While we attempt to compare and contrast different theories of ethics, namely virtue theory, Utilitarianism, and Deontology, we find that all of them mainly elucidate how to decide what is right and what is not. The common message one incur from all these theories, is how to judge every aspect of life in context with morality and values. These theories first help an individual to decide on the right course of action for the present moment and then chart out a path for his future actions. They all uphold basic moral values and emphasize on being fair and responsible.
Virtue theory primarily concentrates on adhering to personal ethics and urges a person to perform his duties ethically and to acquire qualities that would earn him admiration from others. It concentrates more on toning a person’s morality and principles, so that he could be an ideal member of the group he belongs to. Utilitarianism on the other hand insists on performing actions or taking actions that would benefit more number of people. It advocates that a person should do what is required to help the majority of the community and he should put collective good in front of individual well being. Deontology places emphasis on doing what is right regardless of the consequences. According to this theory a person should do whatever is right according to him/her, without contemplating on the effects that action would have on the outcome of the situation.
Now let us try to understand all these theories in relation to real time scenarios. If I am well behaved and courageous and fulfill my duties to my peer group, then I would have led my life according to Virtue theory. If I stand up for the common good, say I donate blood or sign up for organ donation, then I would have exhibited ethical behavior according to Utilitarianism. When I become a parent, if I fulfill my basic duties of taking care and providing for my children, even if it means I am forfeiting a lucrative outcome (like increased personal savings), then I would have followed the ethical theory of Deontology.
Ethics is basically distinguishing right from wrong and each of this theory in their own way attempt to point us in the right direction. At the end of the day it is up to the individual to decide the right path for him by weighing out his various priorities and duties.
(February 11, 2013). Moral theories. Retrieved from http://sevenpillarsinstitute.org/morality-101/moral-traditions
The Wikipedia. (March 22, 2013). Virtue Ethics. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue_ethics