Virtue theory, also known as virtue ethics, focuses more so on the character of a person rather than the rules and consequences of specific acts. What this essentially means is that the primary focus is whether or not the person acting ethically is a person who upholds high morals and virtues, in turn expressing “good character” (Garrett, 2005). Rules, intent, consequences and outcome are not necessarily irrelevant; however, the emphasis of virtue theory is primarily on a person’s character, their virtues, and their expression of good intentions (Garrett, 2005).
Utilitarianism ethics emphasize that action should be morally beneficial to a group. This course of ethics is often known as “the greatest good for the greatest number” or simply put, “the greater good” (Boylan, 2009). In other words, the consequence of any ethical action should be beneficial for all by mass appeal. This is a common underlying theme for ethics in capitalist economies and business as well as in democratic governments (Boylan, 2009).
Unlike virtue theory, deontology has a heavy emphasis on duty in action, in adherence to rules. The right action is important here, where upon completion, should bring about the greatest good for all involved. This is somewhat similar to utilitarianism, which does focus on the consequence of the greatest good. However, deontology does not lean on the consequence itself, but more so the principle behind committing the right action. (Boylan, 2009). In turn, the ethics behind deontology is about principle and following rules.