Utilitarianism for Making Ethical Business Judgments

Making ethical business decisions regarding right and wrong actions permeate daily life. Ethics considers all stages of businesses from acting appropriately as individuals, establishing responsible governments and organizations, and ensuring that the entire society becomes more principled. Therefore, ethics present a scope of standards for behavior that assists people to make suitable decisions concerning the way they are supposed to act in diverse circumstances.

This thesis discusses the reasons behind utilitarianism being the best theoretical approach for generating ethical business judgments when compared with Kantianism and prima facie deontology. Judgments about right and wrong actions are sometimes difficult to realize and might be associated with personal contexts (Gawronski & Beer, 2017).

When faced with a moral dilemma, individuals either judge such phenomena in line with pre-existing responsibilities (deontology) or mull over the impact of their actions (utilitarianism). People often make ethical business judgments either deontologically, consequentially, or both. It is reliant on the extent of the dilemma, in addition to personal differences and demands of the dealings.

The main contentious debate revolves around the scope of psychological practices that underpin every form of ethical judgment. Attributable to its sensitivity to moral implications of circumstances and problems, utilitarianism is the best theoretical structure for making ethical business judgments in opposition to Kantianism and prima facie deontology.

The major ethical theories that will underpin arguments in this paper are deontology and utilitarianism. In accordance with utilitarianism, the decisive aspect of assessing business actions is the well-being of society. Utilitarianism acts as the term for ethical practices that maintain that judgments should be evaluated anchored in their overall impact and benefits for the public (Zadroga, 2017). Nature has made mankind and businesses operate under the effects of either pain or pleasure. It is out of the two aspects that businesses and people decide what to do, in addition to determining the best approach. The possibility of being wrong or right and facets of causes and effects are fastened under the utilitarian approach.

The perspective of utility raises the foundation of felicity by underscoring implications of reason and law. Under the utilitarian approach, utility in business decisions necessitates the evaluation of all objects in terms of advantages, comfort, benefits, pleasure, satisfaction, or happiness they give. All these are inclined to the prevention of the occurrence of pain, anguish, unhappiness, or harm to the player whose interests are considered.

If such a party is the organization, then the happiness of all employees, other stakeholders, and overall success are taken into consideration. A business/organization represents an entity that comprises individuals who are deemed to constitute it as stakeholders. The interests of a business, therefore, imply overall concerns of the members who form it. For actions that are suitable to the principle of utility, a person may evaluate their gains or disadvantages to know the ones that should be practiced and others that should not.

According to the utilitarian perspective, ethics may be explained by the count of benefits since the determination of the greatest pleasure may be explicated in quantitative expressions (Zadroga, 2017). Happiness is entrenched in the utmost pleasure for a high number of people.

Sir William David Ross proposed that people may know through intuition that they have a set of essential duties that he referred to as prima facie tasks. Therefore, prima facie deontology affirms that business judgments and practices should be based on instinct instead of the notion of overall happiness advocated in utilitarianism. Ethical decisions under the prima facie approach should be followed except in situations where they conflict with each other or where there are weighty compulsions in any condition (Scharding, 2019).

For example, being on time for work or appointment always acts as a prima facie duty and is generally obligatory. It is only in unusual instances that people are exempted from such an obligation. If an individual is almost late for work or appointment and comes across another who is at their mercy for medical aid, the obligation of getting to the prior engagement or job on time overrides the concern of helping the sick. Nonetheless, at such a point the person is faced with a more pressing task of helping the wounded individual.

Prima facie deontology resolves numerous challenges linked to the consequentiality in ethical theories such as the utilitarian approach. In line with prima facie deontology, every person’s obligations are non-negotiable and one cannot get rid of them. Different forms of indisputable rights generate the foundation of underlying obligations. Rights, responsibilities, and integrity are perceptions that cannot be fully explained under consequentialism. In duty-anchored ethics, nevertheless, such aspects form the center of focus.

In line with this theory, an undertaking is morally approved if it honors a given compulsion (which is not reliant on the impact of the action). The theory offers some businesses or organizations the right to justice (Scharding, 2019). Unlike utilitarianism, prima facie deontology specifies activities that should be undertaken regardless of their effects. Therefore, legal rights should be valued and unfair activities are forbidden.

The fact that the impact of behavior does not establish its ethical aspect does not insinuate that prima facie deontologists do not consider possible consequences. Behaviors that infringe on ethical responsibilities are immoral devoid of any uncertainty. Nevertheless, operating in line with moral requirements does not inevitably signify that such behaviors are ethical. In a different sense, the impact of a certain behavior could be suitably factored into the undertaking itself.

Deontologists are not ethically bound to commit themselves to explicit, superior outcomes (Scharding, 2019). The connection of the task with underlying principles is fundamentally what establishes if the behavior is ethically right or wrong. According to prima facie deontologists, keeping promises is fundamental since it is an ethical responsibility, and is not determined by ensuing consequences.

Contrary to utilitarianism that is reliable in all situations, prima facie deontology presents an unfortunate evaluation on which to rely. It implies that actions mainly appear to be responsibilities that further assessment may disclose to be misleading. This discredits dependence on prima facie deontology as some of its principles may fail to articulate real facts under the utilitarian argument. Further worry may be exacerbated by the fact that its arguments do not underscore responsibilities of any form. Principles of prima facie deontology mainly articulate aspects or features of the occurrence that arises in support of or against, ethically speaking, what businesses have set to accomplish (Scharding, 2019).

The fact that a conduct does not fulfill a promise is deemed unethical while behaviors that promote utmost gain are supported under prima facie deontology. This approach is contentious as principles do not consistently depict moral reasoning either in favor of or against an action. Utilitarianism affirms that such a perspective is problematic since it is not systematic enough. Utilitarianism provides the best justification of the strength or a promise and the impact of an action.

Similar to the prima facie duty, Kantianism ethics are deontological and transpire entirely around responsibilities instead of sentiments or ultimate goals. All activities are undertaken in line with some basic principles or maxims that vary from each other. Kantian ethics emanated from enlightenment rationalism and are rooted in the standpoint that only the fundamentally right action is goodwill. Behaviors are considered worthwhile if their maxims, principles behind them, are in line with the moral law.

It is according to such principles that the moral value of any behavior is evaluated. Kantianism is a powerful theory since it asserts that pure interpretation rather than perception, conscience, or effects of the action establish moral actions (Forganni & Reed, 2019). Kantianism is not reliant on incidental occurrences but the nature of behavior (for instance, keeping promises or lying) to establish ethical business judgments. In Kantianism, all ethical decisions may be traced back to general regulations, the unconditional necessity.

While utilitarianism highlights utility, both prima facie deontology and Kantianism put emphasis on duty. Contrary to prima facie deontology, Kantian duty is not anchored in culture or obligation. It is a more profound nature of responsibility that is anchored in pure reason. Kantianism affirms that some behaviors and intentions are fundamentally incorrect. They are not wrong attributable to their generation of negative effects, but are simply erroneous (Forganni & Reed, 2019).

People’s conscience offers the perception that some behaviors are wrong (for example, bribery or corruption), and Kantianism elucidates principles that generate such intuitions. In business situations, utilitarianism affirms that judgments regarding organizational operations are proper if they result in happiness or benefit for a high number of people. Utilitarianism is the most broadly utilized and vastly understood ethical theory.

Utilitarianism disagrees with deontological approaches because it does not consider that behaviors are intrinsically wrong. Consistent with utilitarianism, actions are deemed wrong if they result in negative effects. Utilitarianism centers exclusively on underlying effects while Kantianism argues that the moral value of a behavior lies in its motives. While utilitarianism employs people to uphold maximum happiness and pleasure, Kantianism believes that every individual has an intrinsic worth, which should not be utilized as just a means to an accomplishment.

For instance, it is wrong to enslave people even though doing so would develop maximum happiness and gains. Utilitarianism disagrees with consequentialism mainly because the theory asserts that it is good to employ people as agencies to an achievement in some situations. Kantianism is contrary to such arguments and considers that some rights ought to be respected even when they do not have evident utilitarian rationalization (Forganni & Reed, 2019).

Under Kantianism, there is an ethical duty to safeguard people’s rights even if their infringement would bring about immense benefits. It is a moral obligation to fulfill promises, respect human rights, and accomplish a person’s tasks all for one’s sake, not only for benefits or positive effects that might occur.

While utilitarianism affirms that ethical business decisions should be anchored in reasoning and generation of maximum benefits and happiness, Kantianism considers that morality is essential (not contingently rooted in desire) and that it usually necessitates triumphing over pleasures and benefits. Utilitarianism underscores effects, happiness, benefits, and reasoning to support such gains but Kantianism affirms that intention and responsibility are vital.

Utilitarianism has been established to be an excellent approach to the realization of ethical business judgments, particularly choices whose effects pertain to a huge number of individuals (Gawronski & Beer, 2017). This is partly because it promotes the weighing of numerous positive and negative impacts that follow one’s behavior or action. This is in line with the fact that some bad and good consequences will essentially be the outcome of all business decisions and the most favorable judgment will be the one whose gains outweigh underlying harm. Such a judgment helps businesses to realize the utmost profitability and overcome arising challenges.

The utilitarian approach generates the highest gains out of all ethical theories and minimizes harm to all the affected parties such as the government, companies, organizations, and the community.

Ethics present a range of standards for performance that assists people and businesses to make appropriate decisions concerning the way they ought to act in varied circumstances. When faced with a moral quandary, people either judge such experiences in line with pre-existing tasks (deontology) or reflect the impact of their behaviors (utilitarianism).

The main ethical theories that underline arguments in this thesis are deontology and utilitarianism. Prima facie deontology asserts that business decisions and practices should be anchored in perception instead of the idea of overall pleasure advocated in utilitarianism. Kantian ethics originated from enlightenment rationalism and are founded on the viewpoint that only the essentially right action is a good judgment. Thanks to its sensitivity to ethical implications of situations and setbacks, utilitarianism is the best theoretical formation for making ethical business decisions as opposed to Kantianism and prima facie deontology.


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Zadroga, A. (2017). The origin of moral norms in business ethics and marketing ethics: Personalism versus utilitarianism. Seminare. Poszukiwania Naukowe, 38(4), 95-101. Web.