Ethical Theories

Summary of all key ethical theories necessary for a level religious studies

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  • Created on: 04-12-12 19:16
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Deontological theory (concerned with the actions)
Based on duty ­ acting morally is doing your duty thus obeying moral law. Our
duty is actions that are morally required ­ innate moral duty.
Conscience/feelings or guilt tell us when we violate our moral duty
Ought implies can
We seek the ultimate supreme good ­ Summum
Morality leads to God as we can't achieve summum
bonum in one life time we have immortal souls ­
Moral statements are `a priori' (from reason or
knowledge NOT empirical sense)
We should act out of duty not emotion
Moral statements are the 3 types of categorical imperative.
1. Universal law ­ no exceptions made and all moral statements apply to
everyone under every circumstance.
2. Treat humans as ends in themselves ­ don't treat others as a means to an end
and this helps promote equality.
3. Kingdom of ends ­ a place where people only treat others as ends. Each
person is autonomous, in Kant's theory autonomous means everyone can
understand pure practical reasoning and should follow it.

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Jeremy Bentham ­ Greatest happiness for the majority ­ quantitative approach
Changes depending on the situation ­ relativism approach
Teleological and consequentialist theory ­ looks towards the outcomes.
The most moral acts are the ones which bring about the most please and the
least pain.
This is measured by the Hedonic Calculus it has 7 elements:
1. Intensity of pleasure
2. Duration of pleasure
3. Certainty of pleasure
4. Remoteness of pleasure
5. Chance of succession
6.…read more

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John Stuart Mill - consequentialist
Qualitative approach ­ 2 kinds of pleasures, higher and lower. The higher are the
intellectual and therefore more important.
"It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied"
Intellectual pleasures include poetry & music -- as opposed to pleasure from eating
or drinking.
Universal ­ everyone should aim for their own happiness and this helps the aim
for happiness of everyone.…read more

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St Thomas Aquinas ­ Denotological, absolute
Everyone has a natural purpose (telos) ­ this was to be rational.
Being rational was the SYNDERISIS RULE ­ to do good and avoid evil is natural to
It is heteronomy ­ morality is from God
Our efficient cause is that we were made by God
Our final cause is to be united with God ­ our final purpose of eudaimonia
To reach eudaimonia we must follow the primary
1.…read more

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To answer ethical issues, Christians look towards THE BIBLE, PRAY,
Heteronomy ­ without God or religion there is no morality
3 main ethical principles:
1. Old Testament: covers the grounds of Christianity ­ 10 commandments.
2. Jesus: Love God, Love thy neighbour, agape (unconditional love)
3.…read more

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Aristotle ­ the point of engaging in ethics is to become good
"For we are enquiring to become good since otherwise our enquiry would be of no
Agent focused ­ understanding the moral life in terms of what it is to be a
virtuous person and virtues are within
Final good is eudaimonia and human flourishing is characterised by virtues
2 types of virtues:
intellectual, developed by training/education
moral, developed by habit
All have the potential to…read more

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