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Ethical Theories Chart

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Name of the Theory

Founder of the Theory

Major principles of the Theory

Criticism of this Theory

Kantian theory Ethical theories chart

Immanuel Kant(1724-1804)

Principle of respect for person: “act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end” (Johnson, n.d). The morality of an action is not determined by its consequence, but instead by the principle on which the action is based (Moon, 1998).

People have argued that, if Kant’ ethical theory is a practical one then there will never be at any given time an instance when an act will abide in more than one maxim (Moon, 1998). It also argued that the case is not the impossibility of having an act abiding in more that one maxim and therefore it is not the case that the theory is practical one. This theory is grounds itself in various beliefs about human nature (Moon, 1998). The theory emphasizes the aspect nature of humans as having the capability of making choices freely. The founder of the theory does not believe that pain and pleasure are the appropriate ways of gauging the act wrongness or rightness (Moon, 1998). He believes that an action is wrong or right depending on the intentions behind the action itself, but with nothing to do with the results that the action will bring about. H0e continuous to argue that if our actions make us to treat others and ourselves with respect, then the action is right (Johnson, n.d). But if the action makes or involves using other people and ourselves as means, then the actions tend to be wrong. Kant takes the essentiality of humanity as autonomy and rationality (Moon, 1998).

Utilitarianism theory


Jeremy Bentham(1748-1832)

Greatest happiness for greatest number, with each one counting as one. These forms include: preference, act, interest, rules (Moon, 1998). This theory holds that when an action tends to promote happiness then it is right, and an action is termed to be wrong when the reverse of happiness is promoted (Moon, 1998). This theory contemplates that happiness is the ultimate goal for human survival; therefore happiness is understood as avoidance of pain and pleasure, while unhappiness is termed as prevention of pleasure or pain (Johnson, n.d).

John Stuart mill, Bentham follower, believes that happiness has two types; lower and higher type. The higher type of happiness is the intellectual pleasure, and which is difficult to attain, but on the other end it is more rewarding. Mill once said that “it is better to a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied (Moon, 1998). And if the fool or pigs are of different opinion, it is because they only know side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.” (Moon, 1998). By this he meant that there is a higher degree of utility on the higher pleasure, than the lower pleasure can provide (Johnson, n.d). With reason that, those that have the experience of both will do away with the lower pleasure for the higher one (Moon, 1998).

Contractarian theory

Thomas Hobbes(1588-1679)


Jean Jacques Rousseau(1712-1778)

Morality is either created by the social contract or can be intuited by imagining a contractual situation between humans in a society (Johnson, n.d). This theory is minimalistic or has a very limited view of morality this is holding the position that the existence of morality is as a matter of agreement (Moon, 1998). 

This theory believes that the nature of human beings is being competitive and acquisitive. It says that human beings are naturally inclined in seeking fortune and fame, and are not, by temperament, disinclined in use of violence in meting their ends (Johnson, n.d). The theory postulates that life be government was invented, was harsh, nasty, short and brutish. The theory believes that the major thing that causes the humans to come together in search of mutual protection (Moon, 1998). And as long as there is protection of the property against enemies either domestic or foreign, then there is no right to complain about its provision (Moon, 1998).   

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