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Consequentialism and Consequentialists

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Introduction

Consequentialism Good and evil are two of the most over used words in the English language, as are the words right and wrong, and yet, these concept are not even fully understood. How can one differentiate between good and evil, or decide what is right and wrong? How is it possible to know whether one's actions are just? Are these judgments based simply on preference and partiality, or rather, is there valid rationale behind these decisions? Are there foundations for either side of such controversial issues such as euthanasia, or are these opinions based merely on self-interest? These questions are generally associated with the ideas of moral philosophy, more commonly known as ethics. As something ethical is the equivalent of something good and just, the prior questions can be rephrased simply as, "how do we know, if at all, that our behaviour is ethical?" There are several approaches to answering this question, all based principally on reason, most often falling into the categories of consequentialist, duty-based, and virtue based theories, but the question remains, do these theories answer all ethical questions? As well, there seems to be an inherent tendency in all of these methods towards preference vs. ...read more.

Middle

The lack of emphasis on consequences can be understood by the fact that it is not always possible to control the effects of your actions, therefore, it is the intentions that must be given the most clout. The most common form of duty based theory, is religious ethics, or in the west, Christian ethics. Morality is based on the Bible, as the Bible sets out certain duties that must be followed no matter what. This makes everything simple, since the word of God determines what is right and wrong. The advantages of this theory is that for straight forward situations, the answer as to what is right and wrong, is quite obviously laid out. However, life is not straightforward, and often, the Bible will not clearly state the solution to any given situation. As well there are other problems with this theory. First of all, if right is dictated by God's will, then what exactly is God's will? If one were to find God's will within the Bible, this would seem simple enough, but the Bible itself is open to many different interpretations, on many different occasions. Second, how does one know that there is a god at all? ...read more.

Conclusion

As previously stated, most often, even within the theories themselves, biases are frequently visited, and the problem with this is that a bias is simply an opinion, and does not state whether something is universally right or wrong, which the question of ethics demands. The purpose of ethics is to provide a standard for judgement, and if this cannot be provided, then how is it possible to be sure one's actions are ethical? For if something is ethical, should it not be universally so? As such, while it is possible to have some inkling of right and wrong, even using these methods, it is impossible to determine what is ethical, for first, how can one determine which method to use, especially when they contradict each other, and second, how does one conquer the problems with each method when it becomes necessary. Since all this gives us interpretations of what is ethical, it is possible to gain some guidance from these theories, however, ultimately, the question of ethics may come down to preference. Therefore, it is not possible, beyond reasonable doubt in most cases, to know if our behaviour is ethical or not. 1 James Fieser, "Ethics [Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy]" http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/e/ethics.htm Accessed January 8, 2002 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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