Moral Theories

  1. According to each of the following three theories, explain what makes an action morally good: ethical egoism, utilitarianism, Kant’s means-ends principle. For each, describe a scenario in which the theory could be applied in order to help you make a decision about what to do (or how you could advise a friend) if confronted with a moral dilemma.

Module 3 essay tips:

1)     Organize essay by paragraphs (3, 4, or 5 paragraph essay)

3PP: 1PP each to define, discuss & apply, and analyze theory

4PP: 1PP to define and discuss each theory, 3 PPs to apply and analyze each

5PP: 1PP intro (define), 1PP each to discuss & apply, 1PP conclude (analyze)

2)     Use topic/transition sentences


– In this essay, I will explain three normative theories of ethics, apply each to evaluate a moral scenario, and analyze their effectiveness in justifying a moral decision.

– Our module materials cover three moral theories: ethical egoism, utilitarianism, and Kantian ethics.

– According to ethical egoism, the right action is the one that promotes the greater balance of good over evil for oneself.

– Utilitarianism tells us to maximize “utility.” This means that we should aim to bring about the greatest amount of happiness, or the least amount of suffering, for the greatest number.

– Kant’s means-ends principle says that we must always treat humans as valuable in themselves. In other words, we cannot use others as a means to an end that we desire.

– Ultimately, I find that (ethical egoism, utilitarianism, or Kant’s means-ends principle) is most effective at explaining my considered moral judgments.

3)     Define and explain each theory

Ethical egoism says…This means that… This should not be confused with…

Utilitarianism is the view that… In other words….

Kant’s means-ends principle tells us… This implies that…

4)     Discuss each theory by explaining how it can be applied to make a moral judgment in a scenario of your choice (might be good to use a different scenario for each)

A situation I found myself in was….

A friend asked my advice about…

One issue we confront as a society is….

(remember the style of reasons for each from the poll question last week)

5)     Offer your own thoughts about each of the three theories

Kant’s means-end principle best aligns with my ideas about moral responsibility because…

Ethical egoism is how I most often reason about morality because….

Utilitarianism is the most plausible theory because….

Types of reasons from the three theories as applied in the “poIl question” scenario:

I would want someone to save me/ I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t/ If I don’t and the child dies, my community would think I’m a horrible person

Reasons from: ethical egoism

The child has his whole life ahead of him to enjoy and bring positive things to the world/ If I don’t and the child dies, it will be a horrible time for my community/ The world is a better place when people know there are others looking out for them and their children

Reasons from: utilitarianism

I must do it; it is the right thing/ This child is a human being/ Someone must do it

Reasons from: Kantian ethics

(means-ends reasons will focus on the humanity of the individual/not using others/helping others because we have a duty to one another as fellow humans)




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