Everyday in our lives we are forced into making moral decisions about anything under the sun. There are situations that make such process difficult, and there are situations where the answer appears to be just right in front of our faces. I believe it would be difficult for anyone to decide on any ethical dilemma if he has no clear idea of morality.
Personally, I am aware that of at least two ethical principles that guide me in my everyday ethical decision-making. These are utilitarianism and Kantian moral philosophy. utilitarianism holds that a person’s action would be considered morally right if it tends to promote happiness for the greatest number of people. Thus, utilitarianism as a moral philosophy places emphasis on the consequences of human action, rather than on the motives behind such action (West).
On the other hand, Kantian moral philosophy, or more popularly known as the categorical imperative, is based on notions of obligation, necessity and reason. Kant believed that morality consists in the choosing and doing proper conduct, and the proper action is dictated solely by rational considerations. Thus, Kant holds that subjective considerations, including emotions, should not be considered in moral decision-making (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
I believe in both these theories and I use them both when I decide everyday ethical dilemmas. There are times when. I believe purely rational considerations should prevail, but there are times that I also consider subjective factors like emotions. I believe that both theories guide my actions and decisions, and both allow me to weigh various considerations in my mind.
Nevertheless, I believe that Kant’s method in determining the right conduct is a better decision-making process, because Kant provded clear criteria for choosing. Kant provided this rule, thus:
“So act, that the rule on which thou actest would admit of being adopted as a law by all rational beings. (Kant).”
This rule is easier to follow since it does not fluctuate depending on my mood or subjective predilection, which could change in any day. It serves as a “true north,” which teaches all men how to think and decide moral dilemmas.
One moral issue that deeply concerns me is euthanasia, or mercy killing. Euthanasia is defined as an act characterized by “the intentional ending of a patient’s life by a physician, usually by lethal injection (Religion Facts).” Euthanasia is always being raised as an option where a person is with a terminal illness and slim chances of recovering. It is an important issue for me because I could easily imagine myself in the position of the sick person’s family, and I could imagine subjective feelings that would dictate either euthanasia or maintaining life support. In these kinds of situations, utilitarianism could support either position, as the decision would depend on the consequences of an action. On the other hand, Kantian philosophy could provide a more definitive answer, but such answer would definitely not consider emotions, because these are subjective factors that are not based on reason.
Kant, I. The Metaphysics of Ethics. 1886.
MacDonald, Chris. “Moral Decision Making — An Analysis.” 2002. 14 Feb. 2008. <http://www.ethicsweb.ca/guide/moral-decision.html>.
Religion Facts. “Facts and Statistics on Euthanasia.” 14 Feb. 2008. ;http://www.religionfacts.com/euthanasia/stats.htm;.
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “The Categorical Imperative.” 2001. 14 Feb. 2008.;http://www.nd.edu/~rbarger/categorical-imperative.html;.
West, Henry R. “Utilitarianism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 14 Feb. 2008. ;http://www.utilitarianism.com/utilitarianism.html;.