Utilitarianism 1

Utility= usefulness of actions and results of actions.

Principle of Utility= greatest happiness for the greatest number of people- qualitative (Bentham)

Act Utilitarianism - Bentham (book= 'Principles and Morals of Legislation') - the theory is based on ancient hedonism. Epicurus said that all of our actions are done to gain pleasure for ourselves. Bentham equated happiness with pleasure and the absence of pain.

''Nature has placed us under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. An act is 'right' if it delivers more pleasure than pain and 'wrong'; if it brings more pain than pleasure.''

Hedonic Calculus- Purity, Richness, Remoteness, Intensity, Certainty, Extent, Duration (P.R.R.I.C.E.D) this is used to measure how much pleasure or pain an action will create.

+ = consequentialist so flexible, objective as it is an independent way of deciding what is riight or wong.

- = tyranny over the minority, pleasure can be bad, future is unpredictable, the ends don't justify the means, there are other things of intrinsic worth such as freedom, human life.

1 of 22

Utilitarianism 2

Rule Utilitarianism - Mill (book= 'On Liberty') - disagreed with Bentham,''it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.'' Mill believed in the quality rather than quantity of pleasure. In order to derive the principle of utility, you need universalisability. Everyone ought to aim for the happiness of everyone. Put the group interests above your own. VEIL OF IGNORANCE- imagine yourself in their position.

+ = encourages democracy, more deontological approach establishes universal standaards, gets rights for the minority.

- = difficult to define happiness, to invoke rules means the approach becomes more absolutist, people can be irrational (rule followers or modifiers).

Preference Utilitarianism - Singer (book= 'Practical Ethics') - considers the preferences of other conscious beings. It's about minimising suffering rather than maximising pleasure. ''Our own preferences cannot take priority over the preferences of others.''

R.M.Hare agrees with Singer, we need to ''stand in someone else's shoes'' so we should treat everyone with impartiality.

2 of 22

Utilitarianism 3

Preference Utilitarianism-

+ = allows justice and equality, cultures can operate in parallel.

- = not everyone is willing to put others before themselves.

Extra Scholars-

Kant (disagreed with Utilitarianism) - the consequences of an action cannot make it right.

Sidgewick (agreed with Utilitarianism) - the intention to bring about the greater good is important - ''one has to kill a few of ones natural selves to let the rest grow.''

G.E.Moore (disagreed with Utilitarianism) - ''moral conduct is to select that action which will achieve more good than an alternative action.''

Popper (agreed with Utilitarianism) - ''the fight against avoidable misery should be the aim of public policy.''

3 of 22

Natural Law 1

Aristotle - Natural Law was influenced heavily by Aristotle's four causes and the idea that everything has a final cause- for humans it is eudaimonia.

Aquinas (book= 'Summa Theologica') - created the Natural Law Theory that states morality involves working out what our purpose is as human beings and acting in a way that fufils that.

Synderesis Principle- ''that good is to be done and evil avoided.''

It is an absolutist approach through expressing that morality is innate from birth due to ''imago dei'' (Genesis 1:27) - God is good so humans must be.

Primary Precepts- Preserve life, ordered society, worship God, education and reproduction (POWER). These can be used  to decide if a moral action is right. For example, murdering someone would not be preserving life and therefore it is wrong.

Secondary Precepts- are derived by reasoning from the primary precepts and can be used in context for any situation. For example, ''theft is wrong'' is a secondary precept derived from 'ordered society' - if theft was allowed society wouldn't be ordered.

4 of 22

Natural Law 2

Aquinas - ''To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of God.'' based on Jeremiah 31:33 -- 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.''

Apparent Goods - our bad actions are something which might seem good or right but does not fit perfection.

Four Tiers of Law -

1. Eternal Law= only fully known to God, the principles that God has made.

2. Divine Law= the law of God revealed in the Bible.

3. Natural Law= the moral law of God within human nature discoverable through use of reason.

4. Human Law= the laws of the nations.

5 of 22

Natural Law 3

Cicero - ''the law will not lay down one rule in Rome and amother in Athens... there is one eternal and unchanging binding at all times on all people.'' the natural law is unchanging and absolute.

Hume's criticism- THE NATURALISTIC FALLICY - people move too readily from observation of facts to judgements about values. In the case of primary precepts it raises the question,''Just because it is possible to have children does it mean people ought to have children?''

G.E.Moore (book- 'Principia Ethica') - ''Good cannot be defined through nature, it is a naturalistic fallicy. Goodness is unanalysable and cannot be defined by any reference of nature.''

Vardy and Grosch criticism - Aquinas' view of human nature is oversimplified and humans do not have one single 'fixed' nature.

Kai Nielsen and Gareth Moore criticism - NLT completely disregards cultural relativism. Nielsen questioned the unchanging nature of the primary precepts and the fact that they ignore different cultures views on the matters. Gareth Moore argued our nature is a product of culture so without culture, we wouldn't have our human nature. e.g. Aquinas condemns same sex marriages so NLT is outdated.

Augustine criticism (book- 'Confessions') - everyone is born sinful and has an urge to disobey God- man only seeks his own happiness.

6 of 22

Kantian Ethics 1

Kant (book= 'Critique of Pure Reason') - hypothetical imperative is a moral obligation that applies only if one desires the implicated goal.

Rachels - ''hypothetical imperatives are ossible because we have desires, categorical imperatives are possible because we have reason.''

Kant - a categorical imperative is a command that must be followed, no matter what you desire. Moral obligations are derived from pure reason.

Ross - believes we have an absolute duty when all things have been considered but individual duties cannot be absolute- sometimes we have a duty to break a promise (disagrees with the categorical imperative).

Kant's 3 formulations of the Categorical Imperative=

1. ''act accordingly to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it be universal law.'' - when we act morally, our action must be something that we and anyone else would always do.

Constant - (disagrees with first formulation)- if applied to decision making, it argues we cannot lie because truth telling it the foundation of society. Costant believes that we need to tell white lies for good motives,''no-one has a right to a truth that harms others.''  (can't tell a murderer you are hiding the person that they are looking for)

7 of 22

Kantian Ethics 2

2. ''act in such away that you always treat humanity, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.'' - humans have an intrinsic value and wehave to treat people with regard to their future life and integrity.

Bentham - (disagrees with second formulation) - it is the greatest happiness for the greatest number so morality is bsed on the majority fufilling their desires.

** (disagrees with second formulatn) - it is difficult to know which maxim to listen to when treating people as ends, ''If you have Jews in your attic, which maxim are you universalising, 'do not tell lies' or 'do not expose others to violence.' ''

WD Ross (disagrees with second formulation) - thinks we have an absolute duty when all things have been considered, but individual duties cannot be absolute, sometimes we hae a duty to break a promise.

8 of 22

Kantian Ethics 3

3. ''act as if you were through your maxim a law making member of a kingdom of ends.'' - people should act as if their behaviour is setting the laws in an ideal kingdom.

- = unrealistic - if we follow maxims as if they were universal laws in an ideal kindom it is not guarenteeed that others will. e.g. pacifism makes sense as a lw of nature, but if we choose to be a pcifist w may find our community is wiped out by oppressors.

Mcintyre (book= 'After Virtue') - criticises utilitarianism for allowing horrific acts, he believes taht a stengh of kantian ethics is hthe categorical imperative. But he accuses Kant of being too worried about  little things and not worried about peoples' broader character.

Pojman (in support) - ''It is not out desires that ground us morally but our rational will. Reason is sufficient for establishing the moral law as someting transcendent and universally binding fr all rational creatures.''

Schopenhauer (against) - Kant assumes that morality must be perscriptive and thereater seeks the conditions for this He theefore assumes what he seeks to prove- which is moral laws.

Mill (against) - argued that kantian ethics becomes consequentialist when trying to universalise a maxim.

9 of 22

Kantian Ethics 4

Kant's Three Postulates-

1. Freedom- we are all free to make moral decisions and do our duty.

2. Immortality- good people should be rewarded with happiness in the afterlife- this is the highest good- summum bonum.

3. God - Kant assumes there must be a God to bring about the afterlife.

Like Plato, Kant defines human nature in terms of reason and freedom of that reason makes it possible.

Like Aquinas, Kant believed that reasonis innate in mankind and it enables us to solve problems.

10 of 22

Situation Ethics 1

Fletcher (book- 'Situation Ethics') - AGAPE= unconditional love. 4 working principles= pragmatism (must be practical), relativism (no fixed rules), positivism (put faith before reasoning) and personalism (people at the centre). 6 propositions= love is the only absolute, Christian decision making is based on love, justice is love distributed, love wants good for anyone (no matter who they are), only the end justifies the means, love is acted out situationally not prescriptivally. Believed in "pragma not dogma" - like liberation theologians who talk of replacing orthopraxis with orthodoxy. 

"Love relativises the absolute, it does not absolutise the relative.

  • Kant (agrees) - "treat people as ends, never as means to an end." (+= teleological- focuses on the outcome of an action).
  • Martin Luther King Jnr - described agape love as "creative, redemptive, goodwill to all mean."- he was a pacifist and didn't violate the oppressor. (+= social justice).

John 3:16 - 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son." (shows agape).

Story of the parable son supports this also.

11 of 22

Situation Ethics 2

  • Barclay (in response to Fletcher) - to discard rules is to discard experience- it is difficult for individuals to make their own moral decisions in every situation.
  • St Paul - Christians have died to the law and 'you are not under law, but under grace." - the law cannot condemn Christians as long as they are in Christ Jesus.
  • Pope Pius XII - to act on individual circumstances was to reject the law of the Bible (divine law- 10 commandments).
  • Tillich - "the law is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law." - the moral principle is based on Christian love. (Mark 2:27- 'Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath.')
  • Robinson (book-'Honest to God') - "man come of age" - mankind has reached intellectual and rational maturity so we are able to make free moral decisions using agape.
12 of 22

Situation Ethics 3


"The error lies in thinking of conscience as a noun instead of a verb." - Fletcher

arm chair philosophy- it is about what you do, not what you say.

Newman - believes the conscience is the voice of God.

Situation Ethics Evaluation - 

+ autonomous, up to date, not limited to reason, focuses on motive.

- Barclay believes it would only work is "all men were angels", ignores rules, allows evil in the name of love, idolises the individual (gives them more authority than the Bible.

13 of 22

Business Ethics 1


  • Whistle blowers are reporting something that is threatening, or threatens to affect others to the public.. The are protected by the law- The Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998). 
  • Norman Bowie (book= 'Business Ethics') - states that whistle blowing violates a 'prima facie duty to the employer'. For Bowie, it is more ethical to solve the problem through business.
  • Kantian Ethics= emphasises the importance of honesty and promise keeping through the categorical imperative. A Kantian employee would find it difficult to allow a situation where a company broke the rules- it isn't universalisability. However, an employee sticking to a contract should keep promises they have made to the business. But if a company is exploiting its customers or employees- treating them as means to an end- there is a wider sense of duty.
  • Utilitarians= might resist whistle blowing depending on harm done, if it was unethical or illegal. They would have to weigh the balance of good or harm for all stake holders and whether this outweighs the consequences. It might be justified for a company to break rules in order to create greater happiness. A rule utilitarian might feel that there was a greater good of companies in general always following rules to keep the system ethical.
  • Case Study - Erin Brokovich's investigation uncovered that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) had been poisoning Hinkley's water for 30+ years. PG&E were exposed for leaking Chromium 6 into ground water- it is a cancer causing chemical. In 1996, there was a lawsuit, of which PG&E were forced to pay out $333 million in damages to over 600 Hinkley residents.
14 of 22

Business Ethics 2


  • = a business has a responsibility towards the community and the environment.
  • Milton Friedman - argued that businesses have no other responsibility but to increase their profits, he made the point that it was unethical to do anything else. 
  • Businesses take on social responsibility because they believe it will improve their image with customers. Employees may go and work for competition is they are treated poorly. Businesses will face far more restrictive regulations on their activities if they don't adopt self regulation.
  • Kantian= focused on the need to treat people as ends and not just means because they are beings of dignity. Companies which control and monitor employees excessively seem to be without respect for human beings.
  • Utilitarianism= focuses on the consequences of the greatest good. The greatest good could be interested in terms of greatest profit, this might lead to a ruthless attempt to maximise income. U tries to set aside selfish interest, so companies cannot just act in the interest of stakeholders.
  • Stakeholders= any individual or organisation affected by activities of a business. Identifying in advane how a business' actions will affect stakeholders can be challenging- their interests rarely overlap. e.g. reducing price of milk is good for customers but bad for farmers.
  • Businesses may take on social responsibility because the UN set up a voluntary project for ethically responsible investment, as of 2014, investors had put $34 trillion into funds commited to these principles.
15 of 22

Business Ethics 3


  • Case Study - TOMS Shoes - match every pair sold with a new pair for a child in need. TOMs has given 60 million shoes to children. TOMs Roasting Co. provided 335,000 weeks of safe water to 6 countries.


  • Karl Marx (book-'The Communist Manifesto') - acknowledges the issues of capitalism highlighting the class struggle between the bourgeoisie (control wealth) and the proletariat (who are subjugated and manipulated). Issues with capitalism: modern work is alienated, pay gap between workers, capitalism is bad for capitalists (economic interests put before emotional needs).
  • Adam Smith (book- 'The Wealth of Nations') - argued for humane capitalist economy. Wrote about the 'invisible hand' of the free market system which would regulate itself and suceed because of this- the system is counterbalanced by sentimentality so it mitigates individualism and selfishness. "Companies are not the evils which degrade the world, it is our appetites".
16 of 22

Business Ethics 4


  • Is the process by which businesses or other organisations develop international influence or start operating at a global scale.
  • Creates a development of global economy which allows investment and products to move seamlessly between countries.
  • Larger wealth of stakeholders. MNCs shift manufacturing facilities to LIDCs- provide jobs, cheap minimum wage, relaxed laws.
  • Crane and Morton - describe globalisation as "deterritorialization" - the eradication of social, political or cultural practices from their native places and populations.
  • Jeffrey Sachs -  "Globalisation, more than anything else, has reduced the number of extreme poor in India by 200 million and in China by 300 million since 1990".
  • Kantian - might help businesses to adopt some absolute guidelines for ensuring the well-being of workers around the world. Norman Bowie suggests rules for business a Kantian might adopt such as protecting autonomy and rationality of every worker, providing a salary sufficient enough for independent living and operating according to the rules of justice. However, Kantian ethics may also be difficult to apply because businesses have to treat workers at least partially as a means to an end and there are often situations where business and duties conflict.
17 of 22

Business Ethics 5

  • Utilitarian - on a larger scale, good that is done to developing countries outweighs the harm. Everyone benefits when goods can be produced cheaply enough for most to buy them, and everyone benefits when people are employed and payed. However, it could be argued that the rich gain a lot more than the poor through globalisation, although "greatest happiness" is achieved, poorer people loose out and are exploited.
  • Case Study - The Rana Plaza (2013) - weak government regulations permit unsafe working conditions, a poorly built Bangladeshi factory (supplied Primark and Walmart) collapsed, killing over 1100 and injuring over 2500. Workers were then ordered to return to work the following day and if not, a month's wage would be removed.
18 of 22

Euthanasia 1

eu= well/good   thanatos= death

  • Sanctity of Life - means that life is special, sacred, holy, God-given gift. Human life has sanctity (Genesis 1:27- imago dei). Sanctity of life would go against euthanasia. The 'slippery slope' argument can be used for SOL, saying that once life is considered to be less sacred in some cases, it undermines all human dignity and allows people to be treated as disposable.
  • Quality of Life - the idea that human life has to possess certain attributes in order to have value. Is often considered with animals, if they are suffering it would be cruel not to euthanise them.
  • Personhood - the quality or condition of being an individual person. Some argue that in order to be a person, there must be an awareness of the self and others and an ability to interact. Others argue that the only thing necessary is to be human. Personhood is linked to capabilities and functions.
  • Passive Euthanasia - life support removed, removal of medication, i.e. Alfie Evans.
  • Active Euthanasia - doing something to end your life, e.g. lethal injection. i.e. Dan James.
  • Voluntary Euthanasia - is when a patient's life is ended at their own request. -= person might change their mind when they are no longer able to communicate, will encourage unscrupulous people to put pressure on sick relatives, puts doctors and other health professionals in an impossible position.
19 of 22

Euthanasia 2

  • VE - Hippocratic Oath - Hippocrates developed an oath for doctors to preserve the lives of their patients - synderesis principle. 
  • Jonathon Glover (book= 'Causing Death and Saving Lives') - people should have the right to avoid pain and should be able to choose a gentle painless death if they can think rationally. += gives a decision to disabled people who are unable to commit suicide. 
  • Thomas Moore (book= 'Utopia') - advocated that VE should feature in a civilised society. He believes VE respects the right of an individual to choose the end of their life if they are terminally ill or experiencing some suffering.
  • Non-Voluntary Euthanasia - patient cannot make the decision themselves, i.e. Alfie Evans. - = it is not for us to decide what is an acceptable standard of brain function, Job 1:21 - 'God giveth and God taketh away', there is never a point when medical professionals can be totally certain of no hope of improvement.
  • Aristotle - people may not have fufilled their final cause if they euthanise.
  • Pope John Paul II - EVANGELIUM VITAE 1995 - "euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is deliberate and morally unacceptable of a human person. This doctrine is based upon natural law".
  • Charles Curran (catholic theologian) - is aware that in the final stages of life, when the patient is terminally ill, the dying process should not be prolonged unnecessarily.
  • Paul Ramsey - ORDINARY MEANS = preserving life using medicines e.t.c when there is a reasonable hope or benefit for the patient. EXTRAORDINARY MEANS = preserving life using medicines e.t.c when there is no hope or benefit.
20 of 22

Euthanasia 3


  • In Natural Law ethics, an action is morally good if it accords with eternal law, divine law, natural law and human law. Synderesis principle is to do good and avoid evil and a primary precept is preserve life. Human life is considered to be a sacred gift from God. Divine law teaches that in the Bible- Genesis 1:27- imago dei. Euthanasia is seen as being an apparent good- it seems to offer a good outcome but isn't good. NLT is absolutist- doesnt allow exceptions for circumstances.
  • The doctrine of double effect could be used in end of life care where the treatment offered to relieve someone's pain might have the double effect of shortening life. The intention would not be to kill but to relieve pain so it isn't wrong.
  • += it gives clear guidance; there is no doubt about what to do. It respects religious beliefs about SOL. Does not leave people vulnerable to unscrupulous relatives who wish to benefit from their deaths. It avoids a 'slippery slope' where human dignity becomes less important overtime.
  • -= is unsympathetic towards people in great pain or with no QOL. Medical advances make it difficult to judge whether some kinds of treatment should be regarded as burdensome or extraordinary, i.e. life support is both.
  • Peter Singer - has argued that the SOL principle is speciesist. Singer wishes to replace SOL principle with the criterion of personhood (rational, self conscious, sentient).
21 of 22

Euthanasia 4


  • Fletcher was in favour of the legislation of euthanasia and became president of the Euthanasia Society of America. SE rejects absolute rules and so rejects an absolute ban on euthanasia.
  • Personal- puts people before rules. Pragmatic- allows us to do whatever is best in the circumstances. Relativest- in any situation, you have to act out of love, ignoring any hard and fast rules. 
  • Fletcher thought QOL was more important than SOL.
  • +=more compassionate in individual situations rather than having a complete ban on E. Less discriminatory for disabled people. Places greater emphasis on human autonomy. 
  • -= most loving action isn't always easy to identify. Allowing euthanasia on a case-by-case basis makes legislation difficult. Legislating euthanasia might create a 'slippery slope' when people are euthanised when it might not be what they really wanted.

Case Studies-

  • Dan James= rugby accident, spinal injury, became disabled, was euthanised. VOLUNTARY AND ACTIVE.
  • Alfie Evans= had a degenerative neurological condition, was euthanised. NON-VOLUNTARY AND PASSIVE.
22 of 22


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Ethics resources »