Utilitarianism- Ethical Theory

Added on - 16 Sep 2019

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UtilitarianismUtilitarianism is that ethical theory whichquantitatively assesses the utility or the overall well-being achieved by the society as a whole in order to decide if an act should be classified asethical or otherwise. If an act helps to achieve the best for the most number of people, it surelywill qualify as an ethical act. Thus, utilitarianism would employ happiness as a standard againstwhich to measure the degree of morality or otherwise of one’s actions.When assessing actions,one must consider their effects for not just ourselves but even for others. Everyone’s happinessor unhappiness will be given equal degree of importance even if utilitarianism focuses onmaximizing the good and minimizing the bad. To begin with, humans are not influenced just byhappiness or pain; a lot of other things matter and have an influence on people.Utilitarianismcomes across as a precise, straight, and direct ethical theory. When one is in dilemma as to howto conduct oneself or respond to a given situation, utilitarianism guides us to assess theconsequences of each of the various actions we could potentially take.“The Parable of the Sadhu”concerns an essentially naked Sadhu in a situation of distress anddemonstrates what is right in ensuring the survival of the sadhu.It is a real-life experience of McCoy and his hikers. They came across a Sadhu throughout the 60days trip to Himalaya.An Indian Sadhu, a Hypothermia patient, was shivering in the snow. A New Zealanderdiscovered him in that state. Although each group member discharged their duty of care towards
the Sadhu, no one took personal responsibility for the Sadhu’s well-being. Since this happened inHimalaya, where there are resources are a constraint, the group members had a dilemma -whether to spend their efforts on the Sadhu’s survival or to save their energy to be able tosuccessfully climb the Himalaya. Each hiker was alright doing their bit to help the Sadhu as longas it did not become grossly inconvenient but they were not that organized to assume absoluteresponsibility for someone’s life. As stated, many people supported the Sadhu in a variety ofways. For instance, the New Zealander carried him down the snow line, McCoy read his pulseand administered him Hypothermia treatment, Stephen and the Swiss provided clothes, theSherpas carried him down to the sun and pointed out the hut, and Japanese people served himfood and water. Despite helping him, each one was averse to assuming complete responsibilitybecause their priority was to climb the mountain than to take the Sadhu to where others would beable to take care of him. They were aware that once they went down to the village, they mightnot be in a position to come back up and each group could only risk so much given that their ownsafety could be jeopardized. These moral issues cropped up once they found the Sadhu in thatstate. Everybody focused primarily on their objective of climbing before the ice melted insteadof helping someone who would be in a life versus death situation. This is a good instance of theethics of care given that it highlights moral responsibility of one individual towards another whois in the middle of a time-critical episode which shattered him. Stephen tried to lead but othersdid not, and this was because they did not share the same values and ethics. Differing values,ethics, or goals among group members can make a situation worse as could be seen in thisinstance. Ethical dilemma exists between individual ethics and group ethics. Though all did theirbit to take care of the Sadhu, Stephen detested McCoy’s action thinking that leaving the Sadhu tobe on his own violated ethics and that all shirked their duty. Such actions constitute a common
‘western’ approach to a problem – throw material wealth at it and forget it. McCoy, in a broadercontext, asked if organizations and institutions are prepared well to give appropriate response toethical problems? Companies must encourage questions, back individuals, and provide directionwhere needed in order to mix individuality with group success. A usage of ethics in workplace isalso relevant here in terms of how to arrive at consensus and to select a leader in crises. Going byapplication of rule-based theories, this case analyzes utilitarianism. Since no one was harmed,maximum benefits accrued to most and the Sadhu benefited too even if the final result was notfully satisfying.The case study on "Nestle and Advertising" revolves around Nestle Corporation, a companywhich saw its baby formula product being boycotted from ad campaigns in developing. Nestleexploited underserved and desperate mothers using promotional workers acting as "milk nurses"to influence mothers into feeding their babies by Nestle’s formula. Nestle, thus, contravenedWorld Health Organization's “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes”. Itformula involved risks from bottle feeding. The causes of deaths of the infants, however, relatenot to Nestle’s direct use but to its incorrect use. Few parents mixed the formula withcontaminated water, few others diluted their formula to ensure supplies remain, and othersreplaced breastfeeding with the formula. This formula must be in addition to breastfeeding andNestle never advertised that the formula should replace breastfeeding. Nestle was charged withunethical business practices for failure to educate customers about incorrect use of the formula,which could lead to “baby bottle disease”. Nestle took actions atypical of multinationalbehemonths. Nestle did something that each company would do to make profits and generate themost revenue but hid the drawbacks of the product. In my opinion, a company must educate