Ethical theories:


Ethical behavior is that behavior which is morally right and also that behavior which people accept as good behavior, traditionally philosophers came up with theories that help define and determine morally right behavior some of the traditional ethical theories include the virtue theory, the Kantian theory, the Deontological theory and the Utilitarianism theory, this theories depict morally right behavior and this paper discusses each theory regarding its relevance to the real world and also how these theories can be used to solve problems.

Ethical theories

The Virtue Theory

This theory focuses on the defined rules and laws that govern behavior, this theory lay emphasis on the processes of learning these rules and through this an individual will develop good behavior, individuals will learn through moral education which is acquired when an individuals still young. This theory is one of the oldest normative theories and can be dated back to the work of Plato who emphasized the four virtues which include courage, temperance, wisdom and justice, Plato also identified other important virtues that include generosity, good temper self respect and sincerity, this theory further emphasis on discouraging bad behavior such as injustice, insensitivity, cowardice and vanity.

Identifying Ethical Theories

The virtue theory analysis human behavior guidance regarding proper behavior, it accounts for moral good behavior for example people will learn from religious teachings the guidance of good behavior, the Christians learn from the Bible that one should not kill, one should not steal, you should not steal and many other teachings, this teachings are learnt when one is still young as stated by the virtue theory.

This theory may be used to solve problems in the workplace in that it gives guidelines to what can be termed as good behavior and bad behavior, for example when one is faced with a situation which requires that you give false statement in the workplace, then this guidelines from the virtue theory depict that you should not lie or give false statements because lies are shortlived while the truth will last for ever.

Kantian theory

This theory was developed by Kant Immanuel, this theory states that if an action is inconsistent with a persons status which is to be free and rational then the action is morally wrong, also he stated that an action that further the status of an individual in terms of his or her status of being free and rational then the action is morally right. Therefore according to the Kantian ethical theory an action that promotes an individuals freedom and rationality is morally right and that which tends to deteriorate or undermine his freedom and rationality is morally wrong.

This theory however does not demonstrate what guides moral behavior in our lives today, to some extent this theory guides moral behavior while to large extend it does have a basis of guiding behavior, for example individuals are rational and have the freedom in order to be morally right, a person will act according to his needs and be rational in all that his does which may result to immoral behavior.

Identifying Ethical Theories

This theory however can be used to solve problems in workplaces or in the individual level when faced with certain situations, the individual for example may be faced by a situation whereby he is has financial problems an at the same time he is entrusted with an organizations money, for him to be rational he has to be rational and this theory depicts that he must be rational and also have freedom, therefore the individual will embezzle this funds according to this theory while in the real world this is morally wrong.

Deontological theory

This theory depict that individuals have a duty to refrain from actions that this duty will be determined by the nature of the action itself, therefore individuals should perform their duties regardless of the consequences, individuals have a duty to refrain from bad behavior and the bad behavior will be determined by the nature of the action.

This theory depict real life situations whereby individuals will refrain from bad behavior as a duty they should undertake, when a person is faced with a situation in which he has an option whether to commit a morally wrong action and a morally write action then it is important that the individual realize that his duty is to refrain from bad behavior.

This theory can be applied to a situation in life where a person is faced with the option of doing wrong or right, according to this theory the individual has the duty to refrain from such bad behavior, and the individual should refrain from bad behavior regardless of the consequences of his actions.

Utilitarianism theory:

Identifying Ethical Theories

The Utilitarianism theory was developed by Bentham Jeremy, this theory states that the morally right actions are those that produce most happiness, therefore morally right actions are those actions maximize happiness and at the same time minimize pain, therefore individuals should always choose those actions that maximize their happiness and at the same time reduce pain in the cause of their action.

This theory is consistent with real life situations whereby this theory can be used to solve problem faced by individuals or in the workplace, it states that we must be rational in the actions we undertake, we maximize benefits and at the same time minimize the costs of actions, the benefits give us happiness while costs give us pain, therefore the individual when faced by certain problems whereby he requires to choose which action to undertake then he must analyze the benefits and the costs or consequences of such situations.

In the real world we have rules that govern behavior, when one breach these rules there are sanctions associated with this bad behavior, this sanctions therefore can be viewed as the pain according to this theory, the benefits are the positive sanctions such as rewards given as a result of good behavior or morally right behavior. This theory therefore is relevant in explaining the situation in the real world regarding morally right behavior.


All the above philosophical theories regarding ethical behavior are relevant in the real world and they can be used to solve situations which individuals face in their day to day life, morally right behavior is that behavior which maximizes happiness and minimizes cost according to the Utilitarianism theory, this view is also supported by the Kantian theory which states that morally right behavior is that which promotes rationality and freedom. We also have a duty to refrain

Identifying Ethical Theories

from morally wrong behavior as stated by the Deontological theory. All this theory are relevant in real life, they explain what shapes behavior and what controls the individual.


John Mackie (1977) Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, Penguin publishers, New York

Immanuel Kan (1985) Metaphysics of Morals, Penguin publishers, New York

Stephen Darwall (2002) Consequentialism, Blackwell publishers, Oxford

Samuel Scheffler (1994) A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Identifying Ethical Theories