Consequentialist and Non-consequentialist Approaches to Ethics.

Published: September 20, 2017

Consequentialism or teleological ethics is based on the premise that the morality of an action is contingent with the outcome of that action. This implies that morally right action produces good outcome and morally wrong produces bad outcome.  The consequences are the effects caused by an action and the quality of these consequences depend on how much good they contain. Motives are the causes and the consequences are the effect. The consequences are defined by various theories such as Utilitarianism (an action is right if it leads to the most happiness for greatest number of people); hedonism {pleasure is the most important pursuit of the humankind so individuals should strive to maximise the total pleasure (net of sufferings and pains)}; egoism (an action is right if it maximises the good for the self. In other words, Egoism gives a license to actions which are good to one individual but may be detrimental to others); asceticism (abstinence from egoistic pleasures to achieve spiritual goals); altruism (to live for others and not caring for self).
The non-consequentialist approach or deontological approach or the duty ethics focuses on the rightness and wrongness of the actions themselves and not the consequences of those actions.  There are several variants of non-consequentialist approach such as Divine Command Theory; Natural Rights Theory etc. Divine Command Theory says that an action is right if it has been sanctioned / decreed by God that it is right. Thus, the moral obligations arise from the command of the God.  Natural Rights Theory, much developed by John Locke and Thomas Hobbe says that absolute and natural rights which are inherent in the nature of ethics and are not contingent upon the human actions. This theory developed into the Human Rights later.

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