Historically ethics was studied from a philosophical aspect and viewed as the science of morals. Ethics had been defined as the principles of moral conduct that govern our behavior. Our ethical behavior is developed from various factors, to include our environment, family and beliefs. The origins of ethics can be traced back to the fifth century, BC ( Banner, 1968, pg.67). Plato, Socrates and Aristotle are among the early teachers of ethics.
These teachers along with many other philosophers developed and taught numerous ethical theories based on their beliefs. Ethical theories that have evolved through the years include, but are not limited to:
§ The Greek ethics of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle focused on moral virtues.
§ The Christian ethics of St. Augustine focused on divine revelation.
§ The consequential ethical theory of Bentham theorized that the consequences of one’s behavior are crucial when making moral decisions.
§ The non-consequential ethics of Kant which viewed an individual’s duty and moral obligation as paramount when faced with an ethical challenge.
Contemporary philosophers define ethics as a philosophical examination of the principles of right versus wrong, and view morality as the practice of these principles (Souryal, 1998, pg.17). The study of modern ethics and human behavior is a continuum of the examination of many of the same theories studied by earlier philosophers.
One such theory is the deontological theory. This ethical theory is based an individual’s actions and not the consequences of the actions. Deontological is derived from the word deontos, the Greek word meaning duty or obligation.
There are two sub-categories of the deontological theory. The “monistic” sub-category bases morality solely on one virtue. Examples of the monistic category of ethical theories are hedonism and Kant’s duty theory. In the theory of hedonism, pleasure is the only good, and in Kant’s theory on ethics, one’s duty or moral obligation is the sole virtue or value of goodness. The “multiple” sub-category of ethical theories has a minimum of two values of goodness, such as a woman marrying an intelligent and handsome man. The multiple values of goodness are wealth and good looks. (Souryal, 1998, pg. 67-68).
Deontologicalists believe that the consequences of our behavior are insignificant and is not a factor to considered when confronted with an ethical dilemma. Proponents of deontological ethics do not consider consequences as important when determining whether an individual is moral or immoral. Morality is based solely on the person’s action. Several ethical theories are deontological theories.
1. Immanuel Kant’s Duty/ Good Will Theory: This theory is a non-consequential theory because morality is based on...