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How Actions Can Be Morally Evaluated
Teleological Ethics
Deontological Ethics
Teleological Ethics: morality is the means to
achieve what is identified as good or valuable
Deontological Ethics: the good or valuable is
doing our duty (the morally right, obligatory)
Divine Command $Natural Law $Kant $Buddhism
Divine Command Theory
The good is whatever God commands (as
identified in the Scriptures) because it is God’s
 What God wills can be arbitrary
 Scriptures conflict and need interpretation
 The theory does not appeal to non-believers
& lacks rational persuasiveness (circular)
Natural Law Theory
 Natural Law: we should follow reason and our
God-instilled inclinations (Stoics, Aquinas)
Objections: inclinations sometimes conflict
Reply: principle of double effect: our
intention should always be to do the good
Counter-replies: $natural is not always good
$people differ on what is natural
$even double effects are intended
Kant’s Ethics (Formalism)
 The essential feature of morality is obligation;
you are obligated only if everyone else is too;
the form of moral obligation is its universality
 Moral obligation does not vary from person to
person. It is not a hypothetical imperative (if
you want Y, you ought to do X); rather, the
imperative is categorical (you must do X)
 Your intention must be to do your duty, to act
for the sake of doing your duty
Kant: Objections to Consequentialism,
Divine Command & Natural Law Theories
 If we are naturally oriented to seek happiness,
we are not free and thus cannot be morally
obligated to seek happiness: ought implies can
 Because opinions differ about what happiness
is, we could never agree on moral principles
 Consequences are often out of our control, so
we cannot be held responsible for our actions
 We can hold ourselves responsible only if the
moral law is self-imposed (“autonomous”)
Kant: The Categorical Imperative
 Always act only on maxims (rules) that you
could will everyone universally to adopt
 Two tests for universalizability:
 Consistency: a maxim must be
universalizable without contradiction
 Acceptability: a universalized maxim must
be acceptable
Objection: moral rules often conflict
Kant’s Categorical Imperative
 Because human beings can act rationally, they
can act for the sake of doing their duty; that is,
they can act on the basis of a “good will”
 Rational beings are capable of self-obligating
behavior; we should therefore treat others as
ends-in-themselves, freely consenting agents
Objection: humans are not simply rational
Buddhist Ethics
 The craving for individuality (including
life, pleasure, power) produces suffering—
which is ended through virtue and meditation
 Being virtuous requires us to respect ourselves
and others, and to be patient, moderate, and to
maintain a clear and balanced mind
 Personal enlightenment consists not in merely
following rules but in seeing one’s place in the