Theories of Ethics And Decision Making


Morality and ethics are two words that are somehow interrelated. There exists a very slight difference between the two but they are so much interdependent. Morals can be defined as a code of conduct set by an individual to guide him in deciding what is right and what is wrong. Morals are influenced by a person’s way of life which is greatly impacted by a society, group,culture or religion. Ethics on the other hand is the science that tries to define or determine what is or can be considered wrong or right. Ethics can be considered as rules set by external sources while morals are somehow internal depending on a person’s principles. The similarity that exists between morality and ethics is the fact that both are determinants of what is right or wrong. For a person to make decisions he/she will require to consult the morals in him/her and ethics looked upon by the society then apply free will guided by the ethical theories.

It happened when I was in college. During the weekends we used to go to outings in certain club that was located outside the town where our school was. During these outings, we had tournaments in which we used to compete with other colleges around. It happened that on that one weekend I was too broke to afford the outing. After pleading with a classmate he agreed to loan me some money which I was to return the following weekend. We set out for the tournament. On our way there, just after we left our town – about one mile, we came across a scene of accident. It was a four seat car with three passengers.The car had overturned but everyone was alive. They however complained about minor pains and I could see injuries. Seeing this, my pals decided they would be ok and decided it was best we go. However, I felt like these guys needed help. What if the injuries and pains were fatal? What if they didn’t get help soon? What was I to do about my tournament and my team? I didn’t have money and the little I had was borrowed the probable decision was to go. The money I borrowed was for the tournament and my team not for strangers.

I decided to abandon my team and make sure those guys got means of transport to a medical facility. Naturally, my team mates left and I could tell they were not pleased with me. After a while we managed to get a lift and later gotto a bus stage where we got transport to hospital. The guys got attended to and the driver was confirmed to have been hurt badly, it was confirmed he had internal injuries and bleeding which the doctor said if he hadn’t received medical attention there was a high probability of death.

Later, I got back to school and received the news that my team had lost and had to skip some games since they didn’t have a full team. The blame was on.  This resulted to some sort of hostility though it went on for about two days. The guy needed his money sooner than agreed and this I figured was because I had let down the team. However, I felt good. Despite having lost the tournament and my friends. I felt good. Saving a life was way greater than any other thing.


Moral principles

There are a number of ethical theories that exist that are considered crucial in decision making when one faced by a hard decision especially if it impacts many. These ethical theories have placed forward a number of moral principles that influence decisions or rather, that bring about better judgment and When it comes to decision making, a person should be guided by a number of moral principles. These are: (Catherine Rainbow. 2002)


This is a principle in morality that provides that a person should do good or to the benefit of others more than to the benefit of themselves. It offers that when one faced with hard decisions or a dilemma he/she opts for the decision that will act in favor of others.

Least harm.

This principle is more like beneficience. However, this principle recommends that when making decisions a person goes for the decision that will cause little or no harm. One has to choose that which will result to pleasure of more people and harm to the lowestnumber people.

Respect for autonomy.

This principle states that one should reign over themselves in decisions by making decisions that apply their lives. It notes that a person will better understand his/her own life since its only them that walk in those shoes. Only a person will better know his emotions, body and preferences in lifestyle. It is good to respect their autonomy.


When an ethical theory is put to use, the decision reached should be fair to those involved. A decision is not supposed to be unfair to those involved unless it be in extenuating circumstances whereby a decision made should reflect to a similar case where such a decision turned to be the best though it was considered unfair.

Branches of ethics

Normative ethics

This is a section of ethical philosophy that promotes or provides formulation and determination of what is wrong and what is right. It  is charged with determining what should be done and what should not therefore producing rules or codes to live by. Normative ethics provide that for every action there are three things that come into play and consideration. Agent, the person performing the act, Act, the act itself and the consequences of the act.(Moral Philosophy. 2009).


This is an abstract branch of philosophy that tries to analyze what being right or wrong really is. Unlike normative ethics that seek to determine what should be considered right and what should be considered wrong, methaethics tries to establish what right or wrong really is. It is like a study of what morally right/wrong really is.

Applied ethics

Is a practical form of ethics that tries to apply normative ethics intopractical present situations therefore determining what is right to do and what is not at particular time or when such a question arises again. For example, in abortion, animal rights and punishment (Moral Philosophy, 2009).


Over time, philosophers have come up with a number of ethical theories that have been accepted as guides to decision making in respect to what is ethical or morally right or wrong. The theories seek to ensure that decisions made at a particular situation are the best.


This ethical theory give that a morally right decision or response is related to the outcome, or consequence, of the act. It aims is centered on producing the greatest good for the greatest number. It does not pay attention to justice, fairness or rights of some as long as the result is to the greater good of many and less pain or displeasure for a few.


Deontology theory is considers duties, rights and respects individuals.It is centered on rules, obligations and duties set as codes of conduct. It recommends that one sticks to his duties and responsibilities even though it might result to displeasure of some (NHS Scotland. 2015)

Virtue ethics

Virtue ethics emphasizes that actions and decisions be based on moral character, or virtues of the individual. These virtues include truth-telling, trustworthiness, honesty and kindness.  It means that a person of good character should do the right thing. The right thing determined by the virtues upheld by the individual or society.


Making decisions that are good or morally right is a great thing and makes us feel good at the end. Situations may be hard and almost any decision seemingly impossible since there seems to none that could be ok. Sometimes we have that decision that we see as right but then the consequences that we expect from that decision intimidate us. That calls for free will and application of this ethical theories in such dilemmas. Sometime we have to look down on our benefits and consider the greater good.

From that story above, I had the option of abandoning the victims of the accident. Still I had an obligation to my team and myself. But considering everything I figured life of these humans was greater than the games and their achievements. Used my free will, decided what to do even though the duties of that day were the tournament. Then I considered the greater good. I did what I believed was the right thing. The consequences were not bad. The criticism and unfriendliness for some days were not greater than a life of a human being.


Ethical theories are somehow complicated but when one considers everything in detail and as long us one is of good morals, has respect to humanity, authority and themselves then the process of decision making becomes real simple. Do right whenever can. Let free will, morals and ethics guide you.

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