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Ethical Systems in Moral Decision Making
Deontological Ethical Systems
Divine Command Theory
One of the solely deontological ethical systems
Asserts that morality is following our obligation to God, our creator, our Father.
Purpose in life is to act under Gods command, look after the perfect world he gave us
Due to Gods omnipotence, we must follow his guidance, as we are powerless creatures in
comparison to his complete freedom.
As he has complete freedom, he chooses to act in a good way, chooses to act fairly and
just. If he didn't, would go against his nature
Due to Gods omnibenevolence by following his command we are acting in a good way
because God wouldn't command a bad action
Therefore, by following Divine Command Theory, in a moral situation you will always do
a good thing because the act will always be a good act because it comes from God.
DCT consequences of an action are completely irrelevant.
o Cicero Natural Law is `right reason in agreement with nature'.
o NL is the approach that all humans have a natural sense of what is moral and what is evil.
o It directs our conscience and guides with reason to make a decision
o Humans have an innate goodness that we can allow or reject and ignore.
o Our innate goodness is God given but not limited to religious believers
o Developed by Thomas Aquinas in his book Summa Theologica and described as a moral
code created by God.
o For Aquinas there is one basic law "good is to be done and pursued... and evil is to be
o From this he developed the primary precepts, which a good person will aim to fulfil: to
worship God, live in an ordered society, reproduce, learn and defend/preserve innocent
o The primary precepts are to guide humans to live by the first basic law and to reach the
end goal of life, eudaimonia.
o From these, there are secondary precepts, these are more specific but have the same aim.
o For example, primary precept= preserve/defend innocent life, secondary precept= not to
abort or euthanise.
o NL also highlights the difference between real and apparent goods.
o Apparent: seem to be beneficial but aren't, don't truly help us fulfil our god given purpose
o Real: in line with the precepts, help reach eudaimonia, true good acts
o Also difference between interior and exterior acts.
o Interior: purpose and intention behind an act
o Exterior: outcome/ the actual act committed
o Aquinas says that for an act to be good it must be both an interior good and an exterior
good. It cannot be a good act with a bad intention.
o For example, choosing to become a doctor, not to help people and save lives but because
of the high pay.
o NL can be considered deontological because of the primary rule and the precepts and as it
is considered with our human duty to follow our instinctive reason.
o Aquinas: "To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of
God." Ability to use natural reason is similar, if not the same as, following an instruction
from God as our natural reason is God given; we are therefore obliged as children of god
to follow it.
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Therefore, duty based= deontological
o However, it has teleological elements. The purpose of the precepts is to guide to
eudaimonia, this could be considered teleological as it is acting with an end goal in mind.…read more
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No fixed moral rules, judges an action by its consequences or telos. Actions are not
intrinsically good but extrinsically good
Humans are primarily motivated by pleasure and the avoidance of pain.…read more
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Embryo testing, they would probably prefer not to be tested. Do they have preferences?
Depends on when you think life begins, or if they have feelings and a soul?
Oxford English Dictionary: "A moral sense of right and wrong, especially as felt by a
person and affecting behaviour or inner feelings as to the goodness or otherwise of ones