Duties and Outcomes

  • øyvind Kvalnes
Open Access


The two main traditions in moral philosophy differ in their perspectives on the lengths we can go to in order to maximize the best possible outcome for the people affected by our decisions and actions. Utilitarianism maintains that the morally right option in every situation is the one that will create the best overall outcome for all concerned while duty ethics claims that there are important limitations to what we can do to others, even if the option generates the best overall outcome. It places particular value on respect and human dignity, offering individuals moral protection against treatment as mere means to maximize outcomes. The chapter uses the trolley problem, introduced by Philippa Foot, as a starting point for exploring the differences between utilitarianism and duty ethics in organizational settings. It explains how the Doctrine of Double Effect and the distinction between intended and foreseen consequences allows duty ethics to accept harmful outcomes in some cases.

Copyright information

© øyvind Kvalnes 2015

Open Access This Chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • øyvind Kvalnes
    • 1
  1. 1.BI Norwegian Business SchoolNorway

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