A Critique of Obligation-Based Moral Theories in General Ethics



I have identified that moral virtues such as honesty and kindness are extremely important to the development and sustenance of a helping nurse-patient relationship. Moreover, what patients and patients’ relatives call ‘high-’ quality nursing care, I would call ‘virtuous’ nursing care. In the previous chapter, I explored the notion of a virtue and attempted to explain why the moral virtues are valuable in human lives. This chapter is devoted to a critical examination of the role of moral obligations and their underpinning moral theories in general ethics. This chapter is necessary because obligation-based moral theories such as consequentialism and deontology are popular theories not just in general ethics but nursing ethics too. I want to explore the merits and criticisms of these deontic moral theories. I first outline the moral theory known as consequentialism, focusing to a large degree on act-con-sequentialism. Then, deontology is put under the critical spotlight. In this chapter, the broad aim is to show that the standard objections to these deontic theories outweigh their supposed merits.


Virtue Ethic Moral Theory Moral Dilemma Moral Rule Moral Decision 
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Copyright information

© Alan E. Armstrong 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Central LancashirePrestonUK

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