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Teleological Ethics Essay Examples

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Teleological Approach to Ethics

Teleological Approach to Ethics

A teleological approach to ethics is based on the concept of seeking a "telos" in ethical decision-making. Telos is a Greek word meaning "end" or "goal"; thus, teleological ethics is concerned with how choices will affect a particular desired moral outcome. Generally, we can speak of two main teleological moral philosophie: utilitarianism/consequentialism, and the virtue ethics espoused by ancient and medieval moral philosophers.


In the case of utilitarianism/consequentialism, the goal is generally conceived of in terms of the "greatest good for the greatest number." Decisions are based on how much final "good" or "happiness" they will produce for the greatest number of people. This system can justify actions that might be considered morally wrong, so long as those actions bring about an overall better outcome. An example of this would be torturing someone to find the location of a ticking time bomb. While torture for its own sake would be wrong, because it is being done for the greater good and to save lives, it can be understood to be the ethical thing to do.

Virtue Ethics

Considering virtue ethics, we see that the end point being sought is not necessarily the same as in utilitarianism/consequentialism. While virtue ethics does indeed seek to maximize "happiness," it sees this happiness in a much more personal way, and as being fundamentally tied to the cultivation and practicing of key virtues. Tracing its origins to Aristotle, this ethical theory argues that the goal is the development of the human mind, spirit and body to the fullest potential possible. This is done by practicing virtues such as prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

Everyday Applications

As you practice these virtues in your life, they become internalized within your everyday decision-making until most of what you do tilts toward what Aristotle called the "golden mean," that sweet spot of human existence where everything is perfectly balanced in such a way as to allow a person to thrive. We can contrast this with utilitarianism/consequentialism in one important way: While the former essentially argues that the ends justify the means, the latter points out that the means are what let you reach the proper end in the first place. It does no good under virtue ethics to save your life if that life is devoid of virtue and thus unable to access the upper echelons of your human potential. On the other hand, utilitarianism/consequentialism might be satisfied with a lower overall moral standard and happiness, so long as it represents the greatest good possible at the time.

Differences with other ethical approaches

As mentioned, these two teleological ethical systems fundamentally differ in their perceived goals and ends. However, they both share an overarching concern with how moral choices can affect our lives and the lives of others. Decisions are thus justified based on factors somewhat outside of the particular course of action itself. This is in contrast to other ethical systems, such as the deontological ethics of Immanuel Kant, in which the concern is with the rightness or wrongness of the action itself. In deontological ethics, if killing is determined to be wrong on the basis of reason, then it can never be justified, even if it is in the defense of another's life. Therefore, teleological ethics can be said to be more flexible in its approach to morality than strict rule-based morality such as deontological ethics.

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Teleological ethics essay examples

Section 3.Consequential or Non-Consequential

Consequentialist vs. non-consequentialist theories of ethics

There are two broad categories of ethical theories concerning the source of value: consequentialist and non-consequentialist.

A consequentialist theory of value judges the rightness or wrongness of an action based on the consequences that action has. The most familiar example would be utilitarianism--``that action is best that produces the greatest good for the greatest number'' (Jeremy Bentham).

A non-consequentialist theory of value judges the rightness or wrongness of an action based on properties intrinsic to the action, not on its consequences.

Libertarianism--People should be free to do as they like as long as they respect the freedom of others to do the same.

Contractarianism--No policy that causes uncompensated harm on anyone is permitted (Pareto safety).

Consider these Definitions:

Teleology, Consequentialism, and Utility

Telos is a Greek word for "end", or goal. Not end as in the "end of the road", but as in "the end which we seek." Teleological ethical theories are theories which describe our responsibilities and obligations in terms of our attainment of certain goals, or ends. In other words, if you want to find out what you ought to do, it is essential to understand what the ultimate goal of ethics is.

One religious, teleological theory suggests that the final goal of humanity is to love God, and to live a life of service to others. A different take on the nature of our moral "end" is that the fundamental goal of human behavior is to be happy -- the task then, of course, is to spell out exactly what human happiness consists in.

Consequentialism is a type of teleological theory -- consequentialist theories suggest that the moral value, the moral rightness or wrongness of an act, is entirely a function of the consequences, or the results of that act. Like above, what sorts of consequences are morally good and what sorts are morally bad need to be spelled out.

Both teleological and consequentialist theories are types of theories. They are not themselves theories for one very important reason -- they don't specify what goals or consequences ought to guide moral judgments and actions. In other words, they are simply a couple of ways of categorizing ethical theories.

In Chapter Six, we examine utilitarianism. This theory is both teleological and consequentialist. It is teleological in as much as it says that moral experience is first and foremost about attaining a certain goal -- in this case, human utility (read: happiness). It is consequentialist in as much as it says that the way to evaluate moral decisions and actions is to assess the consequences of (prospective) actions. If the consequences are good, then the action is right (either morally permissible or obligatory). If the consequences are bad, then the action is wrong (impermissible).

In short, then, Utilitarianism is a type of consequentialism, which is a type of teleological theory.

Teleological Theories: Consequentialist Approach

Deontological Theories: Non-Consequentialist Approach

Ethics and Morality FAQ: Teleology and Ethics

Ethics and Morality FAQ: Teleology and Ethics

By Austin Cline. Agnosticism & Atheism Expert

Updated February 10, 2017.

Teleological moral systems are characterized primarily by a focus on the consequences which any action might have (for that reason, they are often referred to as consequentialist moral systems, and both terms are used here). Thus, in order to make correct moral choices. we have to have some understanding of what will result from our choices. When we make choices which result in the correct consequences, then we are acting morally; when we make choices which result in the incorrect consequences, then we are acting immorally.

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The idea that the moral worth of an action is determined by the consequences of that action is often labeled consequentialism. Usually, the "correct consequences" are those which are most beneficial to humanity - they may promote human happiness, human pleasure, human satisfaction, human survival or simply the general welfare of all humans. Whatever the consequences are, it is believed that those consequences are intrinsically good and valuable, and that is why actions which lead to those consequences are moral while actions which lead away from them are immoral.

The various teleological moral systems differ not only on exactly what the "correct consequences" are, but also on how people balance the various possible consequences. After all, few choices are unequivocally positive, and this means it is necessary to figure out how to arrive at the correct balance of good and bad in what we do. Note that merely being concerned with the consequences of an action does not make a person a consequentialist - the key factor is, rather, basing the morality of that action on the consequences instead of on something else.

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The word teleology comes from the Greek roots telos. which means end, and logos. which means science. Thus, teleology is the "science of ends." Key questions which teleological ethical systems ask include:

What will be the consequences of this action?
What will be the consequences of inaction?
How do I weigh the harm against the benefits of this action?

Some examples of teleological ethical theories include:

Ethical Egoism. an action is morally right if the consequences of the action are more favorable than unfavorable only to the moral agent performing the action.

Ethical Altruism. an action is morally right if the consequences of the action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone except the moral agent.

Ethical Utilitarianism. an action is morally right if the consequences of the action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone.

Act and Rule Consequentialism

Consequentialist moral systems are usually differentiated into act-consequentialism and rule-consequentialism. The former, act-consequentialism, argues that the morality of any action is dependent upon its consequences. Thus, the most moral action is the one which leads to the best consequences.

The latter, rule-consequentialism, argues that focusing only on the consequences of the action in question can lead people to commit outrageous actions when they foresee good consequences. Thus, rule-consequentialists add the following provision: imagine that an action were to become a general rule - if the following of such a rule would result in bad consequences, then it should be avoided even if it would lead to good consequences in this one instance. This has very obvious similarities to Kant 's categorical imperative, a deontological moral principle .

Rule-consequentialism can lead to a person performing actions which, taken alone, may lead to bad consequences. It is argued, however, that the overall situation is that there will be more good than bad when people follow the rules derived from consequentialist considerations. For example, one of the objections to euthanasia is that allowing such an exception to the moral rule "do not kill" would lead to a weakening of a rule which has generally positive consequences - even though in such instances following the rule leads to negative consequences.

One common criticism of teleological moral systems is the fact that a moral duty is derived from a set of circumstances lacking any moral component. For example, when a teleological system declares that choices are moral if they enhance human happiness, it isn't argued that "human happiness" is intrinsically moral itself. Nevertheless, a choice which enhances that happiness is moral. How does it happen that one can lead to the other?

Critics also often point out the impossibility of actually determining the full range of consequences any action will have, thus rendering attempts to evaluate the morality of an action based upon those consequences similarly impossible. In addition, there is much disagreement over how or even if different consequences can really be quantified in the way necessary for some moral calculations to be made. Just how much "good" is necessary to outweigh some "evil," and why?

Another common criticism is that consequentialist moral systems are simply complicated ways of saying that the ends justify the means - thus, if it is possible to argue that enough good will result, then any outrageous and horrible actions would be justified. For example, a consequentialist moral system might justify the torture and murder of an innocent child if it would lead to a cure for all forms of cancer.

The question of whether or not we should really be committed to taking responsibility for all of the consequences of our actions is another issue which critics bring up. After all, if the morality of my action is dependent upon all of its consequences, then I am taking responsibility for them -- but those consequences will reach far and wide in ways I cannot anticipate or comprehend.

Deontological, Teleological and Situational Ethics

Ethics is a branch of philosophy dealing with right and wrong.

The term deontological comes from greek word “deon” meaning “duty”. This approach to ethical decisions holds that some moral principles are binding, regardless of consequences. This approach is duty based, action based approach, also called humanitarian approach. Deontologists do not look at how much good might be caused by an action. They look at the action itself, deciding whether it is prohibited or made obligatory by one of their rules. Usually, the rules are expressed negatively: do not lie, do not steal, and do not harm the innocent. In a few cases, the rules are expressed positively: keep your promises; treat all persons as beings with rights, tell the truth. These rules are often called constraints. A “constraint” is like a set of handcuffs – it stops you from doing something, even if you want to do it. about lying or killing that is simply wrong, regardless of what good you could accomplish by lying or stealing – or killing – in some particular case. When they are challenged on this, they have some very compelling answers:

“My duty is to make sure that I do not do evil. If I kill to save a life, by killing I am causing evil. My first duty is always to ensure that I am good in myself. Killing or lying or stealing would make me bad in myself.”

“If everyone followed my rules, then no-one would be killing, lying, or stealing, and evil would disappear in the world.”

Deontologists say that the right is the only consideration. We cannot worry about what good may come into the world. Right and good are two different things, and we must worry about the first.

Deontologists don’t have a lot of rules. In some cases, this gives them a fair amount of freedom. Since their rules forbid or require only certain actions, other actions are available to them. A deontologist would never say, “It is good to preserve the rain forest.” After all, preserving the rain forest is all about consequences and that is not what a deontologist looks at. So the deontologist might be able to chop away and not feel guilty. Deontologists might say, “respect the world God gave us” and respecting the world might require protecting the rain forest but that would not be why the deontologists did so. They would be acting to do what was a duty, and whether or not that saved the rain forest or cost a half a million poor people their jobs in those forests would not be their main motive

In other cases, however, even one or two rules can make life very difficult. Immanuel Kant is one of the world’s great deontological thinkers. He is an absolutist. He established what are called the categorical imperatives. These are rules he feels all people must follow, and while there are only a few, imagine trying to follow them all the time. Non-absolutist deontologists, such as W. D. Ross hold that the consequences of an action such as lying may sometimes make lying the right thing to do.

The word teleology comes from Greek ‘telos’ which means end or purpose. This is an ethics approach where actions are judged morally based upon their consequences. It is counter approach to the deontological ethics. One example of teleological ethics is ‘utilitarianism’. It states those actions right that produces the greatest number of happiness to the greatest number of people. For example: torturing someone to find the location of a ticking time bomb. While the torture for its own sake would be wrong, because it is done for the greatest good and to save lives, it can be understood to be the ethical thing to do. Another example of teleological approach is virtue ethics. Virtue ethics does indeed seek to maximize “happiness” it sees happiness in a much more personal way. This ethical theory argues the goal in the development of the human mind, spirit and body to the fullest potential possible.

this theory was first postulated during the 1960s by Joseph Fletchers. It is Christian ethical theory. In situational ethics right and wrong depend upon the situation. There are no universal, moral rules or rights. Each case is unique and deserves a unique solution. It teaches that ethical decisions should follow flexible guidelines rather than absolute rules. Since circumstances alter cases situationism holds that in practice what in sometimes and places e call right in other times and places it can be wrong. This approach says that actions aren’t considered bad and harmful until and unless it is performed with a wrong intension. This ethics says end can justify means.

Реферат на тему Teleological Suspension Of The Ethical Essay Research

Teleological Suspension Of The Ethical Essay, Research Paper

A clear understanding of what Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) meant by the

`suspension of the ethical’ can be achieved upon careful study of his wider

philosophies on stages or aspects of an individual’s life. In this short text I

will examine these philosophies, exploring what Kierkegaard meant by each one.

I’ll then put into context these stages of life by looking at them in relation

to that which Kierkegaard’s text `Fear and Trembling’ (in which he introduces

the concept of a teleological suspension of the ethical) is based on: that being

the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Finally, I’ll examine the problems of

his theory and explore some of the presumptions and pre-requisites it

Firstly I find it necessary to understand the context in which Kierkegaard wrote

and believed the philosophies we now explore. Kierkegaard’s writings were not

without a purpose or agenda. His own life was the source by which he details his

wider more abstract theories on life in general. He is intrinsically linked to

the Christian faith, and he writes with that in the forefront of his mind.

Indeed, `Fear and Trembling’ itself is based upon a passage of scripture which

Kierkegaard examines and bases his points upon. The point Kierkegaard is making

ultimately is that he believes that the `religious’ stage of life (one of three

he feels he has discovered) is the one that means the most and should be

desired. Kierkegaard identifies an existential progression between these stages

which is, on initial study, contradicted by the passage of scripture he tackles.

It is by examining these stages that the answer to the question set can be

The first of these stages is the aesthetic. For Kierkegaard, this is the lowest

form of being. For a particular human being to lead an aesthetic existence would

require him to indulge purely in sensuous pleasures. The implication in the

aesthetic is that only the external provides value. However, Kierkegaard’s

suggestion is that this level of being lacks anything outside of itself. Its

value, he submits, is void of meaning and direction and those who inhabit this

existence simply pass from one meaningless gratification of the senses to the

next with no real purpose.

There is, according to Kierkegaard, a progression of sorts to a higher stage of

life. A transition to a level being in which the particular is subsumed, that is

transported and incorporated by, the next in the level of existence, the

ethical. At this stage, an individual is living in accordance with what he

describes as the `universal good’ and in this the ethical is senseless. What I

mean by that is that the ethical requires the abdication of the individual in

accordance with the universal good. Yet the ethical cannot exist without the

individual to give it form. The individual turns inward and considers the aim of

life in respect to himself. In one sense it empowers the aesthetic with value

and meaning, thus the gratification of the senses can become the appreciation of

beauty. However, Kierkegaard regards the religious stage of life not only to be

the highest, but also imperative in giving the ethical meaning and direction.

By `religious life’ Kierkegaard is referring to the encountering and acceptance

of his, the Christian, God. It isn’t clear if the `religious’ is confined only

to his God, or whether differing personal beliefs have a place within

Kierkegaard’s definition of this level of being. The `religious’ makes sense of

the ethical, according to Kierkegaard. Apparently inferring that doing good for

the sake of good is meaningless and closer to an egoistic sense of aesthetic

gratification then meaningful existence, Kierkegaard looks to the religious to

give life direction and telos, that is purpose.

For the benefit of `Fear and Trembling’, Abraham is this `religious’ man. In the

biblical story, Abraham is required by God to premeditate the sacrifice of his

son as a sign of his faith to God. This presents Kierkegaard with a problem, as

although the `religious’ life is a distinct and separate level of being from the

`ethical’, the transition is a subsumption. That is, the religious provides the

ethical with an additional depth rather then a complete reversal of values. It

appears that there is a contradiction here, as in what is universally good (that

being, in this case, not killing your own child) is abandoned by the very

religion or God that provides it with meaning and purpose.

To provide for this contradiction, Kierkegaard identifies the telos of God. In

this situation, God requires a sign from Abraham that he is faithful to him.

That is God’s purpose in asking this of Abraham. The ethical, far from being

removed from Kierkegaard’s equation, is merely suspended so that the purpose;

the end result; the telos of God, can be achieved. This is what Kierkegaard

means when he refers to the `teleological suspension of the ethical’.

There are a number of problems with this though. The first is the apparently

complete distinction between the `religious’ and `morality’. The nature of the

goodness of God can surely be called into question if a teleological suspension

of what is morally good is required, even for just a fraction of time, in order

to follow the will of God. Further more, if God’s purpose involves a suspension

of the universal good, then Kierkegaard’s theories seriously falter. For how can

the ethical be defined, as Kierkegaard defines it, as an alignment with the

universal good, if that good can be suspended on account of a `higher good’,

that is the telos of God? Is Kierkegaard suggesting that there are two levels of

good, perhaps, and that when one reaches the `religious’ it is on occasion

necessary to act in accordance with the higher good and deny the good by which

those living by the `ethical’ live their lives? Kierkegaard seems short on

answers when one considers the inevitable confrontation between these to

conflicting sources of `goodness’, which lead to an apparent potential

contradiction of the `highest good’ which Kierkegaard has identified.

Of course, in the example of Abraham and Isaac, the suspension of the ethical

for the purposes of the religious did not result in this conflict between

goodness (discounting the premeditation involved in the mind of Abraham) for God

stopped Abraham before he ended his child’s life. Therefore in this case the

implication is that the telos of God was to observe a demonstration of obedience

in Abraham and not to kill Isaac. However in the very suspension of the ethical,

God contradicts himself and the philosophy of Kierkegaard in this respect

requires further explanation. For God must be the constant in order for the

stages of life to work. It is impossible for God to override himself yet that is

apparently what has happened here – God has contradicted himself in order for

his purposes to be fulfilled.

The only way God could not have contradicted himself is if there was no

suspension of the ethical, which is a real possibility. For if it was not a

command of God to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and it was merely a test of

Abraham’s faithfulness, then God did not override his own commands and nature,

as there was no commandment that Isaac should die. In this sense, in as much as

there was no command, there was also no suspension of the ethical.

In conclusion, to suggest that there is any kind of suspension of the ethical,

in as far as Kierkegaard describes the ethical, is to deny the very notion of

the religious and its place within leading a good life. For the ethical is the

attunement of life to the universal good. And for God to suspend this good in

order to fulfil a purpose which by logic would not include the good it usually

would is to deny the very notion that this good was truly `good’ in the first

place. The idea that God would use the unethical – put into action a sequence of

events that is contrary to the universal good – to appropriate his purpose not

only calls into question the value of God, or of the universal good, but also

leads to misinterpretations of God whose manifestations are violence and wars.

The only reasonable explanation, if God is to be upheld and Kierkegaard’s

philosophies are to be believed, is that there was no suspension of the ethical

at all; that God remained consistent and his suggestion to Abraham that he kill

his own son was a test of Abraham’s obedience and nothing more. Further

questions regarding the morality of a God that would use such apparently hideous

ways to `test’ his worshipers also lead us to call into question the `good’ that

one empowers this figure with, all leading to the conclusion I make the these

stages Kierkegaard present us with, in connection with this passage of

Scripture, require further attention.