Seven Major Ethical Systems

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The Seven Major Ethical Systems
David Lawter
Axia College of the University of Phoenix

Throughout the history of the human race, men and women have struggled with determining the difference between good and bad actions. For example, if you are walking through a crowded store and the person in front of you drops some money on the floor, you have to make a decision whether to pick it up and walk away or to return it to the person that dropped it. For most people, their morals, that have been passed down through generations of family or that have been learned from their religious studies, help them to make the decision to return the money to its rightful owner. There are seven major ethical systems, or morals, that are factors in determining one’s reactions in this type of situation.

Ethical formalism is centered on the motive or intent of an action and whether or not it was moral. In ethical formalism, if you act on good faith, and something goes horribly wrong, then the action is still considered a moral action. A good example of ethical formalism would be helping a friend change the oil in his automobile. Your intent is to be helpful, so you raise the automobile using a jack. Your friend slides under the automobile and begins to change the oil. All of a sudden, the car rolls and falls off of the jack. As a result, your friend is seriously injured or killed. With ethical formalism, even though the action had a very bad outcome it was still done in good faith, so it would be considered as being moral (Thomson / Wadsworth. Copyright 2005). Ethical formalism is a deontological system because it focuses solely on the good intent of the action, even though the outcome may have been bad.

Utilitarianism is the opposite of ethical formalism. It looks only at the outcome. It does not take into consideration whether or not the act is moral. Utilitarianism is teleological ethical system that is only concerned with gaining a positive outcome from an action...
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