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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
Ethics is a branch of philosophy concerned with morality. This guide will be
examining systems of moral judgement that allow actions to be categorized into right
& wrong, and then look at a variety of common ethical dilemmas to see how different
ethicists would approach them. We will be looking at ethics from four opposing
schools of thought, described below.
Absolutism & Relativism
· If you are an ethical absolutist, you believe that some actions are intrinsically (by
their very nature) right and wrong.
· Right and Wrong are solid, tangible concepts that aren't affected by culture\time.
They apply to all people in all situations. An example of an absolutist ethical theory
would be fundamentalist Christian Ethics, wherein the word of the bible is taken to be
the direct teachings of God and thus followed to the letter.
· However, if you are an ethical relativist, things are not so simple. Moral truths can
vary ­ there is no fixed, objective morality.
· Although it is often difficult to apply, relativism allows for differences between times
and cultures that might otherwise not agree.
· Absolutism can be seen as inflexible, often dated and intolerant of cultural
diversity. However, relativism can be subjective, difficult to apply and could
potentially be used to justify immoral behaviour.
Deontological & Teleological Ethics
· Deontological ethics means that goodness\badness is judged solely upon the
action itself. So even if a bad action has good consequences it would never be
considered good.
· Teleological ethics looks at the consequences of an action instead of the action
itself, which means that a bad action with good consequences would be regarded as
It's always a good idea to include this information in relation to the ethical
theory you have chosen for your exam answer.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
There are four ethical theories on the syllabus, and Natural Law is one of them. It's a
semi-absolute and deontological ethical theory that has close ties with Catholicism.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) ­ `Nicomachean Ethics'
· As previously mentioned, Aristotle argued that every object and living thing had a
purpose (final cause) that it needed to fulfil, and in doing this it achieved goodness.
· The logical progression of this is that human society has a purpose and that in
fulfilling this purpose, we are achieving goodness.
· Aristotle put a lot of value on our ability to think and reason ­ it's what separates us
from animals, and (if we follow it) we will make the correct moral choices.
· Aristotle's Natural Law is concerned with seeing humans live together in a society,
Thomas Aquinas (1224 ­ 1274) ­ `Summa Theologica'
· He was looking to apply Aristotle's ideas to modern Christianity. According to him,
Natural Law was created by god and reflects the order and purpose of God's will.
· Human reason is able to discover the purpose God has for us and act in
accordance with it. Natural law is applicable to any culture\religion because of this.
· Primarily, the human race is concerned with self-preservation, and from this a
number of primary precepts were laid down in order for our species to continue.
· To live ­ this is the single most important goal in being a human.
· To learn ­ the young must be educated so that they may contribute to society.
· To reproduce ­ to ensure continuation of the human species.
· To live in an ordered society - rules and laws make sure everyone is protected.
· To worship God ­ God is the creator of our society, so show a little gratitude.
A useful quote for this section is `good is to be done and evil is to be avoided' ­
Aquinas thought that following natural law, (and hence, doing good and
avoiding evil) was instinctual and existing within all humans.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
· These primary precepts are absolute and never change. From these, we are able
to deduce secondary precepts ­ for example, if the primary precept is preservation of
life, then it follows that natural law would forbid abortion as this halts a potential life.
· The secondary precepts are a bit more relative, as we should discover them
through reason ­they could be interpreted differently by different people. They have
the ability to change over culture\time period, which makes NL slightly flexible.
The Hierarchy of Laws
Eternal Law - The mind of god which humans cannot directly know ­ contained
within are the laws that govern the creation of the universe.
Divine Law The word of God revealed to humanity through the Bible
Natural Law The natural sense of good\bad everyone should abide by
Human Law The everyday rules which govern our lives, such as the legal system
Aquinas believed God to be the ultimate source of moral judgement, and that each
step up the hierarchy had a higher authority than the last (with God at the top).
Part A questions always rely on AO1 skills Practice Essay Question
· Explain Natural Law Theory (25 marks)
You may want to include in your essay...
· The role of Aristotle in establishing Natural Law, the final cause of humans
· How the primary precepts reflect Aquinas's ideas of humanity's purpose
· The hierarchy of laws
· The secondary precepts, how they affect our lives and apparent\real goods
But it'll only be a waste of time if you write about
· Irrelevant scholars, other ethical theories and unnecessary AO2
Aquinas thought that If you are well-intentioned but did not follow reason, you
would be seeking an apparent good rather than an actual good.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
Previously you've seen Kantian Ethics demonstrated, both in his theory of duty and
the categorical imperative ­ but unfortunately, that was just scratching the surface...
Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804) ­ `The Critique of Practical Reason'
· As you probably already know, Kant thought that humans were compelled by the
Categorical Imperative to reach the Summum Bonum and achieve unity with God.
But this is not the whole story. Kantian Ethics is another system of moral judgment.
·So what, according to Kant, constitutes a good action? Kant's approach is a relative
and teleological approach ­ it looks at the purpose of an action and decides the
goodness of it from that purpose.
· Everybody has the ability to reason, and to Kant, this is the `moral law within'. This
is why he puts a higher emphasis on reason than emotion when making moral
Duty and Goodwill
· Kant believed that an action is only good if it is the result of being virtuous ­ in this
case, those two things would classify as being both good-willed and acting out of
· Good will, in Kant's view, is the only real reason to perform a moral act. You should
not act out of kindness in order to feel good, to look like a virtuous person or even
out of simple compassion. Kant thought emotion could cloud peoples' judgment.
· Duty refers to the reason we should be compelled to be good willed ­ Kant thought
that this was the duty of all humanity. A dutiful action is not done for any kind of gain,
it is done because it is the right thing to do.
· An action that is done for an `alterior reason' would be thought to be following a
hypothetical imperative ­ a statement such as `if you want x, you must do y' is
conditional. At the end of the day, the action, no matter how good the consequences,
benefits you in some way. Kant thought that having a motive to a good action
invalidated its goodness.
Kant once said `Good will shines forth like a precious jewel'. How lovely.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
So if a hypothetical imperative is an action that is a means to something else, a
categorical imperative is an action that's good in itself. Strictly speaking, here are
some ways in which an action could be considered good in itself.
Three Maxims of The Categorical Imperative
· Universalization ­ your action is good if you believe that all people should act in
the same way. Every rule must be absolute ­ Kant figured that making exceptions in
some cases, even if the situation was better, would have a negative effect on
· Ends not Means ­ your action is good if it treats humans as ends in themselves,
as autonomous beings with their own purpose, rather than just a means to an end. In
short, don't `use' people. Humanity is the highest point of god's creation, and should
not suffer in slavery or otherwise being exploited.
· Kingdom of Ends ­ the principle that you lay down should be able to be set down
as a law in society, in a `kingdom of ends', a society of people who are entitled to the
same autonomy as you. Kind of a combination of the first two.
Practice Essay Question
· Explain Kant's theory of duty with reference to the hypothetical and
categorical imperatives. (25 marks)
You may want to include in your essay...
· Kant's theory of duty (goodwill what makes a good action, and why)
· Hypothetical Imperatives, and how it can be shown that they are not a result
of goodwill.
· The maxims of the Categorical Imperative ­ an absolute moral law known
through reason and applied through duty.
But don't let yourself get caught out!
· Make sure you understand the question and always relate your answers to it.
This question isn't just asking you to explain everything you know, it's asking
you to explain how Kant's ideas follow on from one another.…read more

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slide 14 15 16 are not working , pls fix

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