How I analyze different approaches to ethics
- Following your gut to determine a decision is ultimately doing whatever you feel like doing. If someone asks you why you did something and you respond "because I felt like it" then how do you actually know it's right or wrong beyond your internal emotional response?
- Following rule based ethical system ultimately is to do as you are told. That is if you follow any kind of divine command from God or from a human who commands you then you ultimately are just taking orders and following them. It is also possible that you can come up with your own rules but then you're following the divine command of yourself as a sort of self sovereign. If someone asks you why you did something it's because you were following orders, rules, or laws.
- Following a consequence based ethical system is to focus not on what you are but on how you are likely to be treated in response to your actions. Right and wrong is ultimately determined by the expected (or actual) consequences which are the results of your actions. If you take on this perspective then whenever someone asks you why you did something you'll always have a very reasonable explanation about why you thought it was best at the time.
- Following a virtue based ethical system is about who you are. The concept of integrity, of being a good person, of do onto others as others would do onto you. If you ask a person who follows virtue ethics why they did something it's because it's who they are and they would have a problem looking at themselves in the mirror if they did something else.
Additional thoughts on the mechanics of these approaches
My own thoughts are that out of all of these examples the following your gut simply cannot be considered morality at all. It's not a coherent system, it's not an approach to ethics. In fact, if you ask a child why the child stole the candy from another child and they claim "because I felt like it", who would consider this to be ethics at all?
The rule based deotologist could say stealing is wrong because God says so and because it's illegal. In other words God or law enforcement might think of them as an evil person or criminal.
The consequentialist could think it through and figure out stealing is wrong because to be labeled a thief is bad for reputation (may result in being treated negatively). In other words, other people might think of them as a bad person.
The virtue ethicist could determine stealing is wrong because they'd think of themselves as a bad person.
But a person who follows their instincts can do anything and feel pretty good about it. This behavior will lead many directly into prison, onto paths which lead to really dangerous situations and consequences. Why? Because if we look at what happens to truly impulsive people who do exactly what they feel like it then it's just not very good. Of course I have the consequence based perspective here in that I don't really focus so much on how I feel about me but more about the results of my actions or impact on others (and myself).
Questions for anyone who adopts the follow your gut (intuitive) strategy of decision making
- What are the chances (probability) that your gut could be wrong? Is it 1 in 50? Is it 1 in 10? Is it 1 in 5? Is it 1 in 2? What do you think the probability really is?
- If your life were on the line or other people's lives were on the line would you still have faith in your gut?
- How do you distinguish between innate intuition and classical conditioning? How do you know your decisions are not coerced or the result of "psychological manipulation" by others?