When attempting to resolve complex moral dilemmas, we need to be able to give good reasons to support the conclusions that we draw. It is not enough to say that something is wrong, we must show why it is wrong. A good way to provide good reasons is to apply a moral theory directly to a case and see what action the theory would prescribe, or see how the theory would evaluate an action that has already been performed. To do this well, one should spend some time justifying why we are using this theory instead of any other theory we may have chosen instead. To justify a theory, one needs to explain why this theory is the best way to resolve our contested moral issues. For example, “We should use X moral theory to resolve this issue because Y is the most important consideration when evaluating moral actions. Y is the most important consideration for reasons Z and A.”
Your task for this paper is to choose one moral theory from this list: utilitarianism, Kantianism, and virtue ethics, justify it, and apply it to the case study below to tell us what course of action the theory would recommend. After your analysis, reflect on your theory’s results – do you personally agree with the verdict? Why? Are there any important considerations ignored by your theory? If so, what are they? The Case: In a small farming community, a businessman and entrepreneur buys the biggest local pond in the region and sells rights to it to local farmers for irrigation and to the local town for residential water. He increases his profits this way and proceeds, over the years, to buy-up all the other ponds in the region. Since the area is very remote and completely dependent on the local water supply, the businessman then decides to increase the price of water-rights by fifteen times, which effectively makes water-rights too expensive for farmers and most residents of the region. Some of them have other places to go to find work, but most will wind-up in complete poverty or starvation with nowhere to turn. The Businessman is perfectly OK with this, as he wants to buy the bankrupt farmer’s land and use it for other business ventures. Nor does he care that this will be depopulating most of the community, as he plans on buying-up their lands as well and using those too. The businessman has done nothing illegal and feels that it is his right to do what he pleases with his own property. Is the businessman doing anything immoral in this case? Apply one moral theory to this case and determine if the businessman’s actions are morally acceptable. Your paper should be set up as follows: 1) Introduction – briefly and generally set up the discussion you intend to have within your essay Include a thesis statement telling your reader what you hope to show, or attempt to prove with your essay – “This essay will show that X moral theory says Y about the farmers actions, because they are Z and A.“ 2) Explain to us, in your own words, how the theory works Be sure to define key terms Make sure you present the theory in its strongest form 3) Apply the theory to the case of the Businessman Show the steps used to make the application (do not just say “the theory says X” – show how this conclusion is reached) – for the utilitarian, you must explain how utility is calculated (use Bentham, or Mill, or both) and apply this to the case, for Kantianism, you must apply the categorical imperatives, for virtue ethics, you must apply the doctrine of the mean. What answer does it give us? Why? 4) Discuss the implications of accepting this moral theory Do you agree with the theory’s results? Is this how we should make our moral decisions? What problems might arise in enacting this theory?