The three classical ethical theories that dominate western ethical thought include utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics (Mosser, 2013). Each of them offers a unique approach to interpreting and evaluating ethical decisions. Utilitarianism holds that an action can be considered ethical if its consequences produce the most good for the largest number of people influenced by this actions, thus stressing the importance of consequences in ethical evaluation. Deontology stresses that whether an action is ethical or not is determined by principles and moral reasoning that motivated certain decision. The action is ethical if it was performed out of ethical duties that correspond with ethical principles with no regard for consequences. Virtue ethics is an approach that stresses not the ethical nature of certain actions, but rather the development of virtuous character. Namely, it maintains that cultivating positive virtues and holding true to them when acting is crucial for developing moral character (Mizzoni, 2009). These are the most common ethical approaches. While there are some substantial differences between them, most people tend to rely on certain aspects of all of them when facing ethical decisions.
The recent ethical dilemma I faced was associated with my friend asking me to write a recommendation letter for her. She was applying to work as photographer and I was struggling whether to mention that she always misses deadlines. On the one hand, this was my good friend and I really wanted her to get the job. On the other hand, the recommendation letter prompt specifically asked to characterize the applicant’s time management skills. I did not want to lie, and decided that mentioning this would be the right thing. I did not perform a detailed ethical evaluating as recommended by experts of applied ethics (White, n.d.).
It did not feel good to write something that would reduce my friend’s chances of securing the position. However, I think I have done the right thing by being honest and not deceiving anyone. Despite my mentioning of this fact, she still got the job because of her skills. In the end, this decision benefited my friend as well, as her new employer knew what to expect, she was given tasks with more time available to make sure customers got the work on time.
- Mizzoni, J. (2009). Ethics: the Basics. John Wiley & Sons.
- Mosser, K. (2013). Ethics and social responsibility(2nd ed.) [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/
- White, T. (n.d.). Resolving an Ethical Dilemma. Retrieved from http://bourbon.usc.edu/engr102-f09/ethics.pdf