Altruism and Ethical Principles

Altruismand Ethical Principles


Ethicaltheories form a framework that helps individuals form a basis formaking decisions that center on ethical behavior (Chonko, 2012).These principles represent the perspectives that individuals use asguides whenever they are faced with ethical dilemmas. Each theoryprescribes a different rule or decision-making pattern regarding theoutcome of his action or duty to others, in a bid to reach anethically correct choice. Thus, to a large extent, ethical theoriesare connected to altruism, which is perceivable as the depiction ofbehavior that reveals the desire to help others (Merriam Webster,2016). A discussion of the three major ethical perspectives –formalism, utilitarianism, and virtue – vis-à-vis their assertionof altruistic behavior as being a moral obligation is critical.

Thedeontological ethical perspective (formalism) asserts thatindividuals should adhere to their duties and responsibilities whenfaced with ethical dilemmas (Chonko, 2012). Thus, persons, accordingto this theory, are required to follow their obligations to societyor other people, because upholding their duties is what is deemedcorrect ethical behavior. For example, a deontologist will alwaysfollow the law and keep promises to a friend. Deontologists act veryconsistently because their decisions are premised on the principlesthat they set, personally.

Thesecond ethical perspective is utilitarianism. The utilitarian view ispremised on an individual`s capacity to predict the consequences ofhis actions (Chonko, 2012). A utilitarian believes that the mostethically correct action is the one that yields the greatest benefitto the majority of people. Two subcategories can be derived from thisethical standpoint: rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism. Actutilitarianism posits that the correct moral position is the one thatprofits the bigger portion of the populace, in spite of societalobligation or personal beliefs. Rule utilitarianism takes fairnessand the law into account. A rule utilitarian believes that he shouldact in a manner that benefits the most people, albeit in a way thatis fair and just.

Thethird ethical standpoint is Virtue. The virtue perspective focuses onthe character of a person as opposed to actions that deviate from hisusual behavior (Chonko, 2012). Issues such as an individual`sreputation, his morals, and motivation are put into account whenassessing a person`s unethical behavior. For instance, when a personplagiarizes another author`s work, and then a peer who knows thisindividual well notices it, the peer will judge the offenderdepending on his past actions.

Consideringthe above, all three ethical underpinnings posit that a person has anobligation to act in an altruistic manner. However, different pathsare used to reach the desired destination. The premises forwarded bythese perspectives emphasize that people`s motivation to act is basedon the ideas that particular sets of concepts advance. Thus,publicizing and celebrating altruistic acts would not have asubstantial effect on altruistic behavior, because people’sbehavior is largely dependent on the principles that theories theyresonate with advance.

Ina recap of the above discussion, ethical theories form a basis thatenables individuals to make choices that help them act in a mannerthat is considered moral. These theories depict people`s decisions asproducts of the underpinnings of particular sets of concepts. Thus,these concepts, by extension, obligate people to act in ways that arebeneficial to others. However, how other people benefit from theactions of an individual varies depending on the theoretical positionthat the person in question decides to adopt, as discussed above.


Chonko,L. (2012). ETHICAL THEORIES. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster.(2016). Definitionof 9 August 2016, from