We encounter it in many different situations, often without thinking about it in formal terms, that is the dichotomy between Kantian thinking and utilitarian reasoning. We live in a moral universe and we therefore encounter situations which demand a moral response. Take torture for example. A Kantian response to torture would assert that the rights of the individual are inviolable, therefore torture is unacceptable under any circumstances. A utilitarian approach however would weigh the benefits and costs of each course of action; it may therefore be permissable (and even desirable) to torture an individual to save the life of another individual or a group of individuals.
Ethics is all about making hard choices. A clip from the BBC documentary entitled “Justice: A Citizen’s Guide to the 21st Century” is attached below. This highlights perfectly the two opposing ethical positions and is very thought-provoking.