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Normative Ethics

First-Order Ethics: duty-based,
consequentialist, virtue-based
Kantian Ethics
Moral goodness is defined as an action performed out of a
sense of moral duty, rather than simply out of emotion.
DEONTOLOGICAL ­ the mean justifies the end.
The consequences of an action are often out of our control;
therefore consequences…

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Weaknesses

Duties can conflict, and Kant gives no advice on this.
It seems to justify absurd actions, e.g. being honest to a mad axe man.
Doesn't give any role to emotions such as compassion or sympathy, i.e.
seemingly `good' emotions in themselves (cold-hearted).
Takes no consequences into consideration, e.g. lying…

Page 3

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Strengths

Allows for consequences of an action, which we usually consider to be
equally as important as the intention.
Systematic approach to ethics.
Does not rely on religion, therefore accessible to a wide range of
people.
- Can be made to include animals in our moral decisions, i.e. it doesn't…

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Normative Ethics
Virtue Ethics
Focusing not on what makes an action morally good, but
what type of person he/she is that chooses that action, i.e.
the central question is `How should I live?'
Largely based on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.
To have a `morally good' life is to cultivate the virtues…

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Weaknesses

Notion of virtues is ambiguous, which traits should count as virtues?
E.g. in some societies people would class pride as a virtue, others
wouldn't, who is right in this situation? Or is it completely relative to
the society? What if there are conflicting virtues, i.e. pride and being
peaceful?…

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