Week 1 Written Assignment
Robert L. Perry
March 5, 2013
Our assignment this week is to research three ethical theories or approaches, write a brief paragraph on each theory and then use one of the theories to frame a response to a proposed scenario. In the following paper, I will discuss Hedonism, Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics. I will then use Utilitarianism theory to frame a response the proposed scenario and rationalize it.
Hedonism believes there is no god and we do not exist after death so the goal of life is maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. For example, if working is a source of physical or mental pain a hedonist believes would believe we should only do what is necessary to meet our essential needs (njripperger, 2008). The advantages to being a hedonist is you can justify being selfish. The biggest disadvantage is it is far too easy to be short-sighted, focusing on increasing your short-term pleasure, which can be detrimental to one's long-term pleasure (gunsrfunmg, 2012). I chose this theory because it relates to the next theory I want to discuss, Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism, like hedonism, is about increasing pleasure while decreasing pain. The difference lies in that utilitarianism takes in account the pleasure and pain of all humans that an action would affect. Utilitarians believe that the courses we should choose are those that increase the total pleasure of all humans, regardless of rank, status, wealth, race, gender or personal relationships. One disadvantage of this theory is it is not very practical, as it takes a lot of work to figure out every moral decision. Another disadvantage is it is not always possible to foresee the consequences of every action. Two of the advantages of Utilitarianism are it is well defined and focuses on happiness (Lingard, 2008). I chose this theory because in the video we watched for our discussion post, Dr. Bowie says "...because you may be operating as a utilitarian, one of your employees might be a Kantian, and you just never get what it’s all about." (corporateethics, 2009). I had to look up the definition of the terms Utilitarian and Kantian and consequently became interested in them.
Kantian ethics are Deontological, or duty based. "It asserts that a good will is the only intrinsically good thing and that an action is only good if performed out of duty, rather than out of practical need or desire." (Kantian Ethics, n.d.). Other central concepts Kantians hold are only acting from rules everyone could follow and to never use other people for your own benefit. (njripperger , 2008) Two disadvantages to Kantianism are that there are no exceptions to moral rules and there is no way to resolve conflicts between rules. Two advantages of Kantianism are its logical and "All people are moral equals and deserve to be treated similarly" (Lingard, 2008). I chose Kantian ethics for the same reason I chose utilitarianism, because after reading about it I was quite intrigued. I think the freedom of being able to choose is more important for individuals in society than having someone forced to choose the right thing, which is a central idea in Kantian ethics.
The following scenario has been proposed:
You are the newly appointed manager of a high-tech company that is suffering serious financial problems. Corporate headquarters is planning layoffs, which you know will affect your department. An employee you supervise, who used to be a coworker prior to your promotion, has approached you with the following question: “Do you know if there will be layoffs in our group? I’ve got a mortgage and a kid in college. A layoff would be catastrophic to me at this time.”
A Utilitarian might respond with the lie: "I don't believe our group will be included in the layoffs. Don't worry." The reason I think this is that "Utilitarian base their reasoning on the claim that actions, including lying, are morally acceptable when the resulting consequences maximize benefit or minimize harm." (Mazur, n.d.) They might rationalize that this lie will spread though the group, easing the concern and therefore raising the total pleasure while simultaneously lower the total pain which most would be people feeling.
To recap, a hedonist tries to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain for one's self. A Utilitarian tries to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain for everyone. A Kantian tries to do what is considered a Just rule that anyone could follow. A Utilitarian is willing to lie, and even considers the act honorable, if it increases the overall pleasure of everyone. I have been pleasantly surprised how much I am enjoy learning about different ethical theories and putting one into theoretical use.
gunsrfunmg. (2012) What are some of pros and cons of Hedonism? Retrieved from: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111204153013AAst8RO
Lingard, Robert. (2008, December 2). Introduction To Ethics. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.ecs.csun.edu/~rlingard/COMP450/IntroductionToEthics.ppt
corporateethics. (2009, July 10). Is Ethical Practical for Managers? - Normal E. Bowie [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/xmQndRdkEeI
Hedonism. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonism
Utilitarianism. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism
Kantian. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantian
Kantian Ethics. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantian_ethics
njripperger. (2008, Febuary 14) Ethics in America DSST and ECE. http://www.degreeforum.net/specific-exam-feedback-instantcert-subscribers-only/1530-ethics-america-dsst-ece-6.html
Mazur, Tim C. (n.d.) Lying and Ethics. Santa Clara University. Retrieved March 5, 2013, Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v6n1/lying.html