of the act itself, the second ones only classify an act as good or bad according to its consequences.
An example of deontological ethicist is Kant. He contributed with some important ideas to ethics theories: first, the principle of universality, which established that the rules of behavior must be applied to everyone. Second, the prevalence of the reason over the emotions when taking decisions. Third, he correct way to treat people: as ends, not as means.
Utilitarianism, the main consequentialist theory, postulates that “utility” is the main goal, understanding “utility” as happiness. An action is considered ethically right if it increases someone´s utility and vice versa. This approach is also called “act utilitarianism”. If rules are considered instead of single acts, then the approach is called “rule utilitarianism”. Act utilitarianism has many disadvantages due to its narrow approach, limited to the scope of one act, being difficult to predict the consequences.
Another approach to ethics is the concept of Natural Rights. Some ethicists understand that some rights as life, liberty and property are intrinsic to the human nature, and thus should be respected. Taking this as corner stone, other ethics theories against actions that can harm these rights can be formulated.
There are two different kinds of rights: Negative and positive rights. The first ones, the Negative Rights are those consistent in the liberty to act with free choice option, whether the second ones, the positive rights, consist in the right to claim. The problem with rights is that both kinds of rights often collide with each other. One have to set o in the other person´s role in order to take the right, ethical decisions. Pleasant actions for ones can carry unpleasant consequences for others and this is the way to detect these consequences. This is The Golden Rule.
Ethics is also about being a useful member of society. Not only volunteer contributions or charitable work is a contribution to society, but also being a good professional, knowledgeable and able to comply with our own work is considered ethic.
Besides individual ethics, Sarah Baase also introduces some concepts about political and social systems: The foundations of the social contract theory, which postulates that people submit to common laws for the better...