Utilitarianism ethics and deontological ethics

8 August 2016

I am a person in the middle of the road between utilitarianism ethics and deontological ethics. Generally, the good is preferred than the right under utilitarianism theory while the right is more appreciated than the good under deontological ethics. But for me, the good and the right are equally important, and there is no preference between the two. Strictly speaking, it is also really hard to distinguish between the good and the right. Something may be good only when it is right while something may be right only when it is good.

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For example, the treatment plan for disease is good only when the patient uses the right medication in the right way, and the changing of tax code is right only when it is good for the public. People always have misconception about utilitarianism that they believe utilitarianism plays a significant role in causing moral thinking crisis for the society and unhappiness for individuals. I am not sure about utilitarianism’s role in moral thinking, but I believe it is not the one that always causes unhappiness, but the one that actually brings pleasure.

Many things may be right but painful to conduct. For example, if one is diagnosed with cancer, the right thing to do is to begin radiotherapy treatment, which is really painful for the patient. If he or she cannot stand the pain and suffer from the treatment, the ‘right’ decision made before become the reason of the pain. Then the patient may give out the treatment and seek what is really good for himself or herself, like going on a vacation trip or spending time with family and friends.

In conclusion, good or right, depends on different situations, and both should be taken into consideration when dealing with difficult situations. In addition, good for whom? Right for whom? Something may be right or good for you, but not for others. Something may be right but bad for you, but good and wrong for others. Things really become complex when it comes to philosophy because there is no definition for right and good at all. It all depends on different situations and individuals.

There is no big difference between the good and right, then there is no strict differentiations between utilitarianism ethics and deontological ethics. It is the attitude that matters. When we make a decision, we should consider the happiness of everyone as much as possible. With all the choices that are available, we should determine how these choices will affect people and figure out the consequences of each choice of each person, both positive and negative. Then we add those together to see the overall effect of each choice, and the one with largest positive effect is the right decision. If the consequences of the choices are uncertain, a weighted average method can be used to come up with the overall effect of each choice. However, this methodology is not applicable for some situations. For instance, assume you are a doctor in a hospital that accepts five patients from a car accident, four of them are terribly injured and each of them need organ transplantation immediately to live, while one of the five just has some flesh wound.

Will you kill the healthy one to get organs to save the rest four? The answer is no even the overall effect of this solution is most positive. Same thing for this example: if you stand on the railway platform and see the train is coming while there are still five ‘idiots’ walking on the railroad, will you push the fat person in front you to stop the train to save the five ‘idiots’ (assume the person is fat enough to stop the train) ? The answer is no because you will not sacrifice the life of an innocent person even the result is good for the majority.

There is no good or bad choice and no right or wrong decision. It all depends on different situations and different individuals. This the reason that I think that neither utilitarianism ethics nor deontological ethics can describe my thinking alone. Sometimes, utilitarianism ethics is in a leading position of my thinking and sometimes deontological ethics is the controller. In addition, it is always easier to say than to do, especially when facing a dilemma. No matter which ethics one hold, the attitude is the fundamental matter.

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