ETHICS

Ethics relates to what is morally right or wrong (Velasquez, Thomson-Wadsworth, 2011). However, different schools of thought exist concerning ethics defined by their moral principles. This essay defines, compares and contrast Act-utilitarianism, Natural Law, and Divine command theory through examining the moral principles and arguments.

First, Act-utilitarianism can be defined as a school of thought that focuses on a person’s act to be right only if it produces as much happiness like any other act that the person would have done at that particular time (Barrow, 2015). Therefore, the right or wrong of an action is dependent on its consequential effect. Divine command theory on the other end is a meta-ethical theory that advances the argument that a morally good action is equivalent to a command by God (Hinman, 2012). Natural law is a tradition that views basic moral principles as objective and is based on nature rather than convention and, therefore, knowable to individuals through natural human reason (Finnis, 2011).

The three schools of thought differ in the sense that, Act-utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of an act to define what is morally right (Barrow, 2015); Natural law is divine providence that enables understanding of right and wrong (Finnis, 2011). Divine command theory asserts a good is because God commands it, and a wrong is because God forbids it (Hinman, 2012).

Similarities can be seen among these schools of thought in that Divine Command Theory involves the whim of God just like Natural Law Theory, which has divine providence resulting from God’s will.  Act-utilitarianism justifies right by a greater good to the society (Barrow, 2015). This is much akin to Divine command that links good acts to God’s whims (Velasquez, Thomson-Wadsworth, 2011.

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