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Ethical Principles and Theories

Ethics is part of the philosophical route which tries to defend the honesty of actions. It is a broad topic which may be further classified into 3 divisions of Meta, normative and practical moral behavior. Meta-ethics explores the truth in lawful claims, and whether the case is prejudiced by emotions. The broadness of the validity of the moral across diverse environment and intellectual settings will determine its recognition. Normative principles constrain us to live moral lives by instinctively differentiating virtuous deeds from mistakes. The value of things and how we perceive their purpose is investigated. Applied ethics augment us to achieve ethical theories in societal situations such as the value of human rights.

Ethical principles

Ethical principles offer baselines for ethical analysis to provide guidance for an individual to formulate decisions. There are several theories, each with their own account on how to predict outcomes when faced with dilemmas. For a hypothesis to be successful, there are goals which must first be achieved through implementation of principles. The targets characteristically include ensuring the least harm on subjects, beneficence, showing value for humanity and fairness.

The principle’s guides present baselines for the ethical hypotheses. Beneficence provides guidance for moral hypotheses to do what is reasonable. Doing ‘good’ makes moral perceptions and decision making be deemed acceptable. There must be an attempt to do more good over evil in the society. More benefits are likely to arise from legitimate deeds than evil actions. The association of beneficence to the utilitarian hypothesis is significantly strong.

A parallel exists connecting the supposition of beneficence and that of least damage. The latter principle, however, provides circumstances in which neither solution for a mess provides any benefits. An individual thus has to choose a decision which will provide benefits for the greater population. Nevertheless, there is the choice of simply choosing not to take any action and walk away rather than make a decision which would prove beneficial to more people.

The ethical principle of justice pressurizes the hypotheses to stipulate reasonable actions to victims. Moral decisions must thus be in tandem with the theories unless unavoidable complexities exist in the case. There must be significant divergences in the case which provides grounds for the lack of consistency in judgment. For example, an ambulance may exceed speed limits on a highway in the mission of trying to rescue an emergency situation. Normally, the ambulance has to comply with speed limits; but the driver is dealing with a crisis. Thus, breaching of the traffic convention is warranted.

The fourth principle preaches the importance to respect other people’s feelings. Ethical hypotheses should provide individuals with an opportunity to make decisions which may personally affect them. People want their own lifestyles and thus understand themselves better. They often make decisions based on their beliefs and experiences in life. Respecting people’s decisions and feelings are therefore the heart of the principle of respect for autonomy. However, two viewpoints exist in this principle. The paternalistic and libertarian perspectives decision making on best interests against private wishes of the victim. For example, a doctor may inform a patient to stay in sickbay for supervisory treatment in cases of long-term illness. The patient may, however, prefer to recover at home, surrounded by relatives. The paternalistic argument gives the doctor an occasion to advise the patient on what is best, rather than personal preferences. There is thus no reverence for the patient’s autonomy. The libertarian inspection, on the other hand, gives the patient an advantage. Self-interests are prioritized against what the doctor considers to be treasured for the victim’s condition. Having control over life decisions, and how best to administer curing gives them maximum beneficence. Such decisions may potentially result in either benefits or injury.

Ethical theories

All the noble hypotheses are based on the four outlined principles. These theories emphasize distinct characteristics of moral dilemmas and how best to make inferences according to their outlined guidelines. Life experiences usually offer hypotheses that individuals subscribe to in order to guide decisions.

Utilitarian ethical theory

Utilitarianism presents a person with the ability to predict the outcomes of any proceedings. A utilitarian makes an ethically correct decision based on how it would assist the majority. The alternative which benefits the most people is generally deemed to be right. Act and rule utilitarianism are two divisions of the larger utilitarian concept. The former division is not influenced by personal feelings or state laws, while the latter division is more concerned with regulations and fairness. Rule utilitarianism thus proves more valuable as it incorporates beneficence and fairness. Nevertheless, there exist flaws which are potentially hazardous. Prediction of future outcomes is usually difficult no matter how much the forecast is pegged on personal experiences. A negative future result from what was predicted will emerge the decision-maker as unprofessional. Comparing material things against intangible benefits is usually complex due to how diverse people appreciate them. For example, a material matter like education can not be adequately used to determine ethereal aspects like success. An uninformed citizen may end up being more successful than one with multiple college degrees. Another flaw is the fear which others may face in the exploration of serving a greater percentage. The risk of losing one’s life or appreciably devastating the ‘sacrificed’ smaller number may prove upsetting.

Deontological ethical theory

This thesis provides guidelines for individuals to hold on to their responsibilities when solving social predicaments. Upholding one’s obligations is thus considered being ethically correct. Subscribers of this theory will be observed to keep promises and are typically law abiding. One maintains steadiness in judgment making because of the set values. For example, bandits controlling a hostage situation may request one of the captives to give up life so that others may be unrestricted. The participant in such a scenario displays his/her duty to the other hostages. The biggest disadvantage of this theory is its inability to explain clearly the obligations of an individual. Deontology is not on a foundation of an existing milieu. There might subsist incompatible duties when one is faced with a compound situation.

Rights ethical theory

This hypothesis protects the rights administered and prioritized by groups. The affirmation of rights by the community justifies their being ethnically accurate. For example, if an owner of a ranch travels, she may leave a supervisor in charge. The manager thus has the right to conduct operations in the ranch. The characteristics of truth in the society must, however, be deciphered. The goals of the society must be established before agreeing on what constitutes rights. This thus necessitates the integration of rights with other ethics hypotheses for a complete explanation of the society’s objectives. This can be explained by the diverse religions in the planet and their trial in, unlike cultures.

Casuist ethical theory

Present dilemmas are judged against the outcomes of other predicaments. The most appropriate solution is thus synthesized from the other experiences. The results of a former confusion will however not necessarily be the same as the existing problem, hence halt its value in the application. Apart from that, the present challenge may be entirely different, with no previous experiences to allow comparisons.

Virtue ethical theory

In this hypothesis, one is judged by character, rather than the measures taken. An individual may make an unethical decision which goes against his/her compulsive traits. For example, if a student who has always arrived early for class walks in late, he/she may be pardoned by lecturers who trust in the student’s customary discipline. In opposition, a student who is a legendary latecomer will be managed more unsympathetically.




The scenario involves a setting where thirty members of a village face extinction due to an authoritarian regime. I am provided with the option of shooting one village in order to guarantee the freedom of the remaining 29. In case I decline this approach all the thirty villagers will be shot dead. The dilemma is that taking somebody’s life will diminish my duty of not harming guiltless people and contravene the rights of my casualty. Conversely, thirty people will die if I protect my obligations, and respect the rights of the one person.

Moral relativist response

The concept of moral relativism correlates integrity to an individual’s lifestyle. The principles within a society describe the correctness or wrongness of an operation. This means that an action may be commenced in one society and hated in another. A decent relativism thus has no principles that can be universally applied to everyone in similar situations. Therefore, there would be no absolute order to be applied, and thus the cultural beliefs of the group and my personal beliefs will take shape.

Utilitarian response

A utilitarian will predict the consequences of the challenges. The decision which benefits the bulk of the populace will be chosen. In this scenario, killing one person, hence ensuring the safety of 29 villagers would be the decisive response. This would be done regardless of personal feelings or pre-existing laws administered by the officer in charge of the militia.

Kantian response

From a Kantian perspective, the consequences of the actions will not be considered. It would be required to do the right thing, even if the officer later decides to burn down the whole village. Predetermined roles would not be pursued; rather moral actions would have to be followed. Thus, a Kantian would not care whether performing the evil act of shooting one villager will save the lives of the greater population.

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Ethically compelling response

Wandering from the norms of the culture of a society would be deemed to be an immoral act. The village members may consider the death of one member in order to protect the others to be an ethical decision. However, in a contrasting society, the villagers may see themselves as selfish in letting their mate die alone. The response of the utilitarian may prove costly as the official may not maintain his promise by proceeding to terminate the 29 who survive my wrath. This would not only mean that I have failed in my duty, and infringed on the rights of the person I shot, but there would be no benefits to anyone. From a Kantian standpoint, one’s actions will be judged as moral, and not the cost of this action. The end of all the 30 villagers would be devastating, based on the fact that I could have saved 29 of them albeit through an unethical act.

The response of the moral relativist would be the most appealing, mainly due to the prophesized results. I would counter the situation by basing my decision on what the villagers count as ethical behavior as explained by my tour guide. Morals which I hold or the consequences of my actions will depend on whether the social order prefers to die as a unit, or whether the choice of one to be a sacrifice is accepted as righteous.


Ethical hypotheses grant an outline to categorize and comprehend opinions from a point of knowledge. A mortal is thus able to defend deeds and the validity of conclusions in different arguments. Getting at the essential justifications thus becomes undoubtedly easy to make decisions. It is imperative to understand the beliefs of others and scrutinize assumptions that we believe.