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Utilitarianism vs Deontology

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What I have found to be most interesting about both Deontology and Utilitarianism isn’t their approach to ethics, but rather their end goal. Deontology promotes “good will” as the ultimate good; it claims that each and every person has duties to respect others. On the other hand, Utilitarianism seeks to maximize general happiness. While these may sound rather similar at first glance (both ethical theories essentially center around treating people better), a deeper look reveals different motivations entirely. Deontology focuses on respecting the autonomy and humanity of others, basically preaching equal opportunity. Utilitarianism does not specify any means by which to obtain happiness—happiness is its only mandate. While happiness sounds like a great end goal, it is a rather impractical one and the lack of consideration of motivations and means of utility-increasing actions has some serious negative consequences. I prefer Deontology over Utilitarianism for its focus on individual’s rights, opportunity, and personal autonomy.
Utilitarianism’s advocacy of happiness by any means is what concerns me about the theory. I believe that happiness is a great thing, but a thing that can only really come from inside an individual. In contrast, Deontology emphasizes a duty to respect other’s autonomy. I take this to mean that people are their own advocates—Deontology promotes fairness, justice, and equal opportunity at happiness rather than guaranteeing happiness itself. It isn’t society’s duty to ensure everyone’s happiness, but rather to ensure that all people are given the opportunity to be happy. This means doing away with excessive income gaps and creating opportunity for advancement in society or social mobility, bringing the...

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...on the other hand, seeks to promote happiness as an end in itself. Reasonable and moderate versions of both theories really warrant the same action in most cases; for example, giving to charity and avoiding unfairly produced goods. The differences in suggested action only emerge in a few unique situations; the real distinction is in the underlying beliefs supporting the two theories. Deontology promotes a fair opportunity at happiness and self-advocacy, whereas Utilitarianism’s objective is the promotion of happiness. While happiness is indeed a great thing, I worry that by only looking at the result of an action Utilitarian actions could far too easily infringe upon one’s right to self-determination. I prefer Deontology for this reason and for its objective of respecting human autonomy and mandate to treat humanity always as an end and not as a simple means.
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