Theory that derives duty from what is valuable as an end, in a manner diametrically opposed to deontological ethics. Teleological ethics holds that the basic standard of duty is the contribution that an action makes to the realization of nonmoral values. Teleological theories differ on the nature of the nonmoral goods that actions ought to promote. Eudaemonism emphasizes the cultivation of virtue in the agent as the end of all action. Utilitarianism holds that the end consists in the aggregate balance of pleasure to pain for all concerned. Other teleological theories claim that the end of action is survival and growth, as in evolutionary ethics (Herbert Spencer); power over others (Niccolò Machiavelli and Friedrich Nietzsche); satisfaction and adjustment, as in pragmatism (Ralph Barton Perry and John Dewey); and freedom, as in existentialism (Jean-Paul Sartre).
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Branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of ultimate value and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong. The term is also applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles. Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics. Normative ethics seeks to establish norms or standards of conduct; a crucial question in this field is whether actions are to be judged right or wrong based on their consequences or based on their conformity to some moral rule, such as “Do not tell a lie.” Theories that adopt the former basis of judgment are called consequentialist (see consequentialism); those that adopt the latter are known as deontological (see deontological ethics). Metaethics is concerned with the nature of ethical judgments and theories. Since the beginning of the 20th century, much work in metaethics has focused on the logical and semantic aspects of moral language. Some major metaethical theories are naturalism (see naturalistic fallacy), intuitionism, emotivism, and prescriptivism. Applied ethics, as the name implies, consists of the application of normative ethical theories to practical moral problems (e.g., abortion). Among the major fields of applied ethics are bioethics, business ethics, legal ethics, and medical ethics.
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Ethical theories that maintain that the moral rightness or wrongness of an action depends on its intrinsic qualities, and not (as in consequentialism) on the nature of its consequences. Deontological ethics holds that at least some acts are morally wrong in themselves (e.g., lying, breaking a promise, punishing the innocent, murder). It often finds expression in slogans such as “Duty for duty's sake.” Deontological theories are often formulated in such a way that the rightness of an action consists in its conformity to a moral rule or command, such as “Do not bear false witness.” The most important exponent of deontological ethics is Immanuel Kant. Seealso categorical imperative.
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The use of stock characters is a means of conveying the moral of the story by eliminating complexity of personality and so spelling out the issues arising in the interplay between the characters, enabling the writer to make clear the message. With more rounded characters, such as those typically found in Shakespeare's plays, the moral may be more nuanced but no less present, and the writer may point it up in other ways (see, for example, the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet.)
Throughout the history of recorded literature, the majority of fictional writing has served not only to entertain but also to instruct, inform or improve their audiences or readership. In classical drama, for example, the role of the chorus was to comment on the proceedings and draw out a message for the audience to take away with them; while the novels of Charles Dickens are a vehicle for morals regarding the social and economic system of Victorian Britain.
Morals have typically been more obvious in children's literature, sometimes even being introduced with the phrase, "The moral of the story is …". Such explicit techniques have grown increasingly out of fashion in modern storytelling, and are now usually only included for ironic purposes. As Oscar Wilde observes wryly, The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.
Some examples are: "Better safe than sorry", "The evil deserves no aid", "Be friends with whom you don't like", "Don't judge people by the way they look", "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me" and "Slow and steady wins the race".