Religious Studies Ethics Revision Guide

A revision guide for the OCR exam, containing relevant and condensed content on Absolutism and Relativism, Deontology and Teleology, Natural Law, Situation Ethics (Religious Ethics), Kantian Ethics and Utilitarianism. 

It also includes the application of these theories to Abortion, the Right to a Child, Euthanasia, War and Peace, and Genetic Engineering.

Some of the content is taken from the OCR textbook for students.

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AS Ethics Revision Guide
March 2015
For the Summer 2015 Examination
© Toni Adejuyigbe

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To maintain that some things are right and others are wrong, always and
for everyone, is to take an absolutist view. Absolutists believe that certain
ethical norms or precepts exist, independent of human experience. These
moral rules are objective and universal. Absolutists believe that immoral
acts are intrinsically wrong.
There are three main grounds for believing that moral rules are absolute
and objective. Absolutists might appeal to one of these two sources of
authority: Religious authority and Human rights.…read more

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Relativists believe that there are no objective truths
Moral values are relative to societies and to individuals. Concepts like
goodness, justice and truth have a range of meanings. Moral statements
reflect people's responses to issues rather than the "right" answer.
The only categorical or `absolute' statement that a relativist would make is
that "There are no absolute truths."
We may distinguish two types of relativism:
· Subjective ­ morality is based on individual, personal choice.…read more

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Duty comes first: you should obey the rules and follow your
duty even if it isn't in your favour or to your advantage.
Deontological Approaches: Kant
The best example of a deontological approach is Immanuel Kant.
He argued that reason shows us what to do: "act in such a way that our
actions might become a universal law.…read more

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If you decide to give to the cause with the purpose of
achieving a specific aim (e.g. saving more lives) your focus is teleological.
(In practice, and for our purposes, the two will usually produce a similar
Teleological approaches
There are more examples of teleological and consequentialist ethics in
utilitarianism and situation ethics. Each of these approaches adopts a
flexible attitude, asking which action will produce the best outcome in a
given case.…read more

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As God created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing), He is the author of the
natural world. Inherent divine design in nature may be discovered
through reason ­ this means that we could further understand the ideas
of God by using our reason. Aquinas believed that good reasons would lead
to the fulfilment of God's purpose.
Sex for example, is a God given gift for reproduction. The end purpose of
sex is the production of a baby.…read more

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The Doctrine of Double Effect is also a way through moral
dilemmas when two rules conflict.
· Moral decision-making is not done by reason alone. Aquinas also
involves the imaginations ­ the body, the emotions and passions ­
and practical wisdom. However, our emotions or our genes do not
restrict us, and it enables us to fulfil our purpose, which is inherent
in our make-up and leads to both personal and social growth.…read more

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Autonomy is (self deciding and a priori) while Heteronomy is (the law(s) imposed
upon you and a posteriori.) Kant believed that morally human beings are
autonomous. We don't follow a certain rule because they are given to us but
rather because we can see the sense in it, we understand these weaknesses and
we want the applicable results. You will only follow these commands if you desire
to.…read more

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Kant sees humans as being of intrinsic worth and dignity as they are rational
creatures. Humans cannot be enslaved or exploited. This is the basis of the
Declaration of Human Rights.
Weaknesses of Kant's Theory of Ethics
· Kant's theory is abstract and not always easily applied to moral situations - it
tells you that types of actions are good, but it does not tell you what is the right
thing to do in particular situations.…read more

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Ross shows that there are possible exceptions to any rule and these exceptions
depend on the situation in which I do my duty, the possible consequences of
doing my duty and the personal relationships involved.
However, calling these `duties' may be a bit misleading, as they are not so much
duties as `features that give us genuine (not merely apparent) moral reason to do
certain actions'.…read more


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