Describe normative theories of ethics.

Distinguish between the consequentialist and
non-consequentialist normative theories.

Explore moral decision making in an organizational


Normative theories propose some principles for
distinguishing right actions from wrong actions.

Two kinds of theories:

Consequentialist theories

Nonconsequentialist theories


They determine what is right by weighing the ratio of
good to bad that an action will produce.

If the consequences are good then the act is right, if they
are bad then act is wrong.

Consequences for whom? Only for oneself? Or for
everyone affected?

The most important consequentialist theories are egoism
and utilitarianism, are distinguished by their different
answers to this question.

Egoism advocates individual self-interest. Utilitarianism
holds that one must take into account everyone affected
by the action.


Contend that right and wrong are determined by more
than the likely consequences of an action.

They believe that other factors are also relevant to the
moral assessment of an action.


Egoism is the consequentialist theory that an action is
right when it promotes the individual’s best interests.
Proponents of this theory base their alleged fact that
human beings are, by nature, selfish.

Egoism contends that an act is morally right if and only
if it best promotes an agent’s interests.

If an action will produce more good for the agent than
any alternative actions would, then that action is the
morally right one to perform


There are strong objections to egoism as an ethical doctrine:

Psychological egoism is not a sound theory: The egoism theory
contends that self-interest is the only thing that ever motivates

Ethical egoism is not really a moral theory at all: Misunderstands
the nature and point of morality. If our interests never come into
conflict then we would have no need for morality. It is difficult to
see how ethical egoism could perform this function

Ethical egoism ignores blatant wrongs:

The most common objection to egoism as an ethical doctrine
is that by reducing everything to the standard of best long-term
self-interest, too many immoral acts (murder, theft, discrimination,
false advertisement) become morally neutral.


Utilitarianism is the moral doctrine that we should always act to
produce the greatest possible balance of good over bad for
everyone affected by our actions.

By “good”, utilitarians understand happiness or pleasure.

When deciding which action will produce the greatest happiness
we must consider unhappiness or pain as well as happiness.

Actions affect people to different degrees.

Utilitarians evaluate actions according to their consequences,
and actions produce different results in different circumstances,
almost anything might be morally right in some particular

Utilitarians wish to maximize happiness not simply immediately
but in the long run as well.


Several features about utilitarianism make it appealing as a
standard for moral decisions in organizations.

By utilitarian standards, an organizational policy, decision or
action is good if it promotes the general welfare more than
any other alternative.

Utilitarianism provides an objective and attractive way of
resolving conflicts of self-interests.

Provides a flexible, result-oriented approach to moral decision


Kant theory is an important example of a purely
non-consequentialist approach to ethics.

Kant believed that moral reasoning is not based on factual
knowledge and that the results of our actions do not determine
whether they are right or wrong.

Good will is the only thing that is good in itself, Kant believed
that their goodness depends on the will that makes use of them.
By “will” Kant meant the uniquely human capacity to act from

Kant held that only when we act from duty does our action have
moral worth.


Kant’s categorical imperative states that
an action is morally right if and only if we
can will that the maxim (principle)
represented by our action be a universal

He believed that the categorical
imperative is binding on all rational
creatures, regardless of their specific goals
and regardless of the consequences.


In a moral discussion make sure participants agree
about the relevant facts .

Once there is general agreement on factual matters try
to spell out the moral principles to which different
people are appealing.

Despite disagreements on controversial theoretical
issues, people can make significant progress in
resolving practical moral problems through
open-minded and reflective discussion

One useful approach is to identify the obligations,
ideals and effect in a given situation and then to
determine where the emphasis should lie among these
different considerations.

Keep the following guidelines in mind when handling
cases of conflicting obligations, ideals, and effect:

When two or more moral obligations
conflict, choose the stronger one.

When two or more ideals conflict, or when
ideals conflict with obligations, honor the
more important one.

When rival actions will have different
results, choose the action that produces the
greater good or the lesser harm.

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