An Overview of Ethics Theories and Systems

Sarah Ganly's image for:
"An Overview of Ethics Theories and Systems"
Image by: 

All people should have an understanding of ethics, and it is important to have an overview of ethic theories and systems. There are several types of ethic systems and theories available to choose from when making an ethical decision. This article will provide you with an overview of ethic theories and systems such as consequence, rights, human nature, relativistic, entitlement, and virtue -based ethics,

Consequence-based Ethics

This ethic system relies on using the consequences of actions to determine what choice to make. Consequence based ethics are based on the impact our actions will have on ourselves and others (Ethics terns). This type of ethic system considers several different options and the result of these actions when making ethical decisions (Ethics terms).

Rights-based Ethics

Rights-based ethics are based on the rights of people. These rights can be of a variety of natures. Human rights, legal rights, and moral rights are all types of rights that ethics can be based on. Rights-based ethics are concerned with the rights that come from being part of a community (Ethics Terns). For example, legal rights are based on a community that follows the same government. Also it is important to consider positive and negatives rights in rights-based ethics systems. Negative rights are rights to not be part of something, and positive rights are rights dealing if the right to receive something from someone else (Ethics Terms).

Human Nature Ethics

Human nature ethics are based on the behavior of humans. These ethics are not guided by an absolute power, but are based on the good or bad behavior of humans (Ethics terms). Religion is not a concern of these ethics.

Relativistic Ethics

Relativistic ethics are based on a person's own life experiences. These ethics do not have absolutes, and they vary from person to person. Culture and up-brining play a role in relativistic ethics (Ethics Terms).

Entitlement-based Ethics

Entitlement ethics are when an ethical decision is based on completely selfish reasons. No one and nothing else is considered, and the impact the decision has on the person making the decision is the only impact considered.

Virtue-based ethics

This ethic style originated with Aristotle, and it is based on the character, intentions, and morals of an individual (Trevino, 2007). Motivation is also important to virtue-based ethics, and the community is often reflected in virtue based ethics. Virtue-based ethics do not focus on duty or consequences, but rather the morals of the individual.

This overview of ethic theories and systems is important to anyone learning about ethics. Understanding these theories and systems will help you make ethical decisions.


Treviño, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2007). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Ethics Terms. (n.d.). Defence Ethics Programme | Programme d'éthique de la Défense. Retrieved July 21, 2010, from

More about this author: Sarah Ganly

From Around the Web