Three dominant ethical theories in western culture:
Deontology: “Rather than looking at the consequences of an act, deontology looks at the reason for which an act is done, and the rule according to which one chooses to act” (Mosser, 2013, “Classical Theories,” Para. 11), describes deontology. This theory explains that everyone has an obligation to adhere to honorable guidelines though at times a person’s actions may be considered immoral. An example of deontology would be a Wal-Mart clerk at the customer service desk. Individual employees allow exceptions regarding exchanges though sometimes they may be violating company policy.
Virtue ethics: “Rather than focusing on the consequences of the act we wish to evaluate, or the reason or rule that guides the action, we look at the character of the person performing the act” (Mosser, 2013, “Classical Theories,” para. 21), provides a distinct definition of virtue ethics theory and how it differs from utilitarianism and deontology theories. Virtue ethics concentrates on the value and honor of an individual as opposed to the consequences of one’s actions or the motives of a person’s actions. Using the example of a Wal-Mart clerk, according to this theory the employee will excel if they follow the golden rule taking care to treat others as they wish to be treated. Possessing morals in the workplace such as honesty, timeliness, and respect will be rewarded with raises, promotions and more responsibilities.
An example of an ethical dilemma which I have recently faced:
I no longer work, and I am a stay at home mom, so the best example I can provide is a conflict in our home. This past year my daughter attended kindergarten at Dailey Elementary, a school in Beecher where I was living at the time. Several months into the school year I moved into my boyfriend’s home, located about 30 minutes from her school. Taking into consideration my daughter’s age and the things that she has been through, I decided it would be in her best interest to keep her at that school. This issue caused many problems between my boyfriend and me, as he wished that I move her to the school that is directly down the road from our home. For the remainder of her school year, I got to experience daily complaints on how much it cost to drive her to Beecher each day, and how I was “taking away from everyone.” At the time, I thought that I was doing what was best for my daughter. However, it seems now that my response was good instead of virtuous. While my intentions were good, I failed to take everyone’s feelings into account. This example shows how social roles affect our decision making process.
Upon an explaination of these theories and developing a better understanding of each, I enjoyed reading the Heinz Dilemma, explaining Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning.
As stated above, the man has three choices:
- Beg for money from friends, and after not being able to earn enough, his wife passes.
- Request a deal from the druggist, or inquire about paying later. The druggist refuses to work with the man and his wife dies.
- Steal the drug, knowing the consequences of his actions, yet his wife’s life would be saved.
My ideas are as follows:
In response to the first choice, my conscious wouldn’t be satisfied knowing that was the only effort I had made to save my spouse.
In response to the second choice, the druggist was, in fact, making the medication for $200 and selling it for $2000. This scenario is typical of everything we buy; the mattress I sleep on at night doesn’t cost what I pay for it to make it. It is understandable that the druggist is maintaining a business and the rarity of the medicine enables him to charge top dollar. The man did, in fact, confront the druggist and request a payment plan and special pricing, to be declined both. I feel that the druggist could’ve been more accommodating knowing the man’s situation and acted less greedy; because of his actions, I feel that the druggist was acting immoral. Again, my conscience wouldn’t be satisfied knowing that I am not trying to do everything possible to save my significant other.
The third option is wrong. However, the man does state that he is willing to face the consequences of his actions. Laws are nothing more than consequences. This matter to me questions the love one has for their significant other and if they are willing to trade their life to save that of their spouse. It seems no different than jumping in front of a moving vehicle or taking a bullet for the person you love; there are consequences to each action. If the man’s wife lives, he is facing a prison term in exchange. It also seems that the man would be satisfied knowing that he did everything he could to save his wife and wouldn’t have to live with himself knowing that he could’ve done something to save her. My opinion of the third option would vary if the man were running from the law, though it does state that he knows the consequences of his actions and is willing to face them.
I enjoyed reading the dilemma in its entirety and the consequences to each choice.
Fui, F. [FuiFilms]. (2012, March 20). Heinz Dilemma – Kohlberg’s stages of Moral Development (Animation) [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtube.com/watch?v=YxJ07klMhr0&feature=youtu.be
Mosser, K. (2013). Ethics and social responsibility (2nd ed.) [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/