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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 judgment 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.…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 fulfill, and in doing this it achieved goodness.…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
· The secondary precepts are a bit more relative, as we should discover them
through reason ­they could be interpreted differently by different people.…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.…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.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
The phrase `the greater good' is often used when speaking of morals, and
Utilitarianism is the logical extension of this, defining exactly what this `good' is.
Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832) ­ `The Principles of Morals & Legislation
· Bentham was a hedonist ­ he thought that good and bad could be measured in
terms of simple quantities of pleasure\pain. Pleasure and pain were the sole good
and evil, and as human beings we pursue pleasure and avoid pain.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
Although Mill was concerend with the rights of the minority more than Bentham (as
Mill's wife was a suffragette) his utilitarianism could still potentially be used in order
to justify very harmful actions on the grounds that they do more good than harm...
Peter Singer (1946-present) ­ Preference Utilitarianism
· Singer was concerned with the rights of the minorities. He thought that all views
taken by all people had to be considered when making a utilitarian decision.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories
The major world religions all take slightly different approaches to ethical dilemmas,
but Christianity is one that is probably most familiar in the western world, so this
section will be focused on it.
Does religion prescribe morality?
· Simply put, this asks whether religion and morality are two separate things and
whether they are able to exist without one another.
· Many Christians believe that our morality comes from God, the ultimate source of
authority in the universe.…read more

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Part 1 ­ Ethical Theories Humanism
Morality fromof
Sources God
· The Bible is believed to be the word of God, and thus its word has a certain
degree of authority to it. Biblical Fundamentalists take this to be the direct and
absolute word of God, whereas there are more liberal interpretations of the Bible
that take it to be culturally relative and open to various methods of interpretation.
· The Church and priests are trained to interpret and transmit the word of God.…read more


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