Ethical Theories Essay

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Ethical theories To be able to deal with responsibilities in an ethical way, we need to know more about ethics. What is ethics? And what ethical theories are around? That’s what we’ll discuss in this chapter. 1 1.1 Ethical definitions What is ethics? The word ethics comes from the Greek ethos, meaning something like ‘morals’. In fact, ethics is defined as the systematic reflection on what is moral. In this definition, morality is the whole of opinions, decisions and actions with which people express what they think is good or right. So, in short, to think ethically, you need to systematically reflect on what people think is good or right. Ethics is not a manual with answers on how to act. It is only a search for the right kind of morality. We can distinguish two kinds of ethics. The descriptive ethics is involved with the description of existing morality. It is about facts. Descriptive judgments are therefore true or false. On the other hand, there is the prescriptive ethics, also known as the normative ethics. This branch of ethics actually judges morality. Normative judgments are therefore value judgments: they indicate whether something is good or bad. We will mainly consider ourselves with normative ethics. 1.2 Norms, values and virtues The most important parts of normative ethical theories are values, norms and virtues. It is important to know the distinction between these three terms. • Moral values are matters/convictions that are worth striving for in general. Examples include justice, happiness, charity and such. A distinction can be made between intrinsic values and instrumental values. An intrinsic value is a value in itself: something that is worth striving for. An instrumental value is a value that only contributes to an intrinsic value. For example, if you want to get money to help people, then getting money is the instrumental value,

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