Act Utilitarianism And Virtue Ethics

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From Socrates to W.D. Ross, ethics are, in essence, the system of fundamental principles of decent human behaviour, which has been theorised, criticised and debated about in civil society for centuries. Ethics is the basis for sufficient moral judgement of an individual to pursue righteous actions that maintain the integrity, well-being and happiness of oneself and others. Act utilitarianism promotes universal hedonism, impartiality and judges the utility of deeds through the calculation of pleasure and pain. Virtue ethics accentuates that proper habituation leads to good ethical and practical reasoning and that virtues are the guidelines to human flourishing and a nurturing society. Ethical theories should consider the entire disposition …show more content…
Act utilitarianism is a teleological subdivision of ethics that actively seeks goodness for the greater good. The supposition derives from Jeremy Bentham, as a means of equating a morally right action from a morally bad one. Bentham (cited in Oliphant, 2007) states, “nature has placed us under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.” Bentham’s approach promulgates the maximisation of pleasure and minimization of pain; when the positive outcomes of an action outweigh the positive outcomes of a divergent pathway, the action is considered ‘good’. Act utilitarianism, therefore, is a hedonistic theory that is founded on the principle of utility – a practice for maximising good – to ultimately constitute universal happiness. The theory rejects the rigidity of absolute moralities i.e. the Ten Commandments, owing to the fact that situations are not contextualised if absolute standards are set. Instead, utilitarians ruminate circumstances relatively to previous experiences and judge without definitive moral rules (Nathanson, n.d.). Complications arise, however, since act utilitarianism …show more content…
Aristotle (cited in Sachs, n.d.) considered actions to be virtuous, and not a vice, only when the person is in “a stable equilibrium of the soul.” In essence, the moral character of a person is dependent on their ability – as the product of their habits – to deviate from the extremes of a virtue, and remain in a balance of character. Aristotle attempted to codify human virtue by differentiating the two extremes of virtue called vices, excess and deficiency, from the mean, which lies in between. A charitable person, for instance, contributes to the good of society and advocates liberality, which of whom lies between the excessively rich and miserliness (Aristotle’s Ethics – Table of Virtues and Vices, n.d.). In society, it would be beneficial because this method moderates between the two extremes, and by applying practical wisdom to specific circumstances. Virtue ethics, therefore, yields guidelines for extremes of character to narrow the discrepancy between their respective vice and mean. Aristotle stresses that the feasibility for ethical theories to have a decision-making procedure is not possible. Finding the balance of a mean state, as a virtue is not systemized or calculated, however, the state of affairs of a particular situation must be accounted for. Aristotle (cited in Kraut, 2014) says a virtuous

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