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Theories of Ethics

Consequentialism maintains that the majority of an action depends on the nonmoral consequences that the action brings about Ethical egoism state that you should always act so that your actions produce what is in your own best long-term interests. Personal egoism states that an individual should always act in his or her own best long-term interests, but that does not say how others should act. Impersonal egoism states that an individual should always act in his or her own best long-term interest.

Values Clarification
Values Clarification teaches that the most important aspect is not what one believes, but being aware ones own feelings, beliefs, and values systems. People thus consider alternative models of thinking and acting. By acting thusly and making ones own choices, one develops ones own values.

Utilitarianism states that the moral standard should be promotion of the best longterm interests of everyone concerned.

Legalistic Moralism
Legalistic Moralism states that there are pluralities of absolutes with each one covering an area of human experience. These absolutes never conflict with each other. An action that is evil under one absolute is evil under every other absolute and could never be seen as good under any absolute.

Situation Ethics
Situation Ethics shows that since legalistic Moralism is encumbered with a bundle of predetermined rules and regulations and while antinomianism says that there are no absolutes, then decision making must be based on a middle ground.

Situation Ethics
That middle ground then says the guidelines for decision-making must be 1) absolute love (agape) 2) general guidelines of helpfulness (sophia) 3) particular moment (kairos)

Ethical Realism
Ethical Realism states that when absolute norms come into conflict one must decide which to follow. Each solution offers limited alternatives, so the solution which produces the less of two evils is the one to be chosen.

Ethical Hierarcicalism
Ethical Hierarcicalism is the view that there are many universal norms, but they are not all intrinsically equal. Thus when a conflict takes place, we must obey the higher normwe choose the greater of the two goods.

Principle Ethics
Principle Ethics states that principles are merely value states or guidelines to actions. Thus when principles encounter each other in conflict it is not a conflict of norms, but rather an exercise in reasoning and logic

Cognitive Moral Development

Cognitive Moral Development states that ethics education is possible. Just as people develop mentally, physically, and emotionally, they develop a moral cognizance. Using critical thinking tactics such as the Socratic method, people can solve their ethical dilemmas.

Those who study ethics believe that ethical decision making is based upon theory and that these theories can be classified. What follows is a very brief description of four classes of ethical theories

Ethical theories that fall under the classification of consequentialism post that the rightness or wrongness of any action must be viewed in terms of the consequences that the action produces. In other words, the consequences are generally viewed according to the extent that they serve some intrinsic good.

Kantian Deontologism
Deontologism suggests that an act must be performed because the act in some way is characterized by universally or that it conforms with moral law. According to this theoretical position, the rightness or wrongness of some acts are independent of the consequences that it produces and the act may be good or evil in and of itself.

Natural Law
This theoretical position suggests that one may, through rational reflection on nature, discover principles of good and bad that can guide our actions in such a way that we will move toward human fulfillment or flourishing. This position suggests that human beings have the capacity within themselves for actualizing their potential.

Virtue Ethics
First approach to ethics in this theoretical orientation proposes that there are certain dispositional character traits that are appropriate and praiseworthy in general and or in a particular role. The second approach to virtue ethics not only identifies the virtues, but focuses on their integration into what can be described as "practical wisdom" or "right reason."

Ethical Theory 1: Egoism

Famous Proponents: Ayn Rand, Adam Smith What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is that it satisfies ones desires, or meets ones needs Basic Principle: Self-interest of person doing, considering, or affected by the action One should chose the action which most realizes or conduces to ones own self-interest Important Variation: should the person look simply to selfinterest, or to enlightened or rational self-interest? Conception of Rational Self-Interest is basic component of capitalist economy and business models

Ethical Theory 2: Utilitarianism

Famous Proponents: Jeremy Bentham, J.S. Mill What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is that it produces the greatest amount of pleasure (or lack of pain) for the greatest number of people Basic Principle: Greatest Happiness Principle
Maximizing positive outcomes for the largest number of people, negative outcomes for lowest number of people One should chose the action which will lead to the greatest happiness (i.e. pleasure, lack of pain) overall Ones own pleasure and pain only count as much as any other persons affected

Important Variation: Quantitative Utilitarianism vs. Qualitative Utilitarianism

Ethical Theory 3: Deontology

Famous Proponents: Immanuel Kant, W.D. Ross What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is that it conforms to some (rational) duty Basic Principle: Fulfilling duties towards self or other persons One should chose the action which best conforms to ones recognized duties Important Variation: are these duties discovered and understood primarily by using reason (Kantian Deontology), or by healthy common sense (Rossian Intuitionist Deontology)

Deontology: Kant and Ross

Kants version: Reason reveals our duty Categorical Imperative
Can the action be universalized? Does the action treat people as ends, not just means?

Rosss Version: Common sense intuition reveals our prima facie duties
Duty of non-injury has priority Other duties: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, beneficence, justice, self-improvement

Ethical Theory 4: Care Ethics

Famous Proponents: Carol Gilligan, Virginia Held, Michael Slote (developed as feminist response to other ethics those reflective of experience of men, not women) What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is that it involves caring for another, and supports relationship with other people Basic Principle: action which is caring towards those who are vulnerable or need support One should chose the action which supports or nurtures other people, particularly those who are most vulnerable (e.g. children, workers) Note: often viewed as supplement to other ethical theories, rather than as comprehensive theory in own right

Ethical Theory 5: Virtue ethics

Famous Proponents: Aristotle, Confucius What makes something good or bad, right or wrong, is that it actually embodies or promotes traits culturally acknowledged as good or bad (e.g. courage, justice) These in turn lead to greater or lesser realization of potential for fully human lives (flourishing Basic Principle: actions reflective or productive of good or bad character, embodied in developed and lasting traits or habits Important Variation(s): different traditions and theorists develop different lists of virtues and vices