When evaluating the theories of ethics, three theories surface as the most common and widely adopted. Utilitarianism, virtue ethics and deontological ethics share similarities and differences in how each interprets ethics and morality, occasionally seeing both as almost the same concept.
Utilitarianism is best summed up as providing the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people (Boylan, 2009, p. 153). This ethical theory has conflicting ethical and morality standards which are illustrated by the following example; a father stealing a loaf of bread from a grocery store to feed his three children would not be violating any standards under utilitarianism. Although the man is ethically wrong because he is stealing, he is morally right because he is providing for his family. A utilitarian would see that although the man has caused harm to one entity, the grocery store, he has helped three others at a minimum of harm. Unfortunately, not all theories are as forgiving as utilitarianism.
Virtue ethics adopts the view that you should strive for excellence in every facet of your life, both moral and nonmoral (Boylan, 2009, p. 133). As an example, a grocery store clerk who reports the father from the previous example to the police would be in violation of utilitarian ideology, but would find approval in virtue ethics. By reporting the father he is being an excellent employee to the grocery store and also improving society by reducing crime, passing the tests for both ethics and morality by virtue ethics standards. In the next example we will see how the same situation could unfold differently.
Using the previous two examples, utilitarianism and virtue ethics provided conflicting viewpoints on similar issues. Deontological ethics bases itself upon performing a duty because it itself is inherently right without any calculations or regard to the consequences of the action (Boylan, 2009, p. 171). According to the Stanford...