Moral theories are majorly concerned with the way of dealing with the questions regarding life; nature of good and bad, right or wrong. There are four major ethical theories whose orientations are different . Their contribution in human life cannot be taken for granted.
Firstly, there is the virtue ethics. Philosophers such as Plato, stoics and Aristotle, St.Thomas Aquinas among others, developed this theory. From their point of approach, culture is held to bear an upper hand and is the determining factor of what constitutes good or bad. It is a teliologist theory, which contends that the results of an action are very imperative in determining their worth. The theory also holds the view that our characters must be developed in a way that helps us to live good lives. They are not rule-based theories (Ridley, 1998). They do not hold that one must follow specific rules to be virtuous. It is therefore a particularistic theory.
Secondly, there is the Kantian theory, generally referred to us the deontology. This type of ethical theory opposes teleological theories. According to their view, the result of an action does not determine their moral worthiness. It is the intet behind the action that determines their moral worthiness (Slowther et al, 2004). The decision rule is therefore the intention of the individual in performing a certain activity. One must follow specific laid out rules in order to be moral. It is therefore a non-particularistic theory.
Thirdly, there is the utilitarianism. Jeremy Bentham first developed it. John Stuart Mill also propounded it. According to the view of the utilitarian’s, the actions are deemed good if the results are good. To them, what defines a good action is its ability to bring happiness. Happiness is equated to pleasure and is the decision rule. On the other hand, unhappiness is taken to be pain. The theory is also referred to as the ‘greatest happiness principle’. From this perspective, one should be able to create the greatest happiness for the masses(Ridley,1998). It is a particularistic theory by the fact that there are no rules to govern the actions. Different people attain happiness in different ways.
Fourthly, there is the contractarianism. It is also referred to as the ‘morals by agreement’. According to this theory, the idea of right or wrong is judged withiin a framework of social structures. For instance, the decision rule is based on the agreement of the people who are held by the stipulated rules. Sometimes, even if people are to agree whether a certain rule is right or wrong, it does not necessarily mean that it is so. There is no scientific proof that it is true. Thomas Hobbes, Locke among others, generally held this position (Ridley, 1998). Contractarianism is a particularistic theory that demands people to act in a specific way to attain harmony and minimize conflicts.
The best theory among the four is the Kantian theory. Firstly, according to the ideas held by utilitarian’s, happiness is morality, which might not hold in all situations. Sometimes one can harm others to be happy which does not portray the rationality in human beings. From contractarianists, it does not always hold that agreements between people will always be rational in nature. Therefore, virtue ethics is the best. People should build good characters that portray that they are rational beings. Virtue ethics holds that all actions of well-behaved people are moral, which is not always true. The best theory is the Kantian theory, which advocates for the use of rationality.
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