General ethical systems.

Great Ethical Philosophies


Virtue through careful reflection.


"The good" as a standard for behavior discovered above all other.


Means do not justify ends. Strive for the middle ground, the "golden mean."


Treat people with equal respect and dignity, "love your neighbor as yourself."

Immanuel Kant:

"Categorical imperative." People should not be treated as means to an end. Duty to principle no matter what the consequences may be.

Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill:

"Utilitarianism," greatest good for greatest number. Minimize harm as much as possible. What's important is the result.

( Egoism: "greatest good for me." Is this an ethical philosophy?)

John Rawls:

"Original position." All people must be treated equally, no matter what their age, sex, race, wealth, or role in society may be, the "veil of ignorance." Must have morally defensible reason to discriminate.

W.D. Ross:

"Prima facie" ("On first appearance") duties. Claims that govern your ability to make a decision. These claims arise from:

  1. Previous acts of one's own. If you make a promise, you must keep it. If you harm someone, you must rectify it.
  2. Previous acts of others. If someone does something for you, you must show gratitude.
  3. Unwarranted distribution of rewards or pleasure. If someone does something   that does not deserve rewards, the duty of justice requires you to prevent this.
  4. Duty to other human beings who could better their condition with your help, that is, beneficence. If you can do something to help others, you have the duty to do so.
  5. Duty of not harming others. The Hippocratic oath: "First, do no harm."