What is the Difference?

The purpose of the list of ethical theories and moral philosophies below is not to argue or defend a particular perspective; it is just to give an idea of what each represents.


Kant’s Categorical Imperatives: Refers to the morality of humanity. Following Kant’s Imperatives means that you believe in universal law and that you will make morally correct decisions that are not based on individual desire. If an action cannot become a rule that all humankind can follow, then the act is immoral.


Teleology: Refers to the moral philosophies that consider an act morally right if it produces a result that is desired, such as; wealth, knowledge or pleasure. This philosophy evaluates the consequences of an action and is often referred to as consequentialist. Two Teleological theories are Egoism and Utilitarianism. When evaluating the means to an end, this philosophy views the end, whereas Deontology focuses on the means to the end.


Egoism: For an Egoist, a decision is made based on maximizing self-interest. What is right or acceptable is based on the consequences for the individual.


Utilitarian: A Utilitarian approach evaluates the consequences of an action, but the decision evaluates the greatest good for the greatest number. It is on the opposite spectrum of Egoism. Where an Egoist only considers self in making a decision, a Utilitarian considers the group, and will choose the alternative that results in the greatest benefit for the greatest number of individuals affected.


Nozik’s Theory of Rights: Belief that all people have a moral right to live as they wish and do whatever they choose, provided they do not cause harm to others. This perspective believes in virtually complete freedom of action with minimal governmental intervention. Established by Robert Nozick in response to Rawl’s Theory of Justice.


Virtue Ethics: Places an emphasis on the total morality of the character an individual possesses, rather than the rules, consequences or the act itself. When following ethics of virtue, the question is whether or not the persona is exhibiting good character, moral virtues. Character traits are a result of repeated behavior and the behavior that establishes whether or not we are virtuous (i.e. lying/honesty)


Social Contract Theory: The belief that rules of morality should be established to govern society and that the rules are rational and established based on the acceptance of others within that community.


Integrated Social Contract Theory: Refers to the belief that business decisions should be made based on how they affect communities, considering ethical norms and universally accepted moral standards.


Deontological Ethics: This philosophy focuses on the rights and intentions of individuals, rather than the consequences; it is referred to as a non-consequentialist philosophy and is centered on respect for the individual. When considering the means to an end, this philosophy focuses on the means to the end, whereas Teleology focuses on the end.


Ethic of Care: Places an emphasis on the importance of relationships with the belief that individuals are interdependent and those that are vulnerable to the outcomes of our decisions deserve additional consideration. Ethic of Care falls within the category of normative ethical theories.


Metaethical Relativist: Refers to the belief that people base their decisions on their own perspective, which is influenced by their cultural moral philosophies, and because there is no way to resolve ethical disputes between cultural value systems (there is no way to say which value system is right or wrong), one individuals moral philosophy cannot be preferred over another.


Normative Ethics: Is the belief that morality is based on standards and those standards determine what conduct is right or wrong. An example is “treat others how you want to be treated.”


Rawl’s Theory of Justice: Based off Social Contract Theory, it is a theoretical framework for establishing a political structure that intends to preserve social justice and individual liberty.


Ethics vs Morals pg 1