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Utilitarianism refers to the amoral philosophy that John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham have established and perfected in the real world. There are a number of types of utilitarianism. Still, essentially, the morality that is offered to the utilitarian approach means that there is no moral act that is perceived to be inherently wrong or right. Rather, the wrongfulness or correctness of a rule or act is a matter of general non-moral good that arises as a result of the effects of that rule or act (Moreland). In general, morality is dependent on the non-moral good provided by the laws and acts. The moral obligation is thus not inherent, nor instrumental. Therefore the principle developed for the utilitarian theory is that rules and actions are right to the degree when promoting the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
Utilitarianism is a simple theory and the results are easily applied. It quantifies the degree of wrong and right and it can lead to choice for actions or rule. However, the theory has been associated to many objections but it’s always advisable to choose actions with the greatest utility.
The major problem with utilitarianism is failing to clarify on prediction of the outcome of an action or a rule. Using this ethical theory, it is always difficult to determine people who will be affected. Judging an action before hand is therefore hard (Moreland). Similarly, the theory has been consistently failing in acknowledging individual rights. Additionally, calculations required to determine rightness is both time consuming and complicated.
Respect for persons means that the people are valued for being whom they are. This ethical theory is the overriding principle because it has close relationships with other ethical principles. Respect foe person contain two ethical principles that include one, people with decreased autonomy should be entitled to protection and second, people should be treated as autonomous agents.
Thus people are taken as the moral good in this ethical theory. In several research cases involving human subjects, respect for persons require that these subjects enter into research in a voluntary manner after acquiring adequate information.
The problem with this theory is that there come conditions and times when application of this principle is not apparent. For example, some setups may fail to exercise of such a principle. Let’s take the example of a prison; this principle would require prisoners not to be deprived of their right to participate in research voluntarily. However, given the conditions in the prison they may be coercion so as to engage in research activities.
Both of these theories lead to different conclusions in that the utilitarianism considers the morality of the action or rule before it happens. The outcome of the action is what determines the morality to be right or wrong. Respect to persons concludes that humans should be treated with autonomy and people are used similarly as good moral in utilitarianism.
I think the principle of respect to persons is the best because it should inform the subjects of research with adequate information before participating in the study (Charles et al, 17). Basically, the theory proves to be good as it looks to recruit participants in the study through voluntary participation.
As an engineer, it’s very important to be able to solve ethical conflicts. Engineers deals with many sensitive issues and should advance in the right direction. The engineers need to solve the ethical conflicts to find the most effective middle way.
Charles E.H.,Michael S. Michael Rabins. Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases. 2008.
Moreland J.P. Ethics Theories: Utilitarianism Vs Deontological Ethics.
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