Generally, ethics are guardrails that define the operations of a particular context. It applies to every aspect of life and varies in application and expressions of which births various types and forms. It helps to put situations and living arrangements or consequences in their proper context. Utilitarianism and Deontology are types of ethics (philosophical) that are opposite to each other in nature and apply in separate contextualities.
In my own words, Utilitarianism is result-based ethics that ultimately focuses on the happiness and final satisfaction of a whole process. It cares less about how a thing is done or the processes that lead to a thing or an event. It places its searchlight on the end product, how happy it finally turns out to be. It gives suspense by putting every phenomenon on hold and focuses them on what is to come as a result of what has been done. So no matter the effort placed on preparation or planning, it is considered worthless if the outcome is not joyous. This context is applied to the benefits of the outcome being relevant to the majority, i.e., if it goes well with the intents of the majority, or if the majority is happy. It is consequential in nature and always looking for the end product no matter how right or wrong the process is.
Deontology on the other hand values process than the result. It is principled and duty-based in nature. It prefers the step by step process of a thing or an event, to the outcome, I.e. the duties and obligations done must be intact. It doesn’t care about how good or bad the result is, what it cares about is the transparency and rightness of an obligatory process. It uses non – consequential approach to issues and applies in specific contexts. It deals with morality – Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804), a German philosopher believed in the principle that undergirds this ethics.
He believed in the positivity of a process that leads to action even if the action is bad or good. To him, if the duties and obligations are intact then the result should be questioned. Personally, I use to be a fan of Kant’s theory of deontology but having read both ethics, I understood and saw the bigger picture and how they are individually applied. Kant believes it’s wrong to do an immoral thing even if it leads to a positive outcome. Right there the wrong process has messed up the good result.
For instance, it’s wrong to steal just because you want to feed some homeless orphans, what is seen is the meal the orphans ate and how happy they are, but no one cares about the owner of the stolen goods, how demoralized he/she might be at the moment or better still, it is said that it’s wrong to tell a lie to save a person from death traps.
However, this concept of thought does not apply to the utilitarian as they believe the life of the person is more important than the lie that was told. If both instances used above are being reviewed, one will notice the degree of certainty of the former than the latter. The former applies and fits into a certain context than the meaning projected by the latter. It shows the uniqueness of both theories. Kant’s philosophy of deontological ethics fixes a rigid rule of operation which does not give resiliency to its mode of application. It gives this ‘once it is said, that’s how it should be’ attitude by confining the applicants into a certain box of moral operation.
In a religious setting, Kant’s theory is very crucial and is a must to be applied. You definitely cannot judge rightly in matters that touch the divine without going through the proper process before an action. This is because the divine is made up of principles and laws which are visibly seen in Bibles, Qurans, and other religious books – they all contain principles of how to live and exist accurately in different contexts. The Bible recorded many instances where principles are strictly applied and must be strictly followed so as not to face repercussions.
On the other hand, Utilitarianism emphasizes on the outcome itself. It gives this “let’s enjoy the result, who cares about how it came” attitude. The military uses this approach a lot. A lot of dirty stuff can be done underground which the secret service may or might not let out; the result is enjoyed, but the process of getting it might be morally wrong. Situations can arise where a whole town can be wiped out, or an entire building which houses a notorious terrorist alongside other innocent people can be blown off, now the culprit is dead alongside other innocent lives. There is going to be jubilation because a mission has been accomplished. (Note: These are applied cases).
A context where utilitarianism is applied is a stark, precise opposite of a context which applies Kant’s theory of Deontology. Both are mutually exclusive, and they do not go hand in hand. Whether good or bad, utilitarianism is accepted as far as the end product is good and applies to the majority. The issue of the majority is also critical in the sense that as far as a large number of people accept the result, then it goes with the utilitarian. But in some instances, the utilitarian theory can be proved wrong. Instances whereby three patients are suffering from some incurable diseases in some of their organs – a patient suffers from kidney disease, another patient is suffering from a liver disease while the third is suffering from yet another kidney problem, and a patient with a fully functional body system walks in with a little issue that has to do with old age. Will it be said that the patient with a fully functional system should deposit all he has for the majority who have issues?
Looking at this situation critically, I could see where the fault lies. Specific settings do not fit into these theories. Now, these theories have been reviewed, but if I’m being told to choose or select which is better, to be sincere, I will choose neither but instead ask for a setting or a context to be spelled out first before accepting any. I do not want to sound biased but be constructive in thinking. I started the third paragraph with my past mindset, but now I think I know better.