It is very common for every human being to put into considerations certain conventions that would otherwise be referred to as standards. The biggest question, however, is not them acting in such manners but why. It is in this regard therefore, that we explore the big question of the importance of ethics and all the ethical considerations that characterize the life of any human being. It is important that we get a clear understanding of what ethics means and embodies.
Various authors have extrapolated various standpoints as regards this issue and as such it has become quite difficult to arrive at a common point on what ethics is all about. One thing is however, clear that; ethics implies to a larger extent doing good for one’s sake and for the sake of others as well. It essentially involves acting in a moral way as regards the various concepts that constitute life such as evil and good, wrong and right, crime and justice and lastly vices and virtues among other things.
Classes of ethics
Owing to its vast nature, ethics is divided into various classes depending on the issue forming the subject matter. These classes include the descriptive, normative, applied and the meta-ethics aspects as well as the moral psychology bit. All these classifications help us to understand the application of ethics and the ramifications thereof that are witnessed in the event ethical considerations are not applied (Pojman & Fieser, 2011).
As such, these branches hold, in a greater way, various schools of thought and other relevant fields of study. Some of the greatest authors who have since made contribution to this vast topic are Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill through their literary texts. They have, obviously, extrapolated different viewpoints that have in the end given ethics a multi-faceted dimension in as far as its application is concerned. On a positive note, however, their various publications have helped the general masses to have a deeper insight into the ethical world like for instance, they have forged the three dominant traditions of ethical theory that we follow today namely; virtue theory, deontological ethics and utilitarianism.
These theories have helped to advance the essence of ethical practices in a broader way as they cut across all the aspects that would act to affect our rationality as human beings. It is a clear fact that these three theories of virtue, deontological and utilitarianism were results of the literary works of Aristotle, Kant and Mill respectively. Their timely differences notwithstanding, these theories have managed to extrapolate the ethical sense in a clearer way.
The virtue theory
The virtue theory has its very basic application in the ancient times considering its authors lived in a very old regime. However, it is important that we get to the basic lesson that is held by this theory. The virtue theory holds the view that the aspect of morality embodies the practice of acquiring excellent character traits which would lead to the creation of righteous people whose actions would be out of spontaneous goodness. Of importance to this theory is the fact that morality has an important link to the personality of an individual. Personality in this case would be interpreted to mean the basic purpose and function of a human being. It is in this regard therefore that true happiness is a pure cultivation of the rational component of our psyches (Peck, 1992).
Rationality on the other hand encompasses wisdom which does a lot in helping us to devise the best way to restrain and redirect our basic desires and appetites, such as pleasure, anger, and fear. Good traits and habits (otherwise known as virtues) are, therefore, borne out of proper application of our wisdom in response to our desires. A virtue, according to this theory, represents midpoints of extreme cases and curves its application from the doctrine of the mean which is also in itself a creation of Aristotle.
The deontological theories on the other hand, hold that certain features of moral actions themselves possess intrinsic value, and we intuitively recognize our duty to act morally. In this regard therefore, Kant puts to the fore the universal principle by which every individual is expected to act. In this case one is expected to assess the possibility of an action becoming moral by subjecting it to the test of time and conformity to the accepted standards in the society of origin. This can be achieved through taking a particular action, extrapolating it as a general maxim and checking its conformity to the accepted laws of nature. In the event there is an accepted conformity then the action is billed to be moral. Any contrary outcomes could be treated as presence of immorality in the action subjected to the test.
Lastly, there is the utilitarianism theory that is majorly accredited to Mill. Here, Mill argues that morally right actions are those that result into the best overall consequences. In this case, the actions do not possess intrinsic value and as such we are not bound by the instinctive moral duty as in the case of the deontological theory. This therefore means that the utilitarianism theory draws its efficiency from the end results of actions. This means that the center of value is the outcome or consequences of the act and as such positive outcomes represent right actions while negative results would represent ethically wrong actions. Thus, actions are deemed right or wrong based on the balance of pleasing and painful consequences that result. Our mental states are important in as far as the determination of the pleasures is concerned. This is in line with the fact that the mind has a stronger sensory sense than the body and as such would be a better benchmark in as far as the determination of pleasure is concerned.
All these literary texts and their respective propositions are conclusive but they are not entirely compatible. This can be said specifically of the issues touching on morality and its effect on ethics that have been extrapolated in various senses by Kant and Mill. The viewpoints of these two authors seem to clash in as far as the ideas are concerned. In Kant’s case for instance, the morality of an action is determined by comparing it to the accepted laws of nature that, in most cases, are universally accepted. However, for Mills case, the extent to which an action is moral depends entirely on an individual’s perceptions. This means that the morality of an action would be subjected to prejudice and personal bias as the determiner would make choices in line with his or her preferences. It is therefore very difficult for two different people to agree on an all-encompassing moral ground as concerns a particular action. In a far broader sense, there is every reason to believe that these three theories are interlinked in an intricate fashion and the end results is such that the issue of morality and its composition of ethics is discussed in a deeper sense.
McNickle D’Arcy’s text; The Surrounded, is a novel that portrays in its characters various ethical situations that they encounter in the development of the plot of the story (McNickle, 1978). For instance, Archilde is thrown into a difficult situation as regards his father’s out-of-order antics that have managed to paint him as a lazy person while he is actually not. In this case, the virtue theory is applicable in the sense that Archilde is forced to acquire the proper traits in order to chart his way against a backdrop of the father’s wild being. He is forced by the prevailing circumstances to be angry and a bit cold to his father and as search it is in the best concern of himself and his father as well. The deontological theories could have their application to this situation in the sense that Archilde is forced to pick the best alternative that not only conforms to the situation in an ethical sense, but also addresses the situation in an amicable manner. In the case of Eliot George’s text; Middlemarch, the pronouncements are even clearer and the characters are left to deal with the prevailing scenarios from an ethical sense in resolving particular thematic questions and events raised by the author in the course of developing the plot of the story. It is a novel that culminates into the liberalization of the women folk in a male dominated society. It explores in a clinical fashion the ethical issues that characterize the feminine and religious matters that took precedence during that time. In a particular context, it points out how one of the three heroine characters had to make ethical judgments in light of the hurdles posed by the patriarchal nature of the society.
All the three theories of ethics are clearly evident in these decision making processes that are aimed at fortifying the essence of women in a patriarchal society. The women, who are evidently the biggest beneficiaries of the ethical considerations and the consequences begetting their decisions in this novel, are favored by the existing situations and their ethically instigated decisions that help to create a gender balanced society.
It is clear from the stand points advanced by the various ethical theories that it is of importance to take into consideration the various situations that characterize the day to day actions of individuals as these situations determine a lot the end points of these actions and the ethical situations as well. And in a quick rejoinder, it is practically important that every person acts in the best ways possible to promote the various ethical standards expected of them. In so doing, ethically moral situations will be pushed into existence; a fact that would be of benefit to the whole population. This acts to confirm the relative importance of ethics in our day to day activities.