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Reflection on Ethical Theories: Utilitarianism and Deontology

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Reflection on Ethical Theories: Utilitarianism and Deontology Essay

In today’s world, individuals can make a single decision that can have a positive or negative effect on their family, their employer, coworkers, and even on the entire world. The life we lead reflects the strength of a single trait: our personal character. Also, if we choose to use Personal ethics. Personal Ethics are different for each person but for the most part, people want to be known as a good person, and as someone who can be trusted. Of the four Ethical theories, such as teleology, deontology, intuitionism and virtue, deontology is most closely aligned with how I make ethical decisions. I am sure in the past I have said, “It is the principle of the thing.” However, after studying these principles, I would agree that consulting all theories through critical thinking, better assists a leader in making the best possible ethical decision. I would use the following characteristics of each theory to assist me in arriving at the most ethical decision.

Ethical theories are concepts or moral values that dictate whether the choices I make are right or wrong. The two ethical theories that I believe are the most prominent in society are Utilitarianism and Deontology. Utilitarianism is a theory that “justifies the morality of an action on the basis of its consequences”. In the end, we all want ourselves and the people I care for to be happy also. Deontology believes the motive of the act is more important. When determining the value of the decisions, the consequences are based on the rules of each ethical theory. This includes providing the basis of how to make logical decisions founded on ethical reasoning. Unfortunately, there are many situations where a person’s rights are vulnerable due to unethical and unmoral situations like sexual harassment in the workplace. To prevent similar situations from occurring, individuals must fully understand when to apply the use of ethics to decision making. For this type of mindset to take place, the public needs to be educated on the different types of ethical ideologies and know how to approach situations based on ethical solutions. Once the public is aware of the ethical theories and how to avoid unethical situations, there will a decreased amount of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Deontology and Utilitarianism are ethical theories that were formed to deal with social norms, values, and morals. One of the few similarities between Deontology and Utilitarianism is that both concepts are guidelines of how individuals can make ethical decisions. The goal of both ethical theories is to determine the wrong or right value of actions based on the theory’s ideal society and morals. Therefore, the ethical theories are established so individuals will be able to make consistent moral decisions based on ethical reasoning and decision making. In the end, this results in Utilitarianism and Deontology guiding individuals through their decisions and actions. While this is the case, the two theories do not explicitly tell individuals what to do, but how to view the situation.

Deontology is a theory that I follow most to make ethical decision because to me, the “act should be greater than the consequence” (Geuras & Garofalo, 2011). According the theory Deontology, an essential aspect of this theory is not just happiness, but it is making consistent decisions that always “determines humans as the ends rather than the means.” In other words, this means that no matter the consequence, we would adhere to the same action. For example, if someone at work treated me horribly for many years. Then, I became that person’s boss; should I take the opportunity to retaliate and treat them poorly in return, or do I treat them well based on the value they add to the organization? In the end, the consequence of treating them with kindness despite how they treated us, may be painful to us, but it is the principle of the person being the end consideration, and thus, must be treated well.

In society, there are instances where individuals are confronted with unethical situations like sexual harassment as I stated earlier. In the workplace, it is common for females to become victims of harassment, causing them to lose their trust in others. During sexual harassment, females are degraded using sexist jokes, and unwanted advances in exchange for higher social statuses. From a Deontological viewpoint, sexual harassment is unethical because women are as seen as an object, instead of a person. Women who are faced with harassment have the right to choose how they want to pursue their goals without unwanted influences from other individuals. Sexual harassment prohibits females from making their own decisions and being an autonomous free individual. Instead, they are treated as objects. As a result, sexual harassment limits women from being treated with respect, equality, and liberty not only in the workforce, but in society as well.

From a Utilitarian viewpoint, sexual harassment is unethical because the ends of the actions do not justify the means. In other words, harassment does not maximize the most amount of good to the community or maximize the most happiness. The results of sexual harassment towards females are not only traumatizing but can have lasting effects as well. Common emotional and economical effects of sexual harassment include anxiety, depression, the loss of a job, and a decrease in the amount of wages earned. These effects of sexual harassment can last from weeks to years. Sexual harassment is unethical because neither the consequences, nor the motives justify the actions of unwanted sexual advances. Instead, it causes harm to the community which goes against one of the main Utilitarian values.

I believe that sexual harassment is unethical because the abuse of power causes women to become belittled and be in undesired sexual situations. In sexual harassment, women are constantly blackmailed by unwelcome advances in order to keep their job, or even gain a higher position. This is unmoral because women are not seen as humans, but as objects. As a result, women lose their right to consent behaviors and be respected because they are not seen as equal individuals. I also believe that sexual harassment is unmoral because it does not produce any benefits or advantages for the individual. The results of sexual harassment are traumatizing and can have long-term effects. I believe that situations like sexual harassment are still in existence today due to the lack of education of ethics and morals. If the public were aware of why situations are unethical and how to make ethical based decisions, I believe that the amount of sexual harassment towards women would decrease.

My views are mix between a Deontological viewpoint and a Utilitarian viewpoint. For Deontology, I support the statement that humans should be treated equally and never to an end. Women have the right to be respected, free individuals who pursue their goals. Therefore, this gives women the right to work and make their own decisions without being sexually objected to degrading comments and sexual advances. When individuals are treated only as a means, it causes them to lose their personhood and lose their rights. I also support the Utilitarian view that we have a moral responsibility to prevent harm to others and maximize the greatest amount of good for the community. The effects of sexual harassment negatively impact the community by causing harm and pain. Therefore, because sexual harassment does not create the most amount of happiness for all, it is unethical.

In conclusion, ethics has developed as people have reflected on the intentions and consequences of their acts. From this reflection on the nature of human behavior, theories of conscience have developed, giving direction to much ethical thinking. Each individual has a different ethical background that is taught to them by his or her parents, teachers, mentors, religious beliefs, his or her own personal beliefs and we as a society are all diverse in our own way. Most of our beliefs and patterns of behavior are established through our observations and experiences of childhood through adulthood. For me personally, my ethics come from what I learned from my parents, my religious background, my experiences, both personal and professional, and my observations of everyday life. It stems from knowing what is basically right and wrong, what is acceptable behavior or not, and maybe most importantly, it comes from pride in my work and accomplishments.


  • Geuras, D., & Garofalo, C. (2011). Practical ethics in public administration. Vienna, VA: Management Concepts.

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