Intro to Ethics

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 30 September 2016

Intro to Ethics

Ethics is a field of study where people are encouraged to examine their own moral values and be able to examine the values of others. There are several types of ethics, but we wish to examine normative ethics and to differentiate between teleology and deontology. We also wish to examine and explain how virtue theory and character are connected. Normative ethics can be defined as arriving at a moral standard that regulates our right and wrong conduct. It is a search for an ideal behavior.

Fieser notes that the Golden Rule is an exemplary example of a “normative principle (2006). Fieser also notes that there is one key assumption of normative ethics—that there is “only one ultimate criterion of moral conduct (Ibid). ” There are three strategies of note—virtue theories, duty theories, and consequentialist theories. Virtue theories place the emphasis on learning a set of rules and more stress on developing good character traits (Ibid). It is one of the oldest normative traditions in Western philosophy (Ibid). Duty theories “base morality on specific, foundational principles of obligation (Ibid).

Fieser notes four central duty theories. The first is put forward by Samuel Pufendorf, who placed all duties under the headings of duty to God, duty to self, and duty to others. The second is called rights theory, which was forwarded by John Locke. A third duty theory is emphasized by Kant, who put forward a single principle of duty. He states we have a “categorical imperative (Ibid). ” A final duty based theory comes from W. D. Ross. He states that our duties are “part of the fundamental nature of the universe (Ibid).

Consequentialist theories postulate that moral conduct is determined “solely by a cost-benefit analysis of an action’s consequence (Ibid). ” Teleology and deontology are two diametrically opposed theories that propose two ways of approaching right and wrong. Teleological theory states that the ultimate criteria of what is morally right is the non-moral value that is brought to the table. According to Frankena, the “final appeal…must be to the comparative amount of good produced (1973). In other words, more good than evil must be produced to measure the action ‘good’ under a teleological theory.

In deontological theories, “the basic judgments of obligation are all purely particular ones (Ibid). ” There are two types of deontological theories—act deontological theories and rule deontological theories. Act deontological theories state we must decide what is the right thing to do in each particular situation. Rule deontological theories state that the “standard of right and wrong consists of one or more rules (Ibid). ” Virtue theory and character are connected because we are each raised with a particular value system that guides us in our moral behavior.

That virtue theory is ingrained in our character, therefore creating a unique individual with a unique value system. Ethics is a complex subject that is hard to define and defies explanation. It is intricate and complex and encourages us to think about our own morals and moral system. It encourages us to move beyond our narrow constraints of right and wrong to the broader implications of our moral thinking. We should constantly examine our ethics to make sure we are making proper decisions and we are not thinking only of ourselves, but of our fellow man as well.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 30 September 2016

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