The paper will be predominantly focused on justifying the deontological approach as a preferable and well-suited principle that appealing substantially to the ethical problems of ethical consumerism or ethical consumption, as it stresses on unbiasness as it considers altruism and its welfare. This is a doctrine that offers a deeper insight into the canons of ethics regarding ethical consumerism or consumption as compared to the other approach utilitarian approach. The paper is segmented into four sections. The first section will be a brief introduction to ethical consumption. The second section will introduce the deontology approach. The third section is the reasons made for why to choose deontology as opposed to utilitarian. The last section is the conclusion. The framework is described below.
The paper begins by declaring a thesis statement that is focused on choosing a deontology approach as opposed to utilitarian philosophy as the paper. It will progress by reviewing the deontology philosophy in an overview. This is significant to get an understanding of what the philosophy necessitates and its implications and its relevant role towards ethical consumption frameworks. It has also evaluated some strategic points on why deontology is the best-suited philosophy that appeals substantially to the ethical problems of ethical consumerism or ethical consumption based on the rationale of scenarios that have taken place. This will build the foundation of my support and claim for the deontology approach. It is also critical to evaluate the counter-arguments of ethical consumerism, expressing consequentialist divergent view backed by a practical approach.
Ethical consumption is made up of two keywords that include ethics and consumption. Ethics are procedural conduct. Consumption has been defined by Barrow (75) as the procedures whereby agents engross in annexation, whether for utilitarian, introspective, or symbolic intents, of ambiance, services, information, performances, commodities, services over which agent has a degree of choice, preference or discretion. From this contextual concept, consumption is regarded as an instance in virtually every conduct or practice and not the mere perception of just practice.
Ethical consumption will, therefore, infer to an assortment of stratagems, policies, and debate where consumption is an intermediary for political and moral action and not an element, aspect, or entity of moral examination. This is the prevailing sense in the context of fair trade campaigns, corporate social responsibility initiatives, ethical audits, and consumer boycotts.
The deontological approach has risen as a powerful notion in the context of moral philosophy that has been viewed as an unconventional concept to the consequentialist or utilitarian code of beliefs. “Actions will tend to be right in proportion to the way they will endorse happiness, immoral if they yield the antithesis of happiness.” − is how Barrow (77) distinctively approached utilitarianism theory. Kent (32) exemplified the deontology concept as “morality is the basis of moral obligations”. He asserts (35) that every individual has moral obligations to undertake what is right to do and not to carry out what is immoral or wrong to do. What is right or wrong doesn’t rely on the consequences or outcomes but depends on the actions that caused them to. This leads to the second notion embodied by deontologists whereby they approached deontology on two points of view by Tenenbaum (675) as universal obligations or broad-spectrum duties that mostly focused on embargoes such as do not steal, do not indulge in drugs, etc. and personal or specific duties which constitute the social relationships e.g. “I promise to pay you as.”
The deontology theory is a duty-based approach as it delineates moral deeds in proportion to the way it promotes favored intentions, such as happiness. With the publication of the theory of justice grounded on deontology by John Rawls, the moral philosophy has undergone vicissitudes as intend to establish a conventional approach towards the utilitarian framework about justice and ethics. He contended the teleological conceptual approach obscured that it is admissible to limit the moralities of an individual or exploit them in the name of general utilitarian benefit.
The philosophy disregards the peculiarity of individuals and rather represents them as a plurality of values as to what institutes moral grounds. This is known as universalism. This means that the syndicated decisions of the whole society were in correspondence and predisposed by individual choices. Rawls played a significant role in underlining the magnitude of unity encompassed to endeavor syndicated outcomes or choices and glowing the spotlight on a plurality of personal values and its ethical stand to ensure the meaning of communal right does not come at a cost of the rudimentary personal autonomies.
Deontological considerations of moral duties and their aspects are outlined in ethical consumerism. They frequently appeal exceedingly on the globalized disparities in the responsibilities or human accountability under the precautionary principle to care for the environment, animals, people, plants, or even imminent offsprings and cohorts. It should be eminent that the philosophies on employee’s rights or humanitarian rights are core for many ethical consumer activism and movements tend to sturdily be induced to deontology ideologies. The deontological dogma is deliberated as an opposite or pertinent to ethical consumerism evaluation, which is buoyed with pragmatic or experiential substantiation to propose that ethical consumption concept is fundamentally motivated and contrived by the sagacity of individual veracity.
The Reason for Supporting the Deontology as Opposed to Utilitarian Approach
Among the great flaws discovered with the consequentialist or utilitarian approach is their comprehension of moral cognitive and rationality as they infer a person or individual ought to act in a custom comprehensive to syndicated outcomes, but it overlooks what acting ethically means to others. This is contrary to deontologists who perceive that if everyone acted as altruists it would result in much worse and shoddier instead of better or improved. The altruists would implicate a copious level of self-sacrifice that would consequently mitigate the total happiness of an individual. Deontologists continue to point out that applying the utilitarian approach would mean being completely self-less, which would include acting against numerous intentions that we accustomed or obligated to when we exemplify care or concern, which is not affiliated to people but also the environment and its constituents (animals, vegetation, etc.).
This argument insinuates that altering other people’s consumerism practices is undoubtedly neither preeminently endeavored by merely appealing an individual sense of self-sacrifice or philanthropy nor by assuming it necessitates an extensive relinquishment of self-interest concerns. It should be understood most principles based on activism key for many ethical consumerism or consumption campaigns are drawn resiliently towards the deontological approach.
Since ethical consumerism addresses some aspects of deontological considerations on moral obligation as they vastly appeal to universalized concept of precautionary principle that is based on an individual’s moral obligation to concern others including future cohorts, the surroundings or environment, sentient creatures etc. a pragmatic approach and example of this statement can be observed through the deontological philosophy on global warming and they often argue on the subsequent outlines: they firstly recognize the contemporary energy consumption are catalyzing global warming with indefinite or anonymous but hypothetically catastrophic and cataclysmic outcomes on humanoid or anthropologic life support systems and on the second note the deontology believe that the contemporary society has a moral obligation to safeguard the next generations to acquire complete operational life-supporting systems which leads to the third point that the contemporary humans have moral obligation to ominously mitigate energy consumption.
Counter-arguments to Deontological Approach
A contemporary ideologist known for animal welfare activism, Peter Singer advocated for the consequentialist’s concept and utilitarian approach. His recognition is attributed to being divergent to the deontology perceptions intently defining ethics as a system of rules. He nominates the utilitarian approach as more pragmatic and logical as bestowed in Mulgan’s (366) publication since cognitive perception or reason of the outcome would entail judgments of the actions that tend to rely on the circumstantial factors.
Many utilitarian ideologies will more so often support many ethical consumerist activities and movements because they view the ethical procedures and final decision made through the logical algorithm as rudiments that include extensive research of information. Modern studies in the milieu of consumerism are founded on pragmatic approaches in proportion to the availability of information. The main objective outlined by consequentialists regarding consumerism is there is an analogous procedure to what is considered “good” and what ethical practices ought to encompass and challenging consumers to espouse the necessary demeanor and behavior towards the environment. An illustration to support consequentialism conception is the anti-sweatshops campaigns that have been carried out in universities and campuses that protest the product due to their production process since they have exploited women and children in producing their products and an example is Nike. This has been possible since the campaign has aimed to change the perspectives of individuals and society through the provision of knowledge of spatially distant milieu that has encouraged people to take accountability of the products as outcomes and accept their responsibilities. This indicates vibrant calculations undertaken and the pursuit of knowledge to reach a verdict on the outcome, which once again has epitomized ethical consumerism and consumer activism. The procedure has enabled consumers to be aware of the practices, and therefore the outcome as a dereliction on what constitutes ethical practices. Generally, consequentialists are subjectively subtle, which means that it does not account for the value of a precise action to be dogged in advance by conventional rubrics or guidelines.
This can also be exemplified through another rational approach that draws our attention to the food production ethical demeanor. This was palpable through lobbying of the growth of organic food, use of pesticides and BSE predicament which were not basically enthused by the deontologists which they found them to be vague trepidations for the next and generation the environment but are bounded with the confidentiality that silhouettes daily societal affairs of the native home and life.
In conclusion, an ethical dilemma is a state or condition where the ethical doctrines and philosophies are facing controversial circumstances, which leads to ineffective confirmatory or affirmative action. They are different point of views from two moral edicts and principles which are believed to be veracious or erroneous. The deontological approach is the well-suited principle of ethical consumerism or ethical consumption, as it stresses on unbiasness and considers altruism and its welfare.
Barrow, Robin. Utilitarianism: A Contemporary Statement. Routledge, 2015.
Carrington, Michal J., et al. “Lost in Translation: Exploring the Ethical Consumer Intention–Behavior Gap.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 67, no. 1, 2014, pp. 2759-2767.
Kent, Michael L. “Paquette, Michael, Erich J. Sommerfeldt, and Do the Ends Justify the Means? Dialogue, Development Communication, and Deontological Ethics.” Public Relations Review, vol. 41, no. 1, 2015, pp. 30-39.
Mulgan, Tim. Understanding Utilitarianism. Routledge, 2014.
Solomon, Michael R. Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being. Vol. 10. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 2014.
Tenenbaum, Sergio. “Action, Deontology, and Risk: Against the Multiplicative Model.” Ethics, vol. 127, no. 3, 2017, pp. 674-707.