Jul 12, 2020

Moral Theories: An Introduction

Moral Theories - Consequentialism

In consequentialism, the consequence of an action justifies the moral acceptability of the means taken to reach that end. The results of actions outweigh any other consideration; in other words, the end justifies the means. Jeremy Bentham was an early and influential advocate of utilitarianism, the dominant consequentialist position. A utilitarian believes in the greatest happiness for the greatest number. The more people who benefit from a particular action, the greater its good.

Moral Theories - Deontology

Deontology or Kantianism is an obligation-based theory whose chief author was Immanuel Kant, who lived in the 18th century. This theory emphasizes the type of action rather than the consequences of that action. Deontologists believe that moral decisions should be made based on one's duties and the rights of others. According to Kant, morality is based on pure reason. As people have the innate ability to act rationally, they, therefore, must act morally, irrespective of personal desires. Another way of stating Kant's theory is Act morally regardless of the consequences. - In the case of the doctor and the homeless man, again assuming there is no penalty for either decision, which would a deontologist do?

Moral Theories - Bioethics

Common morality theories are usually based on principles that are used to guide ethical thinking, based on a shared moral belief. One of these theories is Bioethics, the ethics of biology, biological research, and the applications of that research. It is an ethical theory that brings together medicine, the law, social sciences, philosophy, theology, politics, and other disciplines to address questions related to clinical decision making and medical research.

Moral Theories - Principles of Bioethics

Some of the early founders of bioethics put forth four principles that form this framework for moral reasoning. These four principles are:
  • 1. Autonomy one should respect the right of individuals to make their own decisions
  • 2. Nonmaleficence one should avoid causing harm
  • 3. Beneficence one should take positive steps to help others
  • 4. Justice benefits and risks should be fairly distributed
One commentator has said, the four principles should be thought of as the four moral nucleotides that constitute moral DNA capable, alone or in combination, of explaining and justifying all the substantive and universalisable moral norms of health care ethics

Moral Theories - Summary

In summary, ethics is how we look at and understand life, while moral theories are frameworks we use to decide how to act. Consequentialism is a theory that emphasizes the results of actions, while Deontology stresses the requirement to act morally, irrespective of the outcome. Bioethics is a principle-based theory that brings together the ethics of biology, biological research, and their applications. The four principles of Bioethics are autonomy, the right of individuals to make their own decisions; nonmaleficence, one should avoid causing harm; beneficence, positive steps should be taken to help others; and justice, the benefits, and risks should be fairly distributed. While no one moral theory is correct, and there are many more to be considered, they provide a useful tool to guide ethical decision making.

Learning resources can be found under http://www.globethics.net/library

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