Ethical Theories, Research Paper Example

There are several different ethical theories to consider in association with decision making.  Deontological, teleological, and virtue-based ethical theories all take different considerations into account with what one views as important when determining their choice of actions.  Deontological and teleological theories determine if individual actions can be considered ethical or not.  Virtue-based ethics focus more on the character of a person who is doing the actions in order to judge ethical conduct.  Understanding the differences of these theories creates an opportunity to understand the ethical, moral, and individual characters as well as individual actions.

In order to understand which characteristic one can personally associate with the most, it is important to define each one of these theories.  Deontological ethical theory is where the morality of any action is based on rules.  It is also considered a duty or obligation of ethics because ones responsibility is to adhere to the rules.  Teleological ethical theory is the consideration of the potential outcome that could occur as a result of one’s decision. Weighing both sides to determine what the potential outcome could be from the decision that is made.

Virtue-based ethical theory is what one’s character consists of and the virtue that they utilize to determine the basis of ethical behavior.  It is used as a means to evaluate and determine what ethical behavior means.

Personally, my decisions align with the virtue-based theory more than the other two.  This is because every decision that is being made big or small is based on personal morals, values, and ethics.  In essence, ethics becomes central to the rationality concept as an objective rather than a constraint: “something positively good, something to be sought after” (Ladd p. 82). There may be points where I consider the potential consequences or the rules that are associated with the decision, but it revolves around the personal feelings of what I believe is right or wrong.

Judging people by their actions or according to their character is essentially the same thing.  Ones actions are determined by their character and character determines actions. “While a moral value is an object (or thing) by means of which one promotes one’s life, a moral virtue is an action (or choice) by means of which one does so.”(Rand p.121) For example purposes consider a high-school student who is facing a final exam. He was given the opportunity to buy the answer key to help him ensure he gets the highest grade.  The student decided that he did not need the exam; he would study hard and earn the grade he gets.  He declined the answer key.  That action showed this high school student’s character.  In turn, he was judged by his actions as being an individual who has too much integrity and ethics to take the dishonest way out.

Understanding the differences of these theories creates an opportunity to understand the ethical, moral, and individual characters as well as actions.  Whether an individual associates with the deontological theory and makes their decision based on what the rules say are right and wrong, or the teleological theory which weight the potential outcomes of a decision, these theories are still associated with ethics. The virtue-based theory, which I personally relate to, shows the internal ethics and character than an individual operates with regardless if the actions are right or wrong.  These ethical theories set guidelines to understand the entire personal decision making process.


Ladd, Helen F. “Property tax revaluation and tax levy growth revisited” Journal of Urban         Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 83-99, July 1991.
Rand, Cf. Ayn. “For the New Intellectual” New York: Signet, 1963, p. 121.