Consequences, Right vs Wrong, Or Virtues? - Consequentialism Essay Example
Consequences, Right vs Wrong, Or Virtues?
Consequentialism is about considering the “overall consequences” of a decision in the process of ethical decision making (Haines, 2008). Deontology, on the other hand, confuses its believers by allowing them to freely choose the meanings of right versus wrong (Cline, 2008). After all, leaders are made when certain individuals challenge the status quo or the norms prevalent in society at any given time. Nobody can compel all people of the world to believe that only his or her beliefs about right and wrong should become moral norms. Virtue Ethics similarly confuse its believers. In this philosophical approach to ethical decision making, any number of philosophers may be agreed or disagreed with about the meaning of various virtues, for example, honesty and justice (Athanassoulis, 2006). Whether any of the decisions made in Scenarios 1, 2, and 3 are ethical therefore depends on the individual’s beliefs, and how he or she comes to a conclusion about the ethics of the decisions using a logical train of thought about the various decisions.
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In Scenario 1, according to consequentialism, the mayor should be concerned about the consequences of accepting the bid for development. He must make an entire list of consequences of the decision to accept the bid versus the decision to refuse the bid. It is possible that the mayor would fail to foretell some of the consequences. The decision based on deontology answers the need to consider all consequences. While the decision based on consequentialism states that the acceptance of the bid would lead to better consequences for many people at the same time, the deontologist decision points out that it is unethical to displace many seniors and employees at the same time. The mayor must weigh the consequences of accepting versus rejecting the bid. If acceptance of the bid leads to better consequences for more people than the number of seniors and employees that must be displaced – consequentialism declares it wise for the mayor to accept the bid after all. Interests of the majority are consequential in this decision. Virtue Ethics lead to the same decision. However, the decision made by the consideration of virtues, such as compassion, kindness and justice, must needs lead to better overall consequences. A decision made by the consideration of virtues is a decision made as a ‘good deed,’ as the scriptures would describe. Hence, this decision appears most ethical, and is expected to appear so to most people. After all, a consideration of virtues allows the decision maker to also consider where the seniors must be placed next. It is also possible to use Virtue Ethics to accommodate the displaced employees somehow.
The wisdom behind Virtue Ethics is apparent in the decision made for Scenario 2 as well. If Catalina makes up the three sales, she would have to tell a lie in the process. By refusing to make up the sales, Catalina is doing justice, not only to herself but also to others. In a typical situation, individuals may not consider the fact that they are responsible for doing justice to themselves as well. If Catalina explains her situation to the management, that is, the fact that she would have to lie to make up the three sales, it is possible that her managers would appreciate her more than before. Consequentialism only considers apparent consequences, and the decision made according to this philosophical approach is the wrong one, seeing that it is always considered immoral to lie. Deontology maintains that lying is immoral or unethical, which is why the deontological decision for this Scenario would not allow Catalina to make up the three sales. Then again, philosophers may wonder: Is it right or wrong to lie if a lie can save a life? In this case, however, it is not clear whether Catalina would save anybody’s life by telling a lie and thereby making up the three sales. If it is possible for her to lose her position in the workplace if she refuses to make up the three sales, and if her dying mother is being supported by her income, perhaps Catalina would have to lie to make up the three sales in order to keep her position. In any case, this ethical decision is a rather difficult one seeing that most individuals may not consider doing justice to themselves, and lying is generally considered the norm when it helps an individual to save his or her face from humiliation of any sort.
For Scenario 3, an individual must be either a believer or disbeliever in the legalization of illegal drugs. With the decision based on consequentialism, it is assumed that Malcolm’s friend is dangerous, so therefore Malcolm must turn him in so as to save himself as well. The deontological decision maker supposes, on the other hand, that drugs are always bad, although this is debatable. After all, there are medical uses of drugs as well. In the Netherlands, for example, this decision may sound entirely different. The decision based on Virtue Ethics is the best one even for this Scenario. Malcolm is concerned about his friend. He is honest, just, kind and merciful, so therefore he would seek help for his friend before making the rash decision of turning him in. Most justice systems around the world are based in the decision to punish the offenders, regardless of whether it is possible to help them discontinue their misconduct. Virtue Ethics takes this into account. If all police officers, lawyers and judges were to start believing in Virtue Ethics, they too would act as Malcolm decides to act towards his friend, basing his decision on compassion and the belief that his friend is essentially human, and humans can make mistakes, but they may also be trained not to repeat their follies.
Then again, other individuals are expected to make their ethical decisions differently. Even though it is perfectly logical to suppose that almost everybody on the face of the earth is a believer in virtues, this is not necessarily true. There are no scientific studies to back this information. Especially during times of war and increasing oppression, it is difficult to suppose that most people of the world still believe in the virtues of honesty, kindness, justice and compassion. Such virtues may be either learned from the scriptures or from the philosophers that write on virtues. Similarly, all people of the world cannot be expected to believe in the same societal norms. To an actor on stage, for example, lying is of the essence, and this trait may have been incorporated into his personality after decades of spending day after day on stage. Consequentialism also offers its own set of problems to decision makers. While apparent consequences may be weighed to arrive at a decision, it is not possible to consider the consequences that are unexpected. So, although decisions based on Virtue Ethics appear best in all Scenarios, it may not be true for everybody considering the decisions based on the three philosophical approaches.
Athanassoulis, N. (2006). Virtue Ethics. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved Oct 20,
Cline, A. (2008). Deontology and Ethics: What is Deontology, Deontological Ethics? About.
Retrieved Oct 20, 2008, from
Haines, W. (2008). Consequentialism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved Oct 20,
2008, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/c/conseque.htm.