Non-Consequentialism Theories

There are several Non-Consequentialist Theories that describe strategies for moral deliberations and provide guidelines for moral decision-making.

Virtue Ethics

Deontological Ethics

Duty Theories

Rights Theories

Categorical Imperative

Prima Facie Duty

Divine Command Ethics

Virtue Ethics focus on developing good character traits on the premise that actions are expressions of character traits. Thus, instead of learning rules of proper behavior, virtue ethics stresses the importance of developing good character; morality is determined by virtuous character traits. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle popularized this ethical approach.

Criticisms with Virtue Ethics:

1. People are judged by their actions not character trait. For example, according to virtue ethical theory, one may be considered morally good for being courageous – even though he was robbing a bank.

2. Virtuous character traits focus on the conduct of one’s action not the substance or consequence of one’s action. How does this facilitate the development of a standard code of behavior?

3. If virtue is an internal character trait, how can one identify it externally?

4. Virtuous character traits do not reflect the variety of moral values in society.

Deontological Ethics refers to a class of ethics in which the principle of obligation is the basis of moral decision making. The Greek terms, deon and logos, means duty and reasoning; hence, deontology is the "reasoning of duty." In contrast to Consequentialism, it does not consider the context or consequence of the action, but the way one chooses to think when he makes his choices such as to a higher law, duty, or rule. Correct moral choices are made when one understands what their moral law, duty, or rule is and acts according to the corresponding prescribed behavior. When one follows the law, duty, or rule, he is behaving morally.

Duties Theories consider behavior morally good when one acts out of a list of duties or obligations. There are duties to God, duties to oneself, family duties, social duties, and political duties.

Rights Theories consider behavior morally good when one acts on principles of rights or respects the rights of others. For example: human rights.

Categorical Imperative, originated by Immanuel Kant, is moral law determined by reason and having the nature of command or imperative. For example, one Categorical Imperative states, "Act so as to use humanity, whether in your own person or in others, always as an end, and never merely as a means." Enacted by reason, this theory demands obedience in respect of reason. In elevating reason to the highest level, man is the end in himself independent of any higher authority.

Prima Facie Duty is a revision of Duties Theory. It is a moral obligation, which is initially binding until a stronger obligation emerges. It attempts to provide a means to resolve moral conflicts by appealing to the highest duty. There are seven general foundational prima facie duties: fidelity - duty of fulfilling promises, reparation - duty to makeup for harm done, gratitude - duty to repay for past favors, justice - duty to be fair, beneficence - duty to improve the condition of others, self-improvement - duty of improving one's own condition, and non-malfesence - duty to not harm others.

Criticisms with the various Deontological Ethics:

1. There is no systematic or logical approach to deonotological moral principles. It’s hard to tell what our duties, rights, categorical imperatives, and prima facie principles are.

2. Is it possible to have universal principles when considering socioeconomic, cultural, and generational differences?

3. How are moral conflicts resolved?

Divine Command Ethics consider behavior morally good if God commands it.

Criticisms with Divine Command Ethics

1. How do you know if the command came from God and which god is the real God?

2. You need to know theological knowledge in order to have ethical knowledge.

3. Is the action right because God commands it, or does God command the action because it is right? The first statement supports Divine Command Theory, but the second statement infers that we do not need God for ethics.

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