Lesson 2:Examining Different Ethical Systems

Lesson 2:Examining Different Ethical Systems

In this session we will be focusing on two very different normative ethical systems known as utilitarianism and ethical formalism. Utilitarianism and formalism are often contrasted with one another based on the general type of ethical system each exemplifies. Utilitarianism is a teleological ethical system. The word teleological comes from the ancient Greek telos, meaning end or purpose. Formalism on the other hand is a deontological ethical system. Deontology comes from the Greek word deon, meaning duty. One system is concerned with ends, while the other is concerned with duty.
A teleological, or consequentialist theory holds that an action is morally right either if a person’s doing it brings about good consequences, or if the action is of a kind which, if everyone did it, would have good consequences. The consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. In either case, ultimately it is the goodness or badness of the end result of actions that make them right or wrong. In a consequentialist ethical system, the test of right and wrong actions consists in applying a standard of value to the consequences of the actions. If the consequences of someone’s doing a particular action fulfill the standard of value, then the action is therefore right.

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