Schools of Ethics Compared

Deontological ethics
Analyses the actual action.

  • Goal: Morality is a question of adhering to a set of rules.
  • How it works: Judge which norm (moral rule) is the most important in which particular situation.
  • Pitfall: “Befehl ist Befehl” (an order is an order).

Teleological ethics (Consequentialism)
Analyses the consequences of the action.

  • Goal: Morality is a question of realising ideals.
  • How it works: Judge what behaviour contributes most to realising the requested ideal.
  • Pitfall: “The ends justify the means.”

Virtue ethics
Analyses the intention of the action (behaviour) in question.

  • Goal: Morality is question of wanting to be a good (virtuous) human being.
  • How it works: Look in the mirror and decide who you want to be.
  • Pitfall: “I meant no harm.”

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