Ethical Theories Of Ethics: Utilitarian And Deontological Approaches

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When it comes to justifying what an individual perceives as moral, there are several different ethical theories that provide perspectives as to how situations are evaluated. These theories look at the consequences of the actions, what the agent’s intentions are, and whether the individual is being used as a means to end (May, 2014). Two of the founding theories of ethics are the utilitarian and deontological approaches which are demonstrated through the trolley scenario.
While the best option would be to divert to a track with no one tied to it, a utilitarian would pull the switch to lead the trolley down the track to where there was only one person. This is based on the basic principle of utilitarianism that the good of many outweighs the good for a single individual. As Beauchamp and Kahn (2014) explain, this theory believes that something is correct if “it leads to the greatest possible balance of good consequences or to the least possible balance of bad consequences in the world as a whole” (p. 13). By pulling the switch, the individual would be saving five people, which is greater than the loss of one person. Based on
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This theory acts under the assertion that individuals should only do things if they expect all individuals to make the same decision and perform the same action if presented with the same situation (Beauchamp & Kahn, 2014). Since either situation is morally wrong as they both will result in the loss of life, making a decision to change the course of the trolley would actually be more immoral because the individual would be consciously making the effort to change the trolley’s course. By taking no action they would not be responsible for the consequences of what happens, but by changing the trajectory of the trolley they would be acting against the principle of not killing an innocent person as they would have played a part in the individual’s
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