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Consequentialists believe that moral value lies in the good (or bad) consequences of an action. Good consequences mean the action was good (and vicea versa). But According to Aristotle, “good” also means “fulfilling your function well.” So you can be “good” in fulfilling your function to achieve the higher good: “eudaimonia”.


Kantian deontological ethics

An ethical theory which views the moral value of an action as lying in the action as lying in the action itself, regardless of the consequences. The Kantian aspect proposes certain rules, principles or maxims that guide us as to which actions are right and which are wrong.


Divine command deontological ethics

Claims that the moral value of an action is determined by the command of God. One is right as long as one follows Gods commands.


Disposition (virtue ethics)

A character trait that causes the individual to have a tendency to act in a certain way e.g. the man was at a kind disposition.


Duty (deontological ethics)

An action which we are required or impelled to carry out, for Kant they are imperatives. One should do their duty regardless of their emotional disposition.


Eudemonia (Virtue ethics)

Human flourishing, our ultimate goal as humans.



The claim that pleasure is the good. Many utilitarians are hedonists, in that they believe we ought to try to maximise pleasure.


Hedonic Calculus (Utilitarianism)

Invented by Bentham, a way of determining the moral status of an act by calculating the total pain and pleasure caused.


Categorical imperative

We should only act in such a way that our act or maxim could be rationally willed to be a universal law.


Hypothetical imperative

A moral obligation that applies only if one desires the implicated goal. E.g. “do not steal if you don’t want your possessions to be stolen” or “do not lie if you want people to think well of you.” (is conditional, requires an ulterior motive).


Moral dilemma

A situation when there is a difficulty choosing two or more moral courses of action because there are moral reasons for both choosing and not choosing a course of action or when there are moral reasons against all courses of action, but where a choice has to be made.



The view that moral judgements very according to the social context in which they are made. Moral values or standards of conduct are different in different societies. i.e. what is right for you may not be right for me etc.


Summum bonum

The highest good, valued above all other goods. The good that all humans are striving to reach.



Purpose, goal or end, deriving from the Greek word telos. A teleological ethical theory is one that says we should be striving to achieve certain moral goals – For Aristotelians this would be virtue, for utilitarians is would be happiness/pleasure.



A principles univesalisable if it is applied to all people in the same way. For Kant, it also says we should only act on those rules which we can will to be universal laws (i.e. without contradiction or inconsistency).



A consequentialist moral theory, perhaps inspired by Hume and developed by Mill and Bentham. It is a hedonistic theory claiming that what is good is as much pleasure or happiness as possible for the majority of people.



An act or object is has utility in as much as it brings about something that is desired, this equates to goodness.


Utility Principle

The principle that an act or object is good in as much as it brings about something that is desired (for utilitarians this is pleasure which equates to happiness).


Verification Principle

The rule put forward by verificationists that a proposition is only meaningful if it can be shown to be true or false by experience or by analysis of the meanings of the terms involved. (Able to be proven true/ false or tautology)


Virtue Ethics

An ethical theory which locates value not in an action or its consequences, but in the agent performing the act. Virtue ethicists stress the need to develop virtuous dispositions and to judge actions in the broader context of what someone is inclined to do. A person may therefore be virtuous or vicious, depending on how they are inclined to act. Virtue ethicists fail to give a concrete formula that guides us to what we should do in each situation but does provide some guidance with the doctrine of the mean.


Virtue (virtue ethics)

A character trait or disposition which is to be valued (for ancient Greeks it is to be excellent). Common virtues include Common virtues include wisdom, courage, self-control, honesty, generosity, compassion, kindness.