Utilitarianism is a consequential perspective, in that, a decision in based on the effects it —-will have on society and what it will generally lead to. Also, the utility or usefulness of an action is determined by the amount of happiness that will result. Therefore, no action in itself can be deemed wrong; consequence alone are the important matter. Using this principle, one should consider the possible results of each potential action. One clear flaw of the utilitarian perspective is there that there seems to be a lack of the concept of justice.
Their moral principles would justify doing experiments on a single man with no friends or family. The justification would still exist in a case in which the experiments would cause a man to die, yet benefits occurred because substantial medical knowledge was obtained. There also seems to be no intrinsic value placed upon human life, yet the value is placed upon the happiness of the greatest of people. Utilitarianism follows one of two categories; act and rule. With Act Utilitarianism, all possible actions are considered and one must determine which action would yield the most happiness or benefits for the greatest number of people.
However, with act utilitarianism, there really is no way of determining if the right choice of actions was carried out. Also, there is no clear way to be certain on what the results of the actions will be. For example, there is no way to be sure that a severely impaired infant will not recover enough to live a better life that what was predicted. However, acting morally doesn’t mean acting omniscient. A reasonable effort must be made to get relevant data to predict the possible consequences of all actions involved. Another form of utilitarianism would be rule utilitarianism.
This moral standard suggest that an action is right if it follows a specific rule that has been structured and validated while keeping the principle of utility in mind. A rule utilitarian would not concern themselves with the utility of specific or individual cases, but would follow a set of particular rules. One would not have to go through the process of calculations involved in determining maximum utility, but a particular rule would have already addressed the specific issue. Once a rule is created, it is used to determine whether a particular action is right.
Overall, in my opinion, I would by no means follow any form of Utilitarianism. For me, the value lies in the individual human life and not on the success or happiness of the entire group. Human life in itself has intrinsic value. An action should not occur based on overall happiness of those involved, but should occur because it is our duty to have compassion for every individual human life and should strive to preserve that life whenever possible. As opposed to the consequential viewpoint, the deontology perspective states the morality is based upon following duty, instead of basing decisions solely on consequences.
We simply have to understand what our moral duties are and what rules may exist in the process of following such a duty. Duties and obligations must be determined objectively and absolutely, but not subjectively. Kant’s Ethics and Ross’s Ethics would fall under the deontologist platform. For Kant, consequences of an action are morally irrelevant. This would be the direct opposite approach of the utilitarian who bases their decisions on consequences. In addition, according to Kant, an action is right when it follows a rule that satisfies a principle he terms categorical imperative.
Rules would involve someone stating to themselves, “Whenever I am involved in this situation of this nature, I will do this. ” An example would be that you decided to have an abortion. You could have stated that whenever you are in certain circumstances, you will have the abortion, but when other such circumstances exist, you will not. Such a rule is termed a maxim. In Kant’s view, all reasoned and considered actions can be regarded as having maxims. The maxims in such cases are personal or subjective, but are candidates for moral rules. If they pass through the screening of categorical imperative, the action can be deemed right.
Once a maxim passes the screening, they cease to merely be personal or subjective, but gain status as objective rules of morality that can apply to everyone. A categorical imperative describes what should be done without reference to any consequences. Kant goes on to state that we should always act as to treat humanity, either yourself or others, always as an end and never only as a means. Kant believes that every rational creature has worth in itself. This is another direct opposition to utilitarianism, in that utilitarianism seek to bring happiness to the masses, taking away from any value on an individual.
Such worth of the individual is inherent based on the fact of possessing rationality. Kant separated duties into two categories; perfect and imperfect. A perfect duty is one we must always observe, while imperfect duty is one we must observe only in certain situations. A perfect duty exists not to injure someone, but an imperfect duty exists to show love and compassion. Kant’s ethics state that an action has features in itself that make it right in accordance with duty. However, a utilitarian finds right in actions that produce the most amount of happiness. To some degree, I would consider myself a Kantian, but not in entirety.
I would agree that an action is right based upon duty and not consequences, but I feel that Kant’s rule systems are too narrow and leave too much room for inconsistency or a conflict between duties. Like Kant, Ross’s ethics fall under the deontology viewpoint. However, Ross rejects aspects of both utilitarianism and of Kant. Ross believes that it is important to take consequences into consideration when making a decision, but they should never be the sole reason behind an action. Consequences alone would not yield a right action. A basis for Ross’ general ethical structure is moral intuition.
Ross believes that our moral intuitions can supply us with general moral rules. There are certain cases in which no explanation exists to explain why something is moral or not, but you “just have to see it. ” He suggests that even with rules, one may not always recognize what the right thing to do is. In situations like this, moral intuition can take effect. Ross rejects the idea that absolute, invariant moral rules can exist. Although not as clear cut and descriptive as the ethical notions of Kant and utilitarianism, I agree more with Ross’ ethics than the other two. I have a hard time being able to completely follow an organized rule.
All rules will have exceptions and conflicts. In such cases, the other two theories describe things as always being able to be justified through rules, without exception. However, in my opinion, one must rely on his moral intuition to determine the right to do in some cases. For example, there is an issue regarding whether abortion should be considered murder or not. If considered murder, abortion would be deemed wrong. In my opinion, no matter how many fact were stated or reviewed, there is no clear cut way of determining whether murder is involved or not. One must intuit that there is indeed murder or not.
Using my moral intuition I view abortion as being murder and would categorize myself as being pro-life. In regards to embyronic stem cell research, the issue of whether or not an embryo should hold the same rights as any human being exists. However, there are no rules that one could discuss or review in determining the status of the embryo. According to my moral intuition, life begins at conception and the embryo should be considered a human. I have no way of explaining how I concluded that the embryo is a human, no matter how many facts I come up with. I have no way of convincing someone of my viewpoint. My view is a black wall.
I cannot convince you that the wall is black, you just have to see it. Also, in regards to treating a seriously impaired infant, I take the standpoint that life should preserved and treated at any and all possible costs. There should be no limitation on life and any human life should be given the opportunity to life, no questions asked. One could way the benefits of its life or ending its life. Also, you could argue the quality of life, but none of this really is considered for me in making my judgment. I merely value life so high that my moral intuition states that whenever possible, life must be preserved to the fullest extent.
Not everyone would have such a high value on a human life and I would be unable to explain why human life is so valuable. Again, this would merely be something “you just have to see. ” In addition, in the decision scenario involving non disclosure of prostate cancer, I took the position that the doctor should not lie to his patient. My decision would, in no way, relate to Kant because in such an instance I would consider both the fact that lying is wrong and the consequences of the lie. Although lying is generally wrong, I believe that in certain situations it is necessary for the patient’s medical best interest.
Placebos would be such a case I would argue for lying. However, in the case involving the man with cancer, I would take the position that lying would be wrong. Considering the consequences, lying would, in my opinion, cause more trouble than help and whenever possible I believe the doctor has a duty not to lie. In forming this opinion and deciding upon a course of action, I followed no rule structure and did not rely on consequences alone. Once again, I used my moral intuition to decide the best approach, which would again go along with Ross’ ethics.
Even in the case involving Alice Nuvo and her not wanting treatment my moral intuition came into play. Under most circumstances, my position is strictly to say that human life can never be allowed to pass if there is a reasonable means of preserving it. However, there can be no rules for me to follow because I find exceptions to this, and the case of Alice Nuvo would be such a case. I ruled that her autonomy surpasses any medical judgment. If she wants to be allowed to live out her life with her family and inevitably die, it should be her choice.
Especially in a case such as this, I really have no way of reviewing my actions and seeing what rules I followed or what past cases I referred to. Once again, my moral intuition lead me to decide for her autonomy. However, moral intuition does not instantly occur when deciding on a case. There must be careful review of every aspect, action, and possible consequences before your moral intuition can decide upon anything. After reviewing my decision scenarios, and taking into account the beliefs of utilitarianism, Kant’s ethics, and Ross’ ethics, I. without a doubt, that I am a follower of Ross.