What Are the Different Types of Ethical Systems?

The main types of ethical systems include ethical relativism, divine command theory, deontology, utilitarianism and virtue ethics. These ethical systems stem from the study of moral philosophy and are influenced by the thought of Aristotle and Kant.

According to the ethical relativism system, no principles are universally valid, which means that moral principles are relative to cultural standards. For example, cannibalism is considered acceptable in some parts of the world, but strictly prohibited in the United States.

The Divine Command Theory system agrees that all moral standards depend on God. According to this ethical system, an act that conforms to divine law is right and one that breaks this law is deemed wrong. An example of the Divine Command Theory in use is the institution of the Ten Commandments in Christianity.

Deontology puts an emphasis on duty and moral rules, as well as on justice, autonomy and kind acts. This ethical system provides a special moral status for individuals and according to it, people should be treated as ends, not means.

Utilitarianism is an ethical system according to which actions are solely judged by their consequences. This system promotes equal happiness for all.

Finally, the virtue ethics system internalizes moral behavior and emphasizes achieving excellence.