moral philosophy

teleological ethics

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).

Learn more about teleological ethics with a free trial on

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.

Learn more about ethics with a free trial on

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.

Learn more about deontological ethics with a free trial on

Endowed in 1621 by Thomas White (c. 1550-1624), DD, Canon of Christ Church, the White's Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford is perhaps the most prestigious chair of moral philosophy in the world.

Under the original agreement, the Professorship was to receive a stipend of £100 per annum, along with other payments and emoluments. The Chair was not to be held for more than five years, or at the most ten years. In 1673, a practice began of electing one of the Proctors, usually the senior, to the office; in course of time the lectures were entirely dropped; and at length the Professorship was so far forgotten, that it was never mentioned in the Oxford Calendar before the year 1831, the practice having continued, with one exception, until February 1829.

The Professorship was established on a new footing by a statute approved by the Queen in Council in 1858. As a result of statutes made by the Commissioners of 1877, the Professorship is now attached with a Fellowship with Corpus Christi College.

Holders of the White's Professorship of Moral Philosophy

See also


  • Oxford University Archives, The Historical Register of the University of Oxford , 1220-1900
Search another word or see moral philosophyon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature