A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies, Ethical Theory

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
Ethical Theory
Absolutist & Deontological theory- it prescribes fixed morals and real duties.
Natural Moral Law; (NML);
NML can be traced back to Aristotle, who believed we as humans have an
inherent sense of right and wrong. Also, Cicero said that "True law is right
reason in agreement with nature".
Thomas Aquinas;
Inspired by Aristotle and his view that everything has a purpose to which they
work and also the Bible (St Paul, argues some morals are known from nature in
Romans 1)
Aquinas proposed his ideas in Summa Theologica. He said that natural law is in
the purpose of nature as created by God. According to Aquinas, it is the
purpose of humans to achieve a union with God, and NML allows us to do so.
Aquinas argues that the `key law' is to do good and avoid evil;
"good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts
of the law of nature are based on this."
We know that this is true, through both revelation and human reason. For this
reason, Aquinas equates error in morality as error in reason- people who lead
immoral lives lead irrational lives. However, humanity is inclined to be
reasonable and good, it is the natural order to be good.
Aquinas' several assumptions;
All people seek to worship God
God created the Universe and the moral law within in
Every individual has a specific purpose
Since moral law comes from God, all humans should obey it
Human nature has been the same since creation

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
All of these assumptions can be disputed, does this mean that NML is not a
successful theory? If they are disputed, it NML still remotely applicable to the
world and ethics?
Aquinas' real and apparent goods;
If humans are naturally inclined to be good, why do some people choose what
is bad? Aquinas deals with this issue by distinguishing between two goods, real
and apparent- what is truly good, and what appears to be good.…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
5. Worship God- Once ordered society is established humans must turn to
their ultimate creator and worship him.
Aquinas' Secondary Precepts;
From the basic precepts first proposed, Aquinas suggested that secondary
precepts would emerge out of these. For example, that suicide is wrong
because it breaks the first primary precept. Or, as is still supported by the
Catholic Church, that contraception is wrong because it breaks the second
precept.…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
All those things that we require for happiness ­ health, friends ­
are morally good. The purpose of morality is the fulfilment of our
Weaknesses of Natural Moral Law;
No agreed moral law: a relativist objection. The world is full of
different moralities, not clear and common ethics
No such thing as essential human nature: so argues the philosopher
Kai Neilson. Science gives no justification for the view that humans have
the same natural inclinations.…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
3. Narrowly directed; directed at the agent's actions as opposed to the
The third distinguishes between acts and omissions. If you act and it breaks a
rule- you are wrong. But if you fail to act and something bad happens, you
haven't done anything wrong. Rachel's criticises this.
Most famously known for their deontological values, is Kant. He believed that
morals should not be influenced by how we feel, but by fixed statements of
duty (prescriptive).…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
which he calls the Categorical Imperative. This is the fundamental test of
maxims. Kant formulates the Categorical Imperative in three ways:
1.) For any maxim to be true, you must be able to allow that it could become a
law for everyone.
2.) Never treat people just as a means; always see them as a valuable end in
3.) Act as though you assume that everyone is following the moral law.
Strengths of Kant;
Motivation valued over consequence.…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
argued that the idea of motivation determining our actions is incoherent
because cannot choose why we act, can only choose how we will act
(goodwill is not enough)
However, did not believe the consequences are the only way to judge
behaviour, other ways can be used to judge moral action inluding
Beneficience - helping others, Self-Improvement - developing talents, &
Treating people justly
What we do in a moral dilemma will depend on things that have previously
happened, we may:
owe…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
For Aristotle, lifes purpose was to become happy and perfect the skill of virtue.
The ultimate aim (or telos) is eudaimonia (well-spirited), so the person who
practises virtue feels happy and content.…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies
willed to put such virtues into practice in our lives, it could give morality a fresh
Strength of Virtue Ethics;
Can be used by people both secular and religious
Relistic- suggests we learn about ethics over time
Flexible- doesn't prescribe absolute duties
Allows the ideas of virtue vary culturally
Doesn't set unrealistic goals
Martha Nussbaum has argued that Virtue Ethics is compassionate and
caring because it takes the whole person into account.…read more

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A2 EDEXCEL Religious Studies…read more


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