Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Which ethical theory works best (Part 3 of 3)

Nonetheless, these morality systems suffer from an inherent weakness. They are superior to partial ethics because they are non-contradictory, but internal consistency does not guarantee usefulness. Kantian morality is an intellectual clockwork foreign to the richness of human experience; it is a cold machinery that functions without feeling, ambition, passion, or hesitation.

Categorical imperatives forbid man to attack his neighbour but they won't tell him what he needs to do to be happy. Logical systems of ethics deal with the psychological aspects of human action only to a minor extent. Kantian morality won't provide you guidelines on how to define personal goals, allocate resources, and deal effectively with adversity.

[3] Teleological systems of ethics are the best that philosophy has produced. On the one hand, they go beyond the isolated commandments of partial morality; on the other hand, they aim at providing a comprehensive and consistent methodology, just like logical ethics. In addition, teleological systems render morality alive by linking it to an overriding goal, namely, happiness.

The word “teleological” comes from the Greek term “telos” which means purpose or goal. Advanced systems of ethics go far beyond “do not steal” and “do not murder.” They view the human condition as a complex combination of factors that need to be judged according to general values and prioritized according to individual objectives.

A teleological morality based on reason provides a frame of thought that encompasses all of man's decisions and actions. This system of ethics aims not only at keeping you out of trouble, but also at helping you make the best of your life. The list of teleological virtues includes not only honesty and justice, but also independence, ambition, and persistence.

If you want to make optimal choices, you should adopt a teleological system of ethics based on reason. Other approaches to morality are workable in certain conditions, but fail to pass the tests of universality, permanence, consistency, and comprehensiveness.


[Image by Ricky Cosmos under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]