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Utilitarianism Vs Deontology Essay

738 words - 3 pages

What I have found to be most interesting about both Deontology and Utilitarianism isn’t their approach to ethics, but rather their end goal. Deontology promotes “good will” as the ultimate good; it claims that each and every person has duties to respect others. On the other hand, Utilitarianism seeks to maximize general happiness. While these may sound rather similar at first glance (both ethical theories essentially center around treating people better), a deeper look reveals different motivations entirely. Deontology focuses on respecting the autonomy and humanity of others, basically preaching equal opportunity. Utilitarianism does not specify any means by which to obtain happiness—happiness is its only mandate. While happiness sounds like a great end goal, it is a rather impractical one and the lack of consideration of motivations and means of utility-increasing actions has some serious negative consequences. I prefer Deontology over Utilitarianism for its focus on individual’s rights, opportunity, and personal autonomy.
Utilitarianism’s advocacy of happiness by any means is what concerns me about the theory. I believe that happiness is a great thing, but a thing that can only really come from inside an individual. In contrast, Deontology emphasizes a duty to respect other’s autonomy. I take this to mean that people are their own advocates—Deontology promotes fairness, justice, and equal opportunity at happiness rather than guaranteeing happiness itself. It isn’t society’s duty to ensure everyone’s happiness, but rather to ensure that all people are given the opportunity to be happy. This means doing away with excessive income gaps and creating opportunity for advancement in society or social mobility, bringing the rungs of the metaphorical ladder of opportunity closer together. Thomas Jefferson phrased it wonderfully in the Declaration of Independence, contesting that people have a right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Deontology fits perfectly with this ideal; we have a duty to give others an opportunity at achieving happiness.
The alternative presented by Utilitarianism has serious negative implications and consequences. As a consequentialist theory, Utilitarianism opens the door to methods and means of increasing happiness of questionable integrity. If a person wants to do...

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