Ethical Theories Universal Ethics and Utilitarianism

EthicalTheories: Universal Ethics and Utilitarianism

EthicalTheories: Universal Ethics and Utilitarianism


Ethicaltheories are important tools that are used to resolve dilemmas. Inthe present memo, the theories of universal ethics and utilitarianismwill be used to resolve a dilemma involving the requirement to keepcompany’s secrets or assist a relative. The case involves Luke, whois a member of staff of ABC Company. Luke has been requested by thecompany to work in a given project that involves the establishment ofan entertainment retail store for adults. The project will beimplemented on a piece of land that was purchased recently.Unfortunately, Luke is aware of the fact that the price of land inthe neighborhood will decrease once the company announces its plan toestablish the store in the area. Luke, on the other hand, is awarethat his brother has found a buyer for his property, but wants towait for a better price. The main issue that Luke is contemplatingabout is whether he should preserve the company’s secrets or advicehis bother to sell the property since the price is likely to reducewithin the next one month.


Luke’scase is a dilemma of right versus right. There are two major facts inLuke’s case. First, Luke is expected to demonstrate loyalty to ABCCompany and its management by protecting its secrets. By informinghis brother about the retail project, Luke will have demonstrated thelack of loyalty. Secondly, Luke would be expected to be fair andhonest to his brother by furnishing him with the information thatcould protect him from the risk of losing money following the drasticdecrease in the price of properties in the region. The two facts arecontradicting because Luke can only maintain one of them at any giventime. Therefore, the dilemma involves a decision on whether Lukeshould be loyal to his employer or demonstrate honesty and fairnessto his brother.


Theutilitarianism theory provides a perspective that a moral decisionshould seek to maximize the net happiness of the majority of allthose who are affected by the actions of an individual (Choe &ampMin, 2011). The term “net” implies that a decision may have somenegative impacts, but its positive effects should be more thanundesirable outcomes. In the case of Luke, a decision to tell hisbrother about the retail project would only make one person happywhile offended the entire team of ABC’s management. This decisioncould also hurt Luke, in case the company decides to punish him. Thenet happiness of the first option would be considered as negativesince it would enhance happiness of one person at the expense of thewell-being of the majority. The second alternative, protection ofABC’s secret, would maximize the net happiness of the majority.Although this decision would hurt his brother, its net benefitexceeds the negative impact. Luke’s brother would suffer from afinancial loss by selling the property at a lower price at a laterdate since he will be denied the information about the retailproject. Therefore, the utilitarianism theory favors ABC over Luke’sbrother.

Thetheory of categorical imperative holds that the process ofdetermining the wrongness or the rightness of actions should beguided by unconditional or absolute requirements that can be obeyedunder any circumstance (Agbude, Ogunwede, Agbude, Wogu &ampNchekwube, 2015). The condition used to assess the morality of anaction should be considered as an end in itself. Therefore, it shouldbe free from any form of subjective opinion of the decision maker. Byapplying the assumptions of the categorical imperative, it would bemoral for Luke to protect the secrets of the company and demonstrateloyalty to his employer, instead of telling his brother about theanticipated retail store project. The same decision can be arrived atafter assessing the alternative courses of action using the principleof the categorical imperative. Luke should go for an alternative thatwould be right under all circumstances. In other words, the rightdecision should be considered to be moral irrespective of whether hisbrother is bound to suffer from the financial loss or not. Based onthis principle, it would be moral for Luke to show loyalty to ABC,irrespective of nature of the impact of the decision on his brother.The second alternative course of action, telling his bother about theproject, is conditional because it would not be necessary if thebrother is unlikely to encounter a financial loss. Therefore, thedecision to tell the brother is subjective and immoral.


Thismemo recommends that Luke should avoid informing his brother aboutthe retail project that ABC intends to launch. The two theories usedto analyze Luke’s case indicate that it would be more moral todemonstrate loyalty to the company than a brother. The Kant’stheory of categorical imperative indicates that Luke has a duty tomake a decision that would be appropriate under all circumstances.The protection of the company’s secrets is a rule that Luke wouldbe required to follow irrespective of whether his brother gains orloses money. Similarly, the utilitarianism perspective indicates thatprotecting the company secrets would maximize the well-being of themajority. Therefore, Luke should keep silent.


Ethicaltheories help decision makers in resolving the dilemmas. Somedecisions are hard to make without the application of these theories.The usefulness of the ethical theories is confirmed in Luke’s casewhere both choices are difficult, but it becomes easier to make achoice after applying the principles of ethical theories.


Agbude,G., Ogunwede, J., Agbude, J., Wogu, I. &amp Nchekwube, E. (2015).Kant’s categorical imperative and the business of profitmaximization: The quest for service paradigm. Technologyand Investment,6, 1-11.

Choe,S. &amp Min, K. (2011). Who makes utilitarian judgment? Theinfluences of emotions on utilitarian judgments. Judgmentand Decision Making,6 (7), 580-592.