Three Main Theories of Ethics in Decision-Making

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 3
Words: 666
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Master

To understand ethical decision-making, it is significant to internalize that not every person settles on choices the same way, utilizing similar data or a choice guideline. It is well-known that four of the main ethical objectives incorporate beneficence, least harm, respect for autonomy, and justice (Zeni et al., 2016). The principles should be respected while discussing general theories of ethics and the purpose of this paper is to consider three of them, alongside describing their three unethical rationalizations.

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Utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics are the three competing approaches to ethical analysis. According to Udofia and Alexander (2017), utilitarian ethical theories depend on one’s capacity to anticipate the outcomes of an activity. In addition, the decision that yields the best advantage to the vast majority is the one that is morally right. There are two kinds of utilitarianism, the one of act and that one of rule.

The deontological class of ethical theories expresses that individuals ought to hold to their commitments and obligations when engaged in decision-making when morals are in play. This implies that an individual will follow their commitments to another individual or society in light of the fact that maintaining one’s obligation is what is considered morally right (Watters, 2019). For example, a deontologist will consistently stay faithful to his commitments to a companion and will keep the law. Finally, the virtue ethical theory judges an individual by his or her character instead of an activity that may go amiss from his or her typical behavior (Watters, 2019). It takes one’s morals, reputation, and inspiration into account when rating uncommon and sporadic conduct that is viewed as unethical.

Unethical Rationalizations

When facing an ethical dilemma, one is tempted with the idea of choosing not the solution that is ethical but the one that is most beneficial to an individual. For this purpose, unethical rationalizations are used to justify one’s immoral decisions. For instance, one may use rationalization based on the commonality of a specific behavior (Moutousi & May, 2018). Also known as the “golden rationalization,” it implies that an action should be justified by everyone doing it.

Another unethical rationalization may be based on the premise of the victim of an unethical solution not deserving the courtesy of an ethical choice. Known as Sicilian Ethics, the specified premise suggests that one’s actions can justify unethical or downright harmful behaviors. The identified frame of thinking is often used to justify violence against opponents, yet it ultimately fails from an ethical perspective. Finally, one should mention the unethical foil for decision-making based on the premise that a particular person or organization is far too important to be judged on the merits of its specific actions. Although being an evidently false excuse, the specified approach often works in the context of a heated debate, which is why it should be addressed properly. Due to the complexity of ethical decision-making, unethical rationalizations may occur even as a result of an ethical decision if strong emotions are involved.

The described ethical theories and unethical rationalizations have a range of issues in common. For example, all ethical theories are based on the necessity to promote justice and fairness. However, these theories differ in the principles based on which decisions are made, such as the consequences of actions and the existing moral standards. Likewise, the unethical rationalizations share the common goal, namely, the ultimate personal gain, whereas the reasoning behind them is what makes them separate. The theories in question are related directly to leadership since they define the decision-making process of a leader.

Making ethical decisions is central to effective leadership. However, while the existing ethical theories are very few, they offer a vast variety of options for making a choice, which makes the job of a leader rather challenging. Given the vast array of factors and the multitude of needs that have to be taken into account, a leader should select an appropriate strategy very carefully. Thus, unethical rationalizations can be avoided, whereas ethical solutions will be upheld.

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Moutousi, O., & May, D. (2018). How change-related unethical leadership triggers follower resistance to change: A theoretical account and conceptual model. Journal of Change Management, 18(2), 142-161. Web.

Udofia, D., & Alexander, C. (2017). Leadership in the health sector: A discourse of the leadership model of Utilitarianism. Online Journal of Health Ethics, 13(1), 6.

Watters, B. S. (2019). Leadership in the ‘Wicked’Problem of Bosnia’s civil war: A case study examining ethical decision making under duress. Leadership, 15(1), 3-26. Web.

Zeni, T. A., Buckley, M. R., Mumford, M. D., & Griffith, J. A. (2016). Making “sense” of ethical decision making. The Leadership Quarterly, 27(6), 838-855. Web.