Phil-101, Dr. Kegley
Reflection Paper #1, “The Three Ethical or Systems of Morality”
We have discussed three major ethical or systems of morality; Ethical Egoism, utilitarianism, and Kantianism. The three systems go to different degrees in respect to the two ethical principles of autonomy and beneficence. Although quite different from each other in many ways some of them do share some common principles between them. In this paper I will discuss the similarities and differences of the three systems. We also watched the video case study “The Old Person’s Friend” which I will relate one of the theories that I believe best deals with this case. Ethical egoism is the system of morality that I have the most problem with or wish that it is used the least by others. The basic principle of Ethical Egoism are that all people should do whatever benefits them or act only in his or her own best interest. Although autonomy is an important aspect to ethical egoism it believes that beneficence is self-defeating. There are several justifications or arguments for ethical egoism (Moral Systems: Ethical Egoism PP). The first argument is “Each of us is intimately familiar with our own individual wants and needs. We can pursue these, but know very little about the interests of others and thus to act on their behalf may produce more harm than good”. The Second argument is “Looking out for “others” is an offensive intrusion into other people’s privacy. It is essentially a policy of “minding other people’s business”. The third argument is “To concern ourselves with others’ good is to degrade them and rob them of their dignity. It says they cannot care for self and lead to them becoming less self-reliant and dependent”. The fourth argument or justification for Ethical Egoism is a statement by Ayn Rand “One’s individual life is of ultimate value and thus ethical egoism takes seriously this reality”. In regards to beneficence Ethical Egoism believes that it is self-defeating but I believe it goes the farthest to respect an individual’s autonomy. I believe that a level of Ethical Egoism is the most selfish and self-centered system of the three and seems the most prevalent system that people use in their personal lives in relationship to others. It seems to be becoming a more of a “It’s all about me” world. Utilitarianism is the system that I find has the best potential for good in so far as it concerns itself with the greatest good for the greatest number, within the limits that it doesn’t infringe on the rights or happiness of the individual or minority group. I believe that it has the potential to do great harm or be abused if it were the prevalent system in use. On the outward appearance Utilitarianism could appear benevolent it its pursuit of the most happiness for the most number of people. The problem for me is when it argues that the ends justifying the means and the possibility of the violation of the autonomy or rights of the minority or individual in its equation and calculation of a moral decision. In evidence to my aversion to Utilitarianism is from our class discussion and review of the rape case (Elements pages 111 & 112) in were it would have been in the interest of achieving the greatest good for the greatest number of people to falsely accuse an innocent man of rape, as a case of the end justifying the means. I believe this philosophy has been used throughout history to justify terrible atrocities. I’m sure Hitler and the Nazi’s believed their ends justified their means and that the success of their “1000 year Reich” would have meant that the murder of millions of Jews and other unwanted persons in time would mean the greatest good for the greatest number. I don’t believe the system is evil in itself or even wrong. If used in the right situations and by the right people it has the potential to do the greatest good. As with any system though the biggest question for me is who, who decides?...
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