Teleological ethics are essentially everything that deontological ethics are not. In fact deontological ethics can be called a non-teleological theory of ethics. Teleological ethics are based on Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics and on the philosophical theory of Utilitarianism and are goal oriented. So a philosopher must define the goal and analyze the effect of the goal to understand if the action taken to reach that goal is “right action.” Aristotle defined the desired goal as “The Good” or “Happiness.” (Frankena 1998).
Teleological ethics are judged as having value based on the nonmoral act that is brought into effect that is if it adds positively to balancing good and evil. In other words a philosopher who tries to evaluate the moral value with teleological ethics will consider the good it does. If the action is right action it can be evaluated by analyzing the good that has been done and in this way reason out if it is a morally acceptable action: one we “ought” to do. (Frankena 1998).
Kant took the exact opposite approach because he analyzed the intrinsic wrong of a value and the effect that had on the action. He didn’t consider the goal in his reasoning because in general he believed that the overriding goal is to do one’s duty.
The teleological view compares the “moral quality or value of actions, persons, or traits of character” and is dependent upon the nonmoral value of the effect that is produced (Frankena 1998). So the moral value is dependent on the nonmoral value and the good of the moral value must be determined by whether or not it adds to the good side of the good and evil balance. What one intends to accomplish is also taken under consideration.
There are both followers of Hedonist and non-Hedonist beliefs in the teleological school. Hedonist measure the effect of a moral value by balancing ‘good’ which they consider pleasure with ‘evil’ which they consider to be pain. So the Hedonist believes that a person ought to do whatever brings more pleasure (rather than pain) than anything else would.
The non-Hedonist regards The Good as being a characteristic like knowledge or self-control to be the intent of an obligatory act.
Different schools of thought have different ideas about whose good is being influenced. So the ethical egoist promotes self-good with the idea that if you do what is good for yourself then that will be good for the family which will weigh on the side of good for the community more than on the side of evil so there is no need to consider anyone else by the ‘self.’ The philosophers Epicurus, Hobbes and Nietzsche espouse this philosophy. Butler teaches that the argument of an ethical egoist is an argument about human nature and it is human nature to act in one’s self-interest to meet one’s needs and desires.
An ethical Universalist believes that The Good is what is in general good for not only the general population but for the whole universe and certainly not for only the one person who is making an obligatory or moral act. So “A rule of action is right” when the balance is weighed to the side of good not evil and the good is for the universe compared to any alternative action and it is wrong if that is not accomplished (Frankena 1998). An obligatory act is one that enables or is expected to enable more good than evil in the universe, in other words, the good side of the balance weighs more than the evil side after the act is accomplished. The philosophers Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, G.E. Moore and Hastings Rashdall are all ethical Universalists but Bentham and Stuart Mill are Hedonists whereas Moore and Rashdall are non-Hedonists.
A pure ethical altruist is someone who never looks at the goal as being for his or her own good but the goal should be what brings more good than evil to one’s hometown or country or the world.
Frankena, W.K. (1988) Ethics. 2nd Edition. Prentice Hall. (1988). Print.