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Deontology Versus Utilitarianism in Everyday Life

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Everyday, people make decisions on what they believe is the best choice that will produce the best outcome. However, too many people do not image of the consequences nor do they think about the principles of morals when carrying out those actions. In the Trolley example, deontology gives a better answer than utilitarian does, as it is closer to a morally correct action. Individuals who follow the rules of utilitarianism, practice the Greatest Happiness rule, in order to make the morally correct decision because they want to maximize the amount of happiness for a the maximum amount of people involved. Both ethical systems evaluate courageous actions for the greater good of society that majority can benefit from. Although utilitarianism promotes the maximum amount of happiness, it fails to support supererogation, be consistent, and be practical with its special obligations unlike deontology.

Utilitarianism evaluates actions according to their consequences; therefore making them consequentialist due to moral status depending on their result of their decision, which is a consequence or reward. Utilitarianism focus on promoting happiness to avoid pain but obtain pleasure, in order to intend the pleasure that will benefit others. It tells someone what they should do for every moral decision with no expectations, in the hopes of producing less pain and suffering. Utilitarianism is simple to the point that it has a universally shared value.

However, the rule of utilitarianism has its objectives, for instance, in the trolley example, if killing five people over one is better from an utilitarianism’s viewpoint, how can we be sure that it will create the greatest amount of happiness. The way actions are determined to be morally good if by the consequences produced. Although this example would seem to create more people happy, in the end society cannot predict the future, therefore they will not know that if saving those five over that one person will result in the greatest happiness. Those remaining survivors may turn out to be a serial killers, hurting more people as a result. Utilitarianism also makes it hard to determine where the line has been drawn and difficult to establish utility for every action made. Another thing to consider about utilitarianism is that two people may have very different perspectives of what they consider to be morally correct or incorrect. In other words, we do not all have the same interpretation for what we think is good or bad. With that being said, happiness cannot be measured therefore, not everyone will benefit equally. Furthermore, it is a way for actions to be measure on the same scale and this can have its own issues. For example, someone can leave early for work in order to make a bit more customers happy, whereas someone else could stop a train to prevent a group of children from dying. It serves some actions dishonors more than others because some people might use that as an excuse to justify their actions stating it will produce more happiness for a more people. Another big flaw in utilitarianism is that it is impractical to apply because one cannot calculate positively the end results and/or the uncertainty within the large number of individual involved. Utilitarianism is to permissive and does not respect the rights of people. It is destructive because it asks too much of us, even death in order to maximize the death to maximize the good. In the trolley example, it is ethically wrong to kill one to save others because it is immoral to kill an innocent person just despite of maximizing the greater good.

Deontology evaluates actions according to their internal features, not making them unconselationist. To say this in order words, a good will is not good or bad because of its accomplishments or consequences, but whether the goal intended. A deontologists may argue and say that we cannot play god and choose who gets to live and who gets to die because we lack the moral authority to make that decision, nor do we know the end result of the situation. Deontology judges morality by evaluating the nature of actions and the moral agents rather than the consequences. We cannot predict the future, which is why it focuses on duties and intentions, not the goals achieved. In the trolley example, one shall not kill an innocent person to save four others because killing is ethically wrong regardless. In this ethical system, duties are never ending but at least it acknowledges human rights. In the book called “Moral Philosophy” written by Louis P. Pojam, he states that a good will is the application to being worthy of happiness continuing to say “A good will is good not because of what it effects or accomplishes; nor because of its fitness to attain some proposed end; it is good only through its willing, i.e.., it is good in itself”. It tells us that deliberately killing someone is ethically wrong than letting someone die as cathedral damage, as well as valuing human life over the greater good. Deontology is consistent with its obligation of not killing, lying or breaking promises, therefore, making the theory predictable and reliable for people. Another strength is that it supports supererogation in the sense that it acts above and beyond duty. It is also practical because it takes special obligations into consideration, for example, doctors or nurses with their patients nmd even parents with their children.

On the other hand, deontology is a paradox because an individual could not save someone else’s life over their own. Also, they could not harm someone else even if they knew that in the process I would save many lives. For example, student could be a school when an active shooter goes on campus and begins to open fire. From an deontology view point, it would be morally incorrect to take down the shooter because it would cause them pain but also, ethically wrong if innocent people were to die. Deontology also does not support the ideas of self defense because protecting yourself and causing pain on others to do that would be defined as morally incorrect. There is no justification in participating to harm someone over anyone else, including yourself. Finally deontology showcases supernatural excuses. This means that society may believe in God whatever they choose to call the greater power, and as their ethical duty, do whatever they ask under any circumstances. This can be really dangerous because it can promote people to inflict pain in to others if the supernatural powers command so.

All in all, both theories have strengths and weaknesses. I came to the conclusion that both theories are completely opposites in the sense that they tackle each moral dilemma with their own distinctive and unique ideologies. I would prefer to practice Deontology in real life situations because it takes special obligations into account, it is more consistent, and predictable. Utilitarianism would end up asking too much of myself to the point would I would not be able to execute and make everyone happy, including myself. It seems that I would always have to put others before myself and if that made me unhappy as a result, I should be able to change it, even of it means causing pain on others or less happiness for less people. I think it would exhaust a person of always worrying about others and making sure everyone is considered to be “happy” over your own desires. Then the question of what makes everyone happy and how that is obtained, is not the same for everyone. Although deontology has its weakness, utilitarianism seems to be a universal theory, where it applies to bigger situations and deontology would apply more or so to everyday life.

Works Cited

  • Pojam, P. Louis and Tramel, Peter. “Deontological Ethics: Moral Philosophy”. Fourth Edition. Hackett Publishing Company Inc. Indianapolis/ Cambridge. 2009. Pp. 220. Print. 

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