?Consequentialist and Non-consequentialist views of morality Consequentialist and non-consequentialist are the two major concepts in the study of morality. Consequentialist or ‘teleological’ theories are concerned with consequences while non-consequentialist or ‘deontological’ theories are not concerned with the consequences. The consequentialist perspective is based on two major ethical theories including ethical egoism and utilitarianism. These theories coincide in their view that human beings should act and behave in a manner that will result in a positive consequence.
However these theories differ when looking at who the consequence is beneficial to. Typically egoists suggest that human beings should act in the interest of themselves whereas utilitarians suggest that humans should be concerned with the interests of all. Utilitarianism falls into two categories firstly Act utilitarianism this view sees that people should do what will bring about the most good for everyone (Thiroux & Krassman, 2012). It values the individuals input when determining whether the action or behaviour is moral.
Secondly is Rule utilitarianism which sees that people should follow the rule or rules as any behaviour or actions in accordance to the rules will bring about the greater good for everyone. The non-consequentialist perspective of morality does not consider the outcome or consequences of a human beings behaviours or actions but rather is determined by whether or not the action or behaviour itself is right or ‘moral’. Non-consequentialist theories also fall under the act and rule categories just like utilitarianism; however non-consequentialist act and rule are not based on consequences.
Act non-consequentialists are viewed on the actions they take in a particular situation while rule non-consequentialists view following or obeying the rules (moral commands) determines whether the action is moral (Thiroux & Krassman, 2012). A theory of rule non-consequentialists is The Divide Command Theory is, this theory sees that if a person has belief in a god or gods which have already created a set of moral commands then that person is determined as good or moral if their actions are in accordance with their god’s commands regardless of the consequences or outcomes that may occur.
There are also other non-consequentialist theories such as ‘Duty Ethics’ and ‘Prima Facie Duties’ (Thiroux & Krassman, 2012, p. 55). Absolutism and Relativism Within the studies of ethical reasoning there are two opposite views which are apparent absolutism and relativism. Absolutism usually within the rule of non-consequentialists has the view that there are ‘absolutes’ in the world that once realised must be abided by. In Thiroux and Krassman (2012, p. 78) Absolute is be defined as being “not to be doubted or questioned – positive, certain, and unconditional.
” While relative states the opposite that there is no ‘absolutes’ or certainty and that morals are dependent upon the situation, people, place and time meaning that there is no definite set of moral values that are shared across all cultures, all are relative to the specific the individual contexts in which they are recognised. The theories of cultural relativism and cultural absolutism state that there is evidence which suggests explanations for why each of the above is valid when looking at ethics and morality (Thiroux & Krassman, 2012).
Cultural Absolutism doesn’t suggest that there is no variation between cultures and that morals, ethics and standards are identical across all cultures but states that the underpinnings that make up these rules are all the same. Evidence to support this includes the example of the similarities of the moral codes and standards people in all societies abide by such as “preservation of human life, governing sexual behaviour, prohibiting lying, and establishing reciprocal obligations between parents and children” (Thiroux & Krassman 2012, p. 79).
Another example is the shared needs of people such as survival, hunger and thirst and intimacy. Cultural relativism states that moral codes and ethics do not transfer culture to culture evidence to support this theory includes ancient and modern studies which depict an enormous variation in religious beliefs, daily tasks, customs, mannerisms and attitudes across cultures. Another piece of evidence supporting this theory is that a person’s context such as their time and place is a determining factor on what their morals, beliefs, values and attitudes will be.
The main complication that arises when looking at absolutism and relativism as moral systems is how a balance between the order and stability of absolutism and the individual and contextual freedom of relativism is maintained. One way this is achieved is when an exception is mad of is thought to be a ‘near’ or ‘almost’ absolute as long as it is justifiable (Thiroux & Krassman, 2012, p. 86). Virtue Ethics Virtue Ethics are a moral theory is based on the character of an individual and the kind of person they will become.
Virtue ethics concerns itself mainly with the goodness and excellence of people and humanity. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is where the study of virtue ethics is derived. Aristotle puts emphasis on actions as contributing to the good of mankind rather than actions just being good or bad. Another theory on the study of virtue ethics is Confucian’s Moral Self-Cultivation theory where it was believed that virtue could be used and developed in order to transform a person which would lead to fulfilled life governed by ones ethics.
In more contemporary theories of virtue ethics, virtue ethics is seen as “a reaction against moral theories that attempt to fit our moral experience into an established system of rules or pre-established ideals” (Thiroux & Krassman 2012, p. 68). Meaning that contemporary studies of virtue ethics often oppose the early theorists however many still consider Aristotle and Confucious’ theories to be valid today.
Contemporary theorist Alasdair MacIntyre draws from Aristotle but does not agree with all of his findings, in his analysis virtues are constitutions which act and feel and in doing so create a virtuous feeling within the individual therefore it is not just the act that must be virtuous. The advantages of virtue ethics include the fact its aim is to bring about the good in humans not just the good in their actions, it also tries to tie reason and emotion together so that it can be better understood.
Disadvantages include the fact there is no proven end or purpose, theres no clear definition of what virtue is and if this is so, how can we decide what being virtuous is and who is a virtuous person. An example of this was discussed in a tutorial where we were asked whether Barac Obama waste was a virtuous person. There were mixed responses gathered in feedback as no one could be certain whether he was a truly virtuous person in accordance to his policies, political views, his person beliefs, actions and behaviours.
Virtue ethics however hold an important role within the study of morality and ethics though not all assumptions can be directly proven, there are valid points which depict a relationship between what it means to be ethical and what it is to be virtuous. References Thiroux J. P & Krassman K. W, 2012, Ethics Theory and Practice, 11th edn, Pearson International Edition, London pp. 30 – 89.
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