PHIL 240A.  HANDOUT #7.

 

VARIETIES OF NONCONSEQUENTIALIST ETHICAL THEORIES

 

                An ANTI-CONSEQUENTIALIST Ethical Theory is a general normative theory of morality according to which the rightness or wrongness of an act, system of rules, etc., in no way depends on the (non-moral) goodness or badness of the consequences.  (e.g., Kant's moral theory is anti-consequentialist)

 

                A NON-CONSEQUENTIALIST Ethical Theory is a general normative theory of morality that is not Consequentialist--that is, a theory according to which the rightness or wrongness of an act, system of rules, etc. depends, at least in part, on something other than the (non-moral) goodness or badness of the consequences.  Obviously, Anti-Consequentialism implies Non-Consequentialism, but not vice versa.  It is possible for a Non-Consequentialist (e.g., Rawls) to claim that the (non-moral) goodness or badness of the consequences of an act is relevant to moral rightness or wrongness.  A Non-Consequentialist simply claims that (non-moral) goodness or badness of the consequences is not the only thing that determines moral rightness or wrongness.

 

                A DEONTOLOGICAL Ethical Theory is a duty-based Non-Consequentialist Ethical Theory.  A duty-based theory is a theory according to which the central moral concept is that of duty (i.e., of the rightness or wrongness of individual choices).  A duty-based theory can be contrasted with a sentiment-based or character-based theory (e.g., a Virtue Theory, in which the central moral concept is that of the morally good character or morally good disposition, and which analyzes the rightness or wrongness of individual choices indirectly in terms of the character or dispositions of the agent making the choices).

 

 

VARIETIES OF DEONTOLOGICAL ETHICAL THEORIES

(Varieties Correspond to the Four Levels of Moral Disagreement)

 

                An ACT DEONTOLOGICAL (or PARTICULARIST) Ethical Theory is a deontological theory that accords logical priority to particular moral judgments, rather than to rules or principles.  (All Act Deontological Theories can be summarized as follows:  “Do the right thing!”)

 

                A RULE DEONTOLOGICAL Ethical Theory (e.g., W.D. Ross) is a deontological theory which accords logical priority to rules (e.g., "Do not lie"), rather than to particular judgments or to principles.  (Ross accords logical priority to the rules stating conditional or prima facie duties.  He does not assume that there are general principles for resolving conflicts among the prima facie duties.)

 

                A GENERAL-PRINCIPLE DEONTOLOGICAL Ethical Theory is a deontological theory that accords logical priority to general principles (e.g., the Rawlsian principle that one ought to be willing to cooperate on fair terms of social cooperation).

 

                A BASIC-PRINCIPLE DEONTOLOGICAL Ethical Theory is a deontological theory which claims to derive general principles of morality from the most basic or fundamental normative principles (e.g., Kant's claim to have derived the moral law (the categorical imperative) from the fundamental principles (laws) of rationality—especially, the law of Non-Contradiction).