Saturday, January 23, 2010

What is your favorite normative criterion?

This poll was motivated by a discussion in the comments on the previous poll, and my reading of Chapter 1 of the book Ethical Theory and Its Application to Business.

A big reason we disagree on policies is because we disagree on what we value. In technical lingo, people tend to use different normative criteria for making decisions (Theories of value are called normative; theories of fact or consequence are called positive).

But, that brings me to the poll question of the week:

What is your favorite normative criterion?

Utilitarianism. This criterion preaches that we should value the policies that promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In other words, if we could measure each person's happiness, utilitarianism would favor the policy that produces the maximum total happiness. There are modifications of this rule, but that description works for this poll (more info at Wikipedia).

Deontologism. This fancy word means that we should value duties in our interactions with each other, independent of the consequences of those actions. The favorite example is that if Billy meant to murder Jane, but he missed when he fired the gun, it's still wrong (even if Jane never finds out, and is never threatened by Billy again). If you like this criterion, you think that motives -- not consequences -- matter. Again, Wikipedia is a great resource.

Justice. This one is a bit tricky and convoluted because there are many theories of justice. Basically, someone who favors justice is someone who fairness. People who believe in justice often fall on opposite sides of the debate because there are many notions of justice. For example, people who believe in justice value one of the following (1) equality, (2) satisfying needs, (3) upholding individual rights, (4) rewarding individual effort, (5) rewording social contribution, and/or (6) rewarding on the basis of another sort of merit.

The Ethical Theory book has a prolonged discussion of moral rights at the end of that chapter, but it does not seem to me to be distinct from rights-based justice.

Please vote on the sidebar, vote early and often, and vote ethically. If this interests you, tell your friends too. The poll is open for a week. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say.

1 comment:

  1. Final Tally:

    10 said Utilitarianism
    5 said Deontology
    10 said Justice
    4 said Some Mix of these


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