Philosophical Theories of Ethics


Two British philosophers, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, developed utilitarianism as an ethical model in the early 1800’s. Utilitarianism is a consequence based theory, stating that the only real factor a person should consider when making a decision is the consequence of the action and the number of people positively affected. The right (or good) choice is the one that provides the best outcome for the majority of people. At the basic level, this theory has the decision maker focusing on the consequences of his decision, looking for the best solution for all affected parties. Human nature makes it difficult to determine what choice provides the most positive benefit. There is no universal scale with which to measure the utility of a decision with regard to its overall effects. It is easy for consequence-based decisions to become situational, with the decision maker rationalizing actions for a self-serving purpose. Focusing on the consequences of a decision first does not necessarily create situations that are conducive to choosing the most ethical path when the less ethical path can be reasoned to be the better choice in general.


Resnik (2010) notes that as a theory based in doing one’s duty, pluralism holds that decisions should be made out of a sense of duty to do the right thing. According to this ethical theory, as rational beings, humans are able to resist impulse and do the right thing absolutely, regardless of the consequences. The concept of duty within this theory is that of doing the right thing with the right attitude for the right reason. Proponents of this theory espouse that the duty to do the “right” thing is absolute, without exception, regardless of circumstance. This is where the opponents of this theory take issue. Nothing can be considered absolute in the arena of personal human interaction because of the innumerable variables involved. The models above illustrate the very basics of ethics and ethical theory.


Generally, justics is as fairness, which refers to the correlation between contribution and reward. However, fairness alone cannot define the term justice (according to R.A. ANISERE-HAMEED & F.M AJIDE) Ethics in accounting, there are also forms of justice, which includes equality (assumes that all people have equal worth), procedural justice (concerns with due process) and compensatory justics (addresses the loss from a wrongful act).
Theory of justice, which is based on the principles of distributive justics, it focuses on how fairly one’s decisions distribute benefits and burdens amongst members of the group. Unjust distribution of benefits and burdens is an unjust act and an unjust act is a morally wrong act. Hence, under this theory, an ethical decision is one that produces the fairest overall distribution of benefits and burdens.


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