"There is no such thing as a consistent ethical point of view: in reality, everyone's ethics are a mixture, if not a muddle." To what extent do you agree? A personal response

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“There is no such thing as a consistent ethical point of view: in reality, everyone’s ethics are a mixture, if not a muddle.” To what extent do you agree?

There are many different standard ethical points of view. These include consequentialism, deontologism, ethical nihilism, ethical relativism, egoism and utilitarianism. Some might say that ‘there is no such thing as a consistent ethical point of view’ and that, ‘in reality, everyone’s ethics are a mixture if not a muddle.’ This essay examines this belief by firstly considering what constitutes a ‘consistent ethical point of view’ and to what extent it is possible to live your life by any one ethical viewpoint.

        One could argue that a person who has an ethical point of view which they do not change and does not contradict itself would have a ‘consistent ethical point of view’. However, the statement uses the term ‘consistent ethical point of view’ to mean a ‘standard, defined ethical point of view’. There are many such points of view, so a short summary of each of the most prominent ones is clearly required. The main branch of ethics is moral absolutism which states that there are some morals or ethics which are universal. Moral absolutism includes consequentialism which hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action. Thus, on a consequentialist account, a morally right action is an action which produces good consequences. A further branch of consequentialism is utilitarianism, which states that the most ethical choice is the one which brings about most good as a consequence. Another branch of moral absolutism is deontology which claims that various actions are morally wrong if they are inconsistent with the status of a person as a free and rational being, and that, conversely, acts that further the status of people as free and rational beings are morally right. A different ethical viewpoint would be ethical relativism, which states that there are no universal morals as ethics depend on the circumstances – even murder can be ‘right’ in certain situations. Neither egoism nor altruism support moral absolutism but they are part of consequentialism (a branch of moral absolutism). Egoism says that whatever is right for the individual is the ethical choice, whilst altruism claims that the best action is the one which benefits the community rather than the individual. Nihilism says that there is no such thing as right or wrong and no action is ethically better or worse than any other. These are just a few of the many ‘standard’ ethical viewpoints. The statement claims that no-one follows just one of these points of view, but instead follow a mixture of standard ethical views.

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        A number of ethical viewpoints would be impossible to follow consistently in certain circumstances due to internal paradoxes. For example, deontology outlines certain rights (such as the right not to be harmed in certain ways expressed by Kamm's Principle of Permissible Harm). Consider a case where someone has maliciously sent a trolley hurtling towards 5 innocent and immobile people at the end of a track. The only way to stop the trolley and save the 5 is to throw 1 innocent bystander in front of the trolley. If the 5 are killed, this would constitute 5 violations of the PPH. ...

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