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Ethical Theories Introduction A great many philosophers have gone round and round trying to define ethics and

nd debate the ethical dilemmas of their time and ours. Ethical theories have been described and evolved as a means for applying logic and analysis to ethical dilemmas. They provide the means for you to approach a dilemma to determine why you think as you do, whether you have missed some issues and facts in reaching your conclusion, and if there are others with different views who have points that require further analysis. Divine Command Theory (Deontological or believer in principle-based ethics) Is one in which the resolution of dilemmas is based upon religious beliefs. Ethical dilemmas are resolved according to tenets of a faith, such as the Ten Commandments for Jewish and Christian faiths. Central to this theory is that decisions in ethical dilemmas are made on the basis of guidance from a divine being. Ethical Egoism Theory Holds that we all act in our self-interest and that all of us should limit our judgment to our own ethical egos and not interfere with the exercise of ethical egoism by others. We act as we do and decide to behave as we have determined that it is in our own self-interest. One philosopher who believed in ethical egoism was novelist Ayn Rand, who wrote books such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Ms. Rand, as an ethical egoist, would maintain order by putting in place the necessary legal protections so that we do not harm each other. The Utilitarian Theory (consequentiality) Philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Staurt Mill moved to the opposite end of ethical egoism and argued that resolution of ethical dilemmas requires a balancing effort in which we minimize the harms that result from a decision even as we maximize the benefits. The theory recommends that we follow the course of action most likely to produce the greatest net good (or prevent the greatest net harm). Ethical Relativism Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that morality is relative to the norms of one's culture. That is, whether an action is right or wrong depends

on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. For the ethical relativist, there are no universal moral standards -- standards that can be universally applied to all peoples at all times. The only moral standards against which a society's practices can be judged are its own. Emotivism Theory It is about personal preferences. Anytime a person says that something is right or wrong, all they are saying-and can say-about it is that they either like or dislike the action or position under consideration. You should ask yourself about how you feel about it. Feelings are more important than any reasoning you could do. Virtue Theorist Propounded by Plato and Aristotle the theory purports that there's more to morality than simply arguing about correct decisions when a person is faced with a moral dilemma. There is more to the moral life than simply doing the right thing and making the correct decision. Being the right type of person is more important. Thus, we cannot neglect the place of an individual's character, or virtue, when considering ethical questions. Simply debating issues is powerless if we continue to ignore the character traits that give people the ability to actually do the right thing. Aristotle taught the importance of cultivating virtues in students and then having them solve ethical dilemmas using those virtues integrated into their thoughts through their virtue training. The Categorical Imperative and Immanuel Kant Kant does not allow any resolution of an ethical dilemma in which human beings are used as a means by which others obtain benefits. Meaning you cannot use others in a way that gives you a one sided benefit. Everyone must operate in the same usage of rules. Another part of Kants theory: you not only have to be fair but also have to want to do it for all the right reasons. Self-interest was not a big seller with Kant, and he wants universal principles adopted with all goodwill and pureness of heart. The Contractarians and Justice Propounded by Philosophers John Locke and John Rawls, is sometimes referred to as the social contract. They assume that we could all have a meeting of the minds on what were the good rules for society. They preferred just putting the rules into place via a social contract that is created under

circumstances in which we reflect and imagine what it would be like if we had no rules or law at all. Rational people, thinking through the results and consequences if there were not rules, would develop rules such as dont take my property without my permission and I would like the same type of court proceedings that rich people have even if I am not rich. the idea of Locke and Rawls is to have us step back from the emotion of the moment and make universal principles that will survive the test of time. Rights Theory Also known as an Entitlement Theory and is one of the more modern theories of ethics, as philosophical theories go. Robert Nozick is the key modern-day philosopher on this theory, which has two elements: (1) everyone has a set of rights, and (2) its up to the governments to protect those rights. Under this big umbrella ethical theory, we have the protection of human rights that covers issues such as abortion, slavery, property ownership and use, justice (as in court processes), animal rights, privacy, and euthanasia.