At some point in our lives, we are all faced with a moral dilemma. Such situations demand our application of moral and ethical values. A moral choice is a decision that entails settling for one of the mutually exclusive alternatives based on what is perceived right. Notably, moral choices are in most cases the hardest to make as they not only have consequences for the individual but also other people around. More specifically, places of work, schools, in neighborhoods, and leadership positions all require an application of moral values.
My accountant colleague at work, Alex, was facing serious financial challenges in his family. To solve this, he decided to commit a financial statement fraud. With the increasing technology, Alex could alter figures such that in the event of an audit on the financial statement, he would not be caught. He managed to steal millions from this well-masked scheme. In my opinion, I know well that this will have adverse effects on our investors, creditors, and other employees. Thus, the right thing to do is to report the case to the management. Nonetheless, I am hesitant to report him as he is my long-time friend, and I would not want him to go to jail.
There are several frameworks of approaching moral dilemmas. Deontology is an ethical reasoning perspective that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of an action rather than the wrongness or correctness of the outcome or the virtue ethics of the actor. Deontology argues that the morality and propriety of a situation is determined by the action taken to achieve it. In other words, it focuses on the means rather than the end. In the scenario mentioned above, Alexs actions were for the good of his family. However, his means of acquiring the money was wrong. He committed a crime, hence his course is not justifiable. Often, deontologists pay focus on duty and ethics, thereby arguing that some actions are wrong despite having positive consequences.
One of the most significant strengths of deontology is that it advocates for human dignity. It focuses more on the motivation behind an action rather than the outcome. Wrong courses of action are dismissed, while just motives are embraced. Additionally, deontology creates guidelines for moral choices which are not affected by culture or time. Thus, a shift is made from the consequence to the action.
Consequentialism, on the other hand, argues that the outcomes of an action determine whether it is right or wrong. A move is ethically right as long as the consequence is positive. Consequentialism dismisses the effect that an act has on other people, and the actor makes choices to his advantage not putting into consideration the general welfare of the society. It fails to inform the individual acting on what is correct or wrong. Therefore, it focuses more on the end rather than the means. In the case scenario, despite Alex's actions being selfish and inconsiderate, they were meant for the good of his family; thus, they are worthwhile.
Markedly, consequentialism poses its unique strengths. It enables an individual access an outcome before embarking on a course. Hence, it is applicable in most moral dilemmas and conflicts. Consequentialists reason that actions do not last forever, instead consequences do. Therefore, they believe that a good outcome justifies the course. More specifically, they tend to judge actions by the greatest good for the bigger number.
In a nutshell, moral decision-making calls for individuals to abandon some of their beliefs and values and embrace others that are considered acceptable in the society. The morality of a decision is, however, influenced by the model chosen for making the decision. Notably, even though consequentialism and deontology have opposing perspectives, they all aim at stabilizing the society by ensuring that individuals take responsibility for their actions.
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