Ethical Theories Comparison Chart

HU245 Unit 2 Assignment

Ethical Theories Comparison Chart

 UtilitarianismEthical EgoismEthics of CareKantianismPrima Facie DutiesDivine Command TheoryVirtue Theory
How is “good” DeterminedPerformance in utilitarianism states actions must bring the greatest amount of good and minimize the bad for all individuals who may be affected by the act (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). Focus on increasing the good is represented by what will increase pleasure and happiness. Focus on minimizing bad is represented by minimizing pain and unhappiness. In Utilitarianism, decisions are made based on the pleasure it will bring to the individual (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015).This is a theory that one’s self interest is the motivation and the goal of individuals actions (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). There are two variants of Egoism, descriptive and normative. Ethical egoism, a normative theory promotes the good of an individual with morality. The good in ethical egoism is fundamentally based directly on perusing self-interest or self-desire (Moseley, N.D.).The moral theory, ethics of care, implies there is moral significance in the elements that make up relationships and individual dependencies in life (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). In a simpler statement, ethics of care is the motivation to care for those who are dependent and vulnerable (Sander-Staudt, n.d.).Kantianism basis of “universalizability” says every rational person must follow specific rules, that will reflect universal law. Kant theorized humans should treat other humans as they wish to be treated. The theory highlights the respect of individuals resulting in absolute rules against certain kinds of acts, such as lying, promise-breaking, killing innocents, suicide, stealing, and adultery (Jenson, n.d.).A prima facie duty is a duty that is obligatory and binding, but the obligation can be overridden by another duty (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). Where there is a prima facie duty to do something, the task comes with pleasure in completion (McCarty, n.d.).Theory proposing that an action’s status is morally good if measurable as a commanded by God life (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). Obligations are consistent in the commandment or character of God under divine command theory (Austin, n.d,).A normative ethical theory which emphasize the virtues of mind, character and sense of honesty. Virtue ethicists theorizes the nature of virtues as based on consequences for actions (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015).
Most Noted Philosopher(s)Between 1748 and 1832, Jeremy Bentham was the most prominent philosopher of Utilitarianism. From 1806 to 1873, John Stuart Mill was the most prominent philosopher of Utilitarianism (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). Both theorists had important roles in social reform, having influenced philosophical work and moral theory in economic, political, and social policy (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015).Philosopher Henry Sidgwick introduced egoism in his book,” The Methods of Ethics,” in 1874. Comparing egoism to utilitarianism, Sidgwick chose to divert society from overall pleasure and instead theorize that they focused on their own pleasure (Moseley, N.D.). Ayn Rand in, “The Defense of Ethical Egoism,” outlined the logic and appeal of Rational Egoism, arguing it is not only rational and unselfish to pursue one’s own self-interest, but that it is irrational not to (Moseley, N.D.). Max Sterner, in 1844 wrote,” The Ego and Its Own,” was the first philosopher to refer to himself as an egoist and clearly outlined, through his writing that he was opposed to morality and considered it to be a limiting concept (Moseley, N.D.).Ethics of care was developed by feminists. Carol Gilligan and Nel Nodding’s, in the early 1980s, were the first to articulate the need for care ethics and the need for both men and women to share in the need for social responsibility (Sander-Staudt, n.d.).Immanuel Kant is one of the most influential philosophers in the history of Western philosophy. His influence has had profound impact philosophical movements that proceeded him (Jensen, n.d.).W. D.Ross was a British philosopher at Oxford University. Familiar with the theory of utilitarian and Kant’s theory, he was compelled to do more, so he theorized by combining the morality of the two (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015).Edward Wierenga in the late 1980’s acknowledged there are many ways to view of the connection between God and morality. In 1958, Elizabeth Anscombe, in her paper, “Modern Moral Philosophy,” argues that moral terms such as “should” and “ought” to acquire a legalistic sense. This due to the influence of Christianity and its legalistic understanding of ethics (Austin, n.d).Elisabeth Anscombe, in 1958, posted her writing, “Modern Moral Philosophy,” began the development of virtue ethics as an alternative to Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Social Contract theories, all influenced by Aristotle. Bernard Williams’, a leading philosophical influencer, based his work on the importance of integrity and authenticity. He theorized based on the belief that concerns in ethics are broader and encompass friends, family and society. Also, that ethics needed to make room for ideals such as social justice. Alasdair MacIntyre wrote on the differences of values based upon different practices that generate different conceptions of the virtues. Each account of virtue requires social and moral features, previously experienced, in order to be understood (Athanassoulis, n.d.).
Major StrengthsUtilitarianism is one of the most widely known theories and is known for having been the most influential moral theories. Since utilitarian’s believe truth and justification in morality comes from its positive contribution to individuals (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). The theory is flexible and seems to make fair judgements in accounting for the good in society. It makes moot those morals instilled by tradition, religion, or sociologically influenced customs (Nathanson, N.D.).Ethical egoism promotes self-awareness, which ultimately led to self-improvement (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). As well, on the journey of self-improvement and heightened self-awareness, family and care for community became more abundant because individuals did not want to be perceived as lacking in the area, which would ultimately reflect their self-image (Moseley, N.D.).The major strengths in the moral theory Ethics of care, is the recognition of weaknesses in previous moral theories and emotions in moral reasoning (Sander-Staudt, n.d.). This theory does not limit justice or rules, but states that caring should set the basis for both. Additionally, Ethics in care does not single out anyone, instead it groups all individuals as relating to one another through interrelationships (Sander-Staudt, n.d.).Kantianism provides protects from abuses, being exploited, or disregarding their testimony at the benefit of another. This theory abolishes favoritism by making ethics universal and consist (Jenson, n.d.). Also, Kant’s theory requires that actions be justifiable, aims to prevent harm, promotes happiness and ensures the individual welfare of people as a priority (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015).Ross’s theory says that by knowing the long term good, in any situation, the duty is the prima facie duty that is most stringent (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). The theory offered more likely answers to conflict than Kantianism or utilitarianism, especially for medical professionals and businessman.Divine Command Theory is a clear and straight forward system theorizing morals based on the teachings of an existing God (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). This theory consists of universal rule, right for all times and places, and teaches to avoids the problem of trying to understand moral ideas in different countries at different times (Austin, n.d.).Virtue theory teaches individuals to work on morality. Also, acknowledges the need to be partial in some instances and acknowledges we are naturally inclined to making biased decisions. The focuses on the individual and building of oneself into a better person with focus on individuality and development of moral reasoning (Athanassoulis, n.d.).
Major WeaknessesThe major weakness associated under this theory falls under trust and justice. An individual can be sacrificed for the greater good of a great number of individuals. Individual behavior would not be sustainable with predictability and consistency; two concepts that are required to sustain trust and social stability. Since under utilitarianism decisions must promote happiness, there would be no level of trust that a Court of Law would set forth punishment for crime in accordance with the law or trust the physicians treating a patient illness would be forthcoming with their findings and treatment. The theory itself allows lying, promise-breaking, cheating, and violating the law, if the outcome led to good results. As a result, in a utilitarian society, we could trust the spoken word of others, could not hold promise makers accountable for falling short of their word, and could not count of individuals to follow rules (Nathanson, N.D.).One of the conflicts faced is the fear that ethical egoists could rightfully go after their desires, even if their efforts cause harm to others (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). Critics also feared that society would become detached and be to self-concerned to care about others, as well as people becoming to self-motivated to maintain or even participate in relationships. The quality of objectivity becoming a thing of the past was also a fear of those who criticize ethical egoism (Moseley, N.D.).Ethics of care directly falls into the same theoretical callings of ethical relativism, meaning individuals will do whatever they are personally motivated to do. Critics viewed ethics of care as warranting favoritism, lack of impartiality since the “care” provided would be to those we recognize as needing it, or individuals that are relatable to themselves. Since the guidelines surrounding the need for care, justifiable and rational care is unmeasurable and doesn’t not hold value on why the individuals need to care at all (Sander-Staudt, n.d.).Kantianism is not specific on the morality of rules. Kant theorized it must be the wish of every rational person, completely to rid his/her self of emotional inclinations and that only “rational” beings count (Jensen, n.d.).The weaknesses of Prima Facie came in the conflict of knowing when an individual’s Prima Facie duty had been completed and knowing if there was (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). Conflict over how to choose which duties were more stringent, when multiple individuals had different long-term good obligations. Instead of resolving the conflict of moral theory, it simply stated you can not always know what the right answer is (McCarthy, n.d.).Weakness of divine command theory arise on if God makes laws because what they teach is good? If so, it implies there is an external standard of goodness, therefore challenging the omnipotence of God. An atheist, who does not believe in God, can not be expected to follow the teachings (Austin, n.d.).With virtue theory there are no actual definitions to what the virtues are as well as no single or definitive answers to what is to be done in a moral dilemma (Thiroux & Krasemann, 2015). What motives one person may not motivate another, more so some people may not have a need to develop moral virtues. Right or wrong action is not of major concern; therefore, the right course of action would be unclear in an ethical dilemma (Athanassoulis, n.d.).


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Austin, M.W., (n.d.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Devine command theory. from

Jenson, A., (n.d.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Kantianism. from

McCarty, P. (n.d.). Prima facie duties. Retrieved January 20, 2020, from

Moseley, A. (n.d.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Egoism. from

Nathanson, S. (n.d.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Act and rule utilitarianism. From

Sander-Staudt, M., (n.d.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Care ethics. from

Thiroux, J. R., & Krasemann, K. W. (2015). Ethics: theory and practice. Retrieved January 9, 2020, from!/4/12/4/4/2/2/2@0:77.7!/4/12/4/4/2/2/2@0:77.7.