1. There is very little evidence that taking
formal ethics classes makes one a more ethical person. Why then, should you
take an ethics course? Different ethical concepts, such as consequentialism,
deontology, and virtue ethics all have different ways of framing and
prioritizing ethical issues and, as a result, can come to three different
conclusions on what the right course of action should be with respect to any
given case. Understanding these differing ways to frame and articulate ethical
problems is an important step for helping understand moral disagreements.
2. Consequentialism argues that consequences are
the only ethically significant consideration and that each person should act to
make sure the best possible consequences for everyone. For a consequentialist,
whether an act is ethically right or not depends solely on the consequences of
the action1. Thus, neither principles nor intentions are directly
relevant in determining whether an act is ethically correct, though such things
may aid in determining what will have the best overall consequences2.
In an extreme form, consequentialism is commonly summarized in the saying,
“the end justifies the means,” meaning that if a goal is morally important
enough, any method of achieving it is acceptable.
Those who subscribe to deontological theories of morality stand in
opposition to consequentialists. Deontology consists of natural law theories,
social contract theories, and Kantian theories of ethics3. Deontological
theories judge the morality of choices by criteria different from the states of
affairs those choices bring about. One big advantage of deontology is that it
is often expressed in the form of prohibitions, and thus are relatively simple
Unlike deontologists who define virtue as a trait possessed by those who
fulfil their duties, virtue ethicists resist the attempt to define virtues in
terms of some other concept that is taken to be more fundamental. Virtue Ethics
focuses on the character of the moral agent5. For a virtue theorist
the intention of the moral agent will be important, but consequences,
principles, and duties may also be important depending on the situation6.
According to virtue ethics theories, an action is right if, and only if, it is
what a moral agent with a virtuous character would do in the circumstances7.
5. In conclusion, ethics are important not only
in the profession of arms but also in all aspects of life because it is a
critical part of the foundation on which civilized society is built. An
organization or society that lacks ethical principles is bound to fail
eventually. This is why it is important that we learn the different ethical
concepts and to help us better understand the moral disagreements.