To begin with, let’s remind ourselves of the three broad ethical positions that can group various ethical theories. Take note of the different things each position finds relevant for ethical evaluation.
|CONSEQUENTIALISM||The position that consequences are the basis for ethical valuation.|
|DEONTOLOGY||The position that something intrinsic to the action itself is the basis for ethical valuation.|
|CHARACTER ETHICS||The position that the character trait being manifested in the action is the basis for ethical valuation.|
Although these positions are usually contrasted with each other, they can be used together. In other words, you can take an action and evaluate it from all of these perspectives.
Not only can you use different positions to evaluate actions; you can also use these positions when deciding what to do yourself. For instance, you could intend to act in a way that respects peoples’ rights and aim to bring about the best outcome. You could do all this whilst also showing virtuous character. In the next section we will look at various examples to clarify how an action can be informed by different values.
First of all, let’s consider the action of going into further education. The different ethical positions will usually all say that this is a good action, but their judgments are based on different values.
|ACTION: GOING INTO FURTHER EDUCATION|
|CONSEQUENTIALISM||This is good because learning can improve people's lives in various ways. Thus it's good because the outcome is desirable.|
|DEONTOLOGY||If the intention is to develop rational capacities, then it's good because the intention respects and furthers humanity.|
|CHARACTER ETHICS||This action could manifest many different virtues, such as self-discipline or ambition. If the action is motivated by these character traits, then it is good.|
Now consider the action of using a fake disabled badge in order to use more convenient parking.
|ACTION: USING A FAKE DISABLED BADGE|
|CONSEQUENTIALISM||This is bad because the benefits of convenience is outweighed by the deprivation of a parking space for a genuinely disabled person.|
|DEONTOLOGY||This is bad because it's based on an immoral intention to violate a genuinely disabled person's rights.|
|CHARACTER ETHICS||This action could manifest many vices, such as being selfish or inconsiderate. This action is also bad because it could encourage these vices.|
Finally, consider the action of habitually overeating.
|CONSEQUENTIALISM||If the pleasure of eating is outweighed by the potential health dangers, then it's bad because the consequences are bad.|
|DEONTOLOGY||The intention is immortal because you would be using your humanity as a mere means for pleasure.'|
|CHARACTER ETHICS||This action could manifest many vices, such as overindulgence or lack of self-control. This action is also bad because it could encourage these vices.|