Types of Ethics

LO’s: To describe a number of ethical
This approach to an ethical problem stresses the usefulness
(utility) of an action in promoting the common good.
Example: It could be argued that the torture of a terrorist is
acceptable as the potential information extracted could save
In a subjective approach to ethics, the individual is seen as having the
right to make judgements and take action according to their own
judgement, freedom and conscience.
External authority – whether in the form of laws,
community standards or objective views about
morality – is not regarded as any bar to the
freedom of the individual to choose and act.
In this view ethical behaviour is seen solely in terms of
behaving in a spirit of love. As long as a person’s actions
are based on acting in a loving way, they need not to be
inhibited by any other moral code or law.
Example: Faced with whether or not to end the life of a
terminally ill relative, a situation ethicist would examine
possible courses of action and then take the one they
considered the lost loving.
A relativist takes the view that what is right or wrong, good or
evil in human actions is not absolute(the same for everyone),
but depends on the culture, context or circumstances in
which each action occurs.
The abandonment of babies, or
Euthanasia of the disabled are seen as
acceptable for the people of a certain
culture if those values are accepted in
that culture.
Nihilism is based on the perception that life has no meaning,
that no goal is any better than another, that no action by an
individual makes any difference, and that all our decisions
arise merely from emotional or social needs rather than any
moral code.
Example: According to a Nihilist there is no difference
between good and evil.
Break into groups of 2-3. Rank the ethical approaches in
order from those you most agree with to the least.
Utilitarianism, Situation Ethics, Relativism,
Nihilism, Subjectivism
Be prepared to share why you chose this order.
The basis of these types of ethical approaches is that the
law is the most important thing. Only those acts done
from a sense of duty have a moral value. The law must
be followed under all circumstances and not matter what
the consequences.
A reading. P.75 of Textbook
Natural Law refers to an innate knowledge of right and
wrong that is part of being human.
A capacity to reason well about what is right and wrong is
described as ‘right reason’. This rational capacity within
human nature is seen as just as universal and as real as
physical scientific laws such as the law of gravity.
Natural Law is expressed in the conviction that ‘Good should be done
and promoted and evil avoided’.
It is the basis for widely shared principles, norms and practises in
fields such as justice and human rights, life issues and sexual
Anyone guided by natural Law understands that rape , the murder
of innocent people and the abuse of children are always wrong
Natural law does not allow for actions to be right for some people
and wrong for others. Unlike most of the other approaches Natural
law gives rise to objective moral norms and rules of conduct.
Some fundamental Values that most of us see as
good and deserving of natural human rights:
 Equality
 Generosity
 Self Sacrifice
 Truth
 Peace
 Justice
 Friendship
 Health