Free «Utilitarianism and Universal Ethics» Essay

Utilitarianism and Universal Ethics


Luke works for ABC Company. Recently he has received access to the information about further plans of the company, concerning the land where his brother Owen lives. ABC Company management intends to build an adult entertainment retail store that would lead to the significant devaluation of the local property. This collapse in neighboring property prices will inevitably happen after the public announcement of the deal. This event is scheduled in a month.


The ethical issue is in the following dilemma: should Luke disclose confidential information or should he keep the details in secret. The necessity to choose between two virtues, such as integrity and allegiance, makes the above-mentioned issue ethical. Luke has to make a choice between being sincere to his brother or being a reliable employee who observes the charter of the ABC Company.

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In his reflections and actions, Luke can be motivated by two basic ethical approaches, such as utilitarianism and universal ethics.

The Major Principles of Utilitarianism and Universal ethics

Utilitarianism and universal ethics are truly considered to be major philosophies of ethics.

Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a key perspective on ethics that “emphasizes not rules but results” (Mayer, Warner, Siedel, & Lieberman, 2013, p. 5). John Stuart Mill, famous for his works “On Liberty” and “Utilitarianism”, and Jeremy Bentham are the founders of this approach. The result of an action or a set of actions is defined and evaluated, considering the sum of received benefits for a majority of stakeholders. Utilitarianism is a model for policymakers’ search for the greatest benefit for community. The major principles of utilitarianism can be successfully implied both by individuals and by corporations. According to Bentham, who is often considered the founder of utilitarianism, the final decision should be made after proper regarding all the variants and evaluating total advantages and drawbacks of the issue. As a result, the most favorable action is to be chosen. Therefore, “the utilitarian principle holds that an action is right, if and only if the sum of utilities produced by that action is greater than the sum of utilities from any other possible act”(Mayer et al., 2013, p. 31). Utilitarianism is widely implemented in the US legislation and commerce. In fact, utilitarianism is involved in “cost-benefit analysis in administrative and regulatory rules and calculations, environmental impact studies, the majority vote, product comparisons for consumer information, marketing studies, tax laws, and strategic planning” (Mayer et al., 2013, p. 31).  

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In Luke’s case, the first thing to do is to determine and evaluate the sum of total utilities. Owen is his close relative, and Luke really wants to help him. Nevertheless, the results of airing the secret commercial details may be drastic. The news would be known to the certain range of people, the panic begins, locals would start selling their lands, negative gossips would appear. Totally, these consequences of Luke’s action can destroy his employer’s business project and fail the deal, as a result. This fact may lead to layoff of ABC Company’s staff because of the project failure. Numerous people can become unemployed. In its turn, this may lead to increase of criminal rates in the area and numerous afflictions. Luke’s rash actions and disclosing confidential information are not reduced to loss of ABC Company’s profit. Totally, it can lead to numerous negative consequences, crossing the only advantage of saving Luke’s brother money. Therefore, according to utilitarian conception, disclosing confidential information about building  an adult entertainment retail store is unacceptable.

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Universal ethics. The ideas of Universal Ethics are presented in the works of Immanuel Kant who proclaimed that “a moral intent and following the right rules ...a better path to ethical conduct than achieving the right results” (Mayer et al., 2013, p. 32). Kant regarded duties in his philosophy. He argued that all people are equal and they have universal duties. In fact, the main idea of universalizing is equality, despite difference in physical features, social and economic level, sex, nationality, age and other peculiarities. Therefore, people are equal before the law, as human beings are equal before God. The major categories of Universal Ethics are consistency and reversibility (Mayer et al., 2013, p. 31). So, following the Universal Ethics principles, the principle of precedent is involved: if Luke can disclose confidential information to his brother, then all the staff of ABC Company can air confidential details to their relatives. This rule must be served without any exceptions. On the other hand, this lack of flexibility is the gross drawback of universal approach in ethics. 

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In the above-mentioned Luke’s case, the man has to make a difficult ethical decision. He wants to help his brother Owen and feels strong moral necessity to warn him about the future decrease of local property. Nevertheless, Luke is ethically obliged to observe ABC Company’s interests.


Regarding Luke’s case, main ideas of Utilitarianism and Universal Ethics can be employed. The top question in utilitarian philosophy is the following one: which action among numerous options is the most beneficial for the community. According to it, Luke is forbidden to air commercial information to any person, because the results of that action can lead to extremely negative consequences, crossing the good purpose. According to Universal Ethics, Luke should follow moral rules and help his relative Owen.  This approach proves to be diametrically opposite to the philosophy of utilitarianism. In fact, Luke is expected to find such a solution that would meet both utilitarian and universal requirements. Perhaps, he could tell his brother that the issue is in the field of his professional activity and he has not right to disclose any details concerning his project. Acting in such a way, Luke would not violate his employer’s interests and harm his or her business. Utilitarian principles do not forbid Luke to give his brother advice to sell the land as soon as possible. Luke’s relative had intentions to sell it. Luke can accelerate the process, inventing any plausible reason. Therefore, Luke would follow major ethical principles of both utilitarianism and universal ethics and solve the problem.

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