Fundamentals of Ethics

Fundamentals of ethics

Ethical theories and principles form the basis to ethical analysis. The theories provide the points of reference to obtain guidance when arriving at a decision. There are different theories and as would be expected, each theory tends to provide an emphasis on different points. Every theory hence provides some unique guidance in  trying to predict an outcome and what one’s duties to other people entails so that their behaviors can be considered to be ethical. An ethical theory can only be of use when it is considered with regard to a set of goals which is common. The common goals that are set to be achieved by a theory are known as ethical principles. Examples of goals in ethics are least harm, respecting justice and autonomy and beneficence. This paper reviews fundamental of ethics as discussed by Russ Shafer Landau.

In ethics, there are key ideologies that the human species adopts on a daily basis, more so when it comes to execution of daily activities. These ideologies including points like hedonism. The terminology “hedonism” refers to a principal ethic of maximizing pleasure through minimizing pain. It is a normative ethics theory, which cites that the right course of action can be both directly and indirectly responsible for maximization of utility. In other concepts definition, it can be viewed as reducing suffering through maximizing happiness. Therefore, it can be said to be a theory that mainly focuses on the outcome of a situation more so if it is of a happy nature, regardless of the choices one had to make to achieve it. This principal of ethic has many sub-concepts that fall under it, with one of the most important being utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is founded on the basis that an action is to be judged as moral or immoral based on its consequences. Thus, if an action has beneficial consequences, then such an action should be considered right and moral. For Utilitarian, the greatest good is considered as the greatest happiness. Happiness was equated to pleasure by Jeremy Bentham while he associated unhappiness with pain. Thus, a life of pleasure could be considered as a good life. John Stuart Mill dealt with the concern about different types of pleasures. Mills has a large following among utilitarians for his contention that happiness is to be equated to fulfillment which surpasses simple pleasure resulting in least unhappiness to people. Utilitarians do not support an action as being moral on account of maximizing happiness on an individual but rather it is when there is a great good for a whole society (Lindberg 31).

Under hedonism, there is also consequentialism which is very important topic in ethics. The terminology “consequentialism” refers to moral theories which advocate that the consequences of any action form the basis of the necessary moral judgment. Therefore, from this ethical point of view, a morally right action is perceived as one that in the long run produces a good outcome. A Good example of consequentialism would be found in the Kantianism theory. Kantian ethics are philosophies of Emmanuel Kant, a German philosopher. According to Kant, consequences of any action do not have a bearing in judging whether the action is moral or not. According to Kant, what matters is what motivates the taking of such an action. If actions are undertaken by a person who is driven by a sense of duty, whereby one does an act out of knowledge that it is right, then such an action should be considered as moral.

Kant states that out of the nature as human beings, it is possible to know what one’s duties are. Since human beings can reason based on logic, then there are rules which operate universally and which bind each and every person. Where a person fails to exercise this logic when making a decision then they become inconsistent and hence immoral for not allowing other people the level of freedom that a rational human being would wish. Justice as an ethical standard is concerned with protection of rights of individuals. Justice also entails ensuring that people do not have injustices visited upon them and that discrimination does not arise. Discrimination can be gleaned from a situation where people who have the same characteristics are given different treatments.

Looking at the best situation of incorporating the absolute moral rules as well as virtue ethics that are advocated for in hedonism and consequentialism, there would not be a better topic to discuss the same than abortion. This is because abortion is a very sensitive issue in the society that cuts across all fundamentals of ethics. Based on hedonism consideration, typical abortion is an immoral act as it does not confirm with various utilitarian ethics. According to utilitarianism, an action is considered moral or right if its consequences are good. In case of typical abortion, critics of utilitarianism would argue that one cannot predict the future implying that it is hard to determine the consequences. But utilitarians believe that it is one’s role to determine the decision that will most likely result to the best consequences out of the many available alternatives. Typical abortion as a result of wiling sex is likely to cause abortion just like the case of a rape. People who participate in this activity are aware of the risk associated with it but are motivated by the pressure of sexual satisfaction to both partner; in this case the sexual partners attain happiness. However, utilitarians consider an action moral only when it brings happiness to the whole society rather than individuals. Though utilitarians consider a life of pleasure as a good life, they are opposed to pleasure that would later lead to unhappiness. Therefore, typical abortion from willing sex is an immoral act according to utilitarians as the people involved deliberately ignore the consequences of the action.

On the other hand, Kantian ethics may not criticize abortion as a result of willing sex. Kantians position on the morality of an act is based by the duty rather than the consequences or end goals. In the case of willing sex, the people involved are motivated by pleasure or the desire to satisfy what they consider as their right in a relationship. Kantians place more emphasis on the motivating factor to an action when judging whether an action is right or wrong. Kantians believe on the duty that one is supposed o perform and failure to perform the duty is a display of inconsistency in doing what is right and may be judged as immoral. Based on this Kantian opinion, a man has the duty to have sex with his wife whenever he wants and the same case to the wife regardless of the consequences. A Kantian will therefore find it hard to judge abortion out of willing sex as immoral.

This paper would support the opinions of hedonism and consequentialism becasue; unborn babies are also human and deserve the right to be protected from any threat in life. When people have sexual without being concerned about the life of the baby in the womb, they fail to protect the life of the unborn baby as they are aware of the risk associated with such an act. The fact is that when having sexual, the people involved are only concerned with the pleasure and happiness they wish to have. Those are not the only consequences based on logic as abortion is also a consequence. Abortion is evil based on ethics and religion, if Jesus was not aborted why should people perform abortion? In addition, what happiness is associated with sexual satisfaction and loss of life? This paper considers abortion to bring unhappiness and can therefore never be judged as a moral act. Kantians views can be misleading in the society if they believe in duties that can lead to loss of life. Willing sex during abortion is not a right always because there will still be time for that after the baby is delivered. According to this paper, the most important thing is to protect the life of the unborn baby and sacrifice the pleasure and happiness of sex.