Ethics and Values in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

By Joel Lefkowitz | Go to book overview

3
Normative Ethical Theories:
I. Deontology

The word philosophy means the love of wisdom, but what philosophers really love is reasoning. They formulate theories and marshal reasons to support them, they consider objections and try to meet these, they construct arguments against other views. Even philosophers who proclaim the limitations of reason—the Greek skeptics, David Hume, doubters of the objectivity of science—all adduce reasons for their views and present difficulties for opposing ones. Proclamations or aphorisms are not considered philosophy unless they also enshrine and delineate reasoning.

—Robert Nozick

Most contemporary philosophers agree that there are two broad categories of normative ethical theories, albeit with many examples and variations within each: deontological theories and teleological theories. Deontology derives from the Greek word deon, meaning duty, and refers to points of view in which actions are viewed as inherently ethical or not. Teleology derives from the Greek teios, or goal, and is used to label theories in which what is ethical or moral is determined by the effects or consequences of the actions. Rawls (1971) explained the conceptual distinction between the two as determined by the way in which a theory defines and relates the two notions of (a) right and wrong and (b) good and evil (or bad).

Teleological ethical theories—more frequently referred to nowadays as consequentialist theories—give primacy to the good: That is, they focus on the good and bad that will result from an act, or from two or more alternatives, and they define the tightness or wrongness of the action (s) in terms of the net amount of goodness that results from each. Deontologists essentially do

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