AS OCR Religious Studies - Ethics - Glossary of the Unit

All the key terms and words you may need to know for the exam! Added extra ones that are easy to revise that will boost up your 10 and 25 markers! Hope your AS exams go well and the glossary helps! :) Caitlin 

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Glossary for AS Ethics
Basic Approaches
Duty Ethics. This is often called "deontological ethics"--from Greek Deon --that which is obligatory
or a duty. Actions are right or wrong to the extent that they are fulfilment of duty. Duty theories
differ as to where to find human duties defined--usually in God, in reason, or in history. A duty ethics
considers actions as intrinsically right or wrong in themselves regardless of their consequences. This
approach is nearly the opposite of Outcome Ethics. So you cannot torture spies even if the outcome
is morally preferable, like the early ending of a war. Proponents include Immanuel Kant and Paul
Outcomes Ethics. Also called "teleological ethics," from Telos, the end or the goal. Actions are
judged to be morally good in light of expected outcomes.
Goal Ethics. An act right only if the acting person's goal is to produce the best available
balance of good over bad. The goals approach abandons any claim to moral certainty. So you
can torture spies if it simply promises to shorten a war. A leading proponent is John Stuart
Mill. Critics fault goal ethics for its focus on people's good or bad intentions, without
consideration of uncertainties about consequences.
Consequentialist Ethics. An outcomes theory that the rightness or wrongness of actions
depends on their actual consequences. The action is made right or wrong after its
performance. The end justifies the means. "All's well that ends well." Advocates include
James Burtness. Critics find fault in the focus on outcomes for individuals, rather than the
general population, and in the absence of criteria for determining what outcomes are
objectively better.
Utilitarian Ethics. An outcomes theory that maintains that an action is right if it produces the
greatest good for the greatest number. (Note that "utilitarian" does not equate to "useful.")
It points to pleasure and happiness as criteria for what is objectively better. Critics point out
that it provides no justice for minorities and ignores the possibility of intrinsically bad acts like
torturing babies. Leading proponents are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.
Natural Law Ethics. The natural order of things is good. People must not violate that order. The
origins of Natural Law theory go back as far as the ancient Greeks (Sophocles' play, "Antigone," c. 442
BCE) but are famously developed by Thomas Aquinas (c. 1250 CE). The fundamental natural law is to
protect oneself and the innocent. From these can be derived the rules about living, procreating,
creating a civil society and worshiping God. The Roman Catholic Church is the prominent exponent of
Natural Law Ethics today, manifested particularly in official documents opposing artificial
contraception and abortion.
Virtue Ethics. Also called Character Ethics. Morality does not find its basis in the action but the actor.
The focus is primarily on character, not conduct. Character ethics draw on Aristotle's understanding of

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Proponents include Alasdair
Macintyre, Stanley Hauerwas, and Gilbert Meilaender.
Situation Ethics. An ethics based on the virtue of love in concrete situations. (Note that
"situation ethics" does not draw its criteria exclusively from what is publically observed
about a "situation.") Joseph Fletcher proposed this view in the 1960s as an alternative to
legalistic and natural-law codes of ethics that dominated Christian ethical thought.…read more

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Atheism. The belief that God does not exist. In the last two centuries, some of the most influential
atheistic philosophers have been Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, and Jean-Paul
Autonomy. The ability to freely determine one's own course in life. Etymologically, it stems from
Greek words for "self" and "law." This term is most strongly associated with Immanuel Kant, for
whom it meant the ability to give the moral law to one.…read more

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Divine Command Ethics. A view that "good" applies to whatever God commands. So God can
command Abraham to sacrifice his son, or command the Israelites to invade a foreign country and
slaughter its inhabitants. This view is criticized as subordinating reason to God's commands. See
Double-Effect. A theory used to justify a seemingly immoral act when the wrong involved was not
directly intended. Thus the termination of a foetus may be acceptable if the intention is to save the
life of the mother.…read more

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Distributive Justice regards the distribution of goods and services across society. The mainly
applies to the economy, to obligations to participate in government, and to the problem of
Legal Justice regards claims sanctioned by laws. It applies both to redressing wrongs
(bringing criminals "to justice") and to developing laws to protect citizens.
Love. A key concept in Judeo-Christian Ethics where people must love God with their entire mind,
heart, soul and strength, and must love their neighbour as themselves.…read more

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In virtue ethics (character), it refers to an inner,
normative demand that we choose what is objectively better as opposed to what is only better for
oneself or one's group.
Rights. Historically, rights are entitlements to do something without interference from other people
(negative rights) or entitlements that obligate others to do something positive to assist you (positive
Natural rights and human rights belong to everyone by nature or simply by virtue of being
human.…read more

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God's commands. Key proponents are Duns
Scotus, William of Ockham, and Emmanuel Kant. See "Divine Command Ethics.…read more


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