• September 19th, 2016
  • Posted by athanne

The Teleology Theory in Ethics

Teleology in The Teleology Theory is mapped from two Greek words; ‘Teleos, meaning ‘the end result’ and ‘Logos’ which means theory/discourse/science in The Teleology Theory. Teleology in The Teleology Theory therefore means the science of theory.

Teleological theories are therefore theories that assert that the rightness or wrongness of an act, rule or policy depends on the results or consequences. There are two types of teleological theories in Teleological Theories and Ethics:-

  • Ethical egoism
  • Utilitarianism


Ethical Egoism in the Teleology Theory

This is of the view that a person should act in a way to maximize his/her own good/benefit. According to Mappes, ethical egoism in The Teleology Theory states that ‘a person ought to act so as to promote his/her own self interest.’ An act in The Teleology Theory is therefore morally right when, compared to an alternative; its consequences are such as to generate the greatest balance of good over evil for that particular moral agent.

In The Teleology Theory, acting ethically requires that human beings act in their own selfish interest and maximize the benefit for themselves. Ethical egoism in The Teleology Theory is said to be derived from the nature of human beings, i.e. human beings are naturally selfish. According to Frankena, psychological egoism in The Teleology Theory  states that ‘human beings are by nature selfish and are only interested in their own good.

The problem we have with ethical egoism in The Teleology Theory is that it tends to go against the spirit of morality, that is, to do away with selfishness.

 The Teleology Theory in EthicsUtilitarianism in the Teleology Theory


In The Teleology Theory, this was a philosophy that was fronted by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. According to them, this is the view that ‘an act, rule, policy or decision in The Teleology Theory should bring about the greatest good/happiness/benefits for the greatest number of people who are affected by the act.’


In utilitarianism, two things are important;

  • The greatest happiness/benefit/good should be achieved.
  • The greatest number of people should benefit/achieve.

Bentham derived the theory from the fact that all human beings have the capacity to feel pain or pleasure. This means that pain and pleasure are the two main determinants of bad or good respectively. In The Teleology Theory, it is for these two determinants to point out what to do and what we shall do because the principle of utility recognizes these things.

Therefore, according to Bentham, human beings are pleasure-seeking and pain-avoiding creatures. So we simply avoid pain and seek pleasure for our lives. For utilitarians, in The Teleology Theory, it is the consequences that count all that determines the morality of an act. Utilitarianism in The Teleology Theory is a goal-oriented principle that seeks to maximize welfare and happiness for the greatest number of people.

Bentham rejected the absolutist morality of the religion of his time. Utilitarianism in The Teleology Theory is divided into two:-

  • Act utilitarianism – an act in The Teleology Theory is right if, when compared to possible alternatives, it is likely to promote the greatest balance of good over evil. Every person’s interest should be considered. Act utilitarianism in The Teleology Theory emphasizes on actions that promote the greatest balance of good over evil. E.g. a nurse in a hospital receives two patients in critical condition; a civic woman and a good for nothing drunkard. Any minute wasted results to loss of life of either patient. The nurse saves the civic woman. Reason: – the civic will be of help to the society compared to the good for nothing drunkard.
  • Rule utilitarianism – an act is morally right in The Teleology Theory if it is in accord with a rule that if generally followed will bring about the greatest balance of good over evil. This was proposed by J.S. Mill.


Utilitarianism in The Teleology Theory is viewed as a strong theory because it is liberal (it appeals to no authority in resolving differences of opinions), and because it is able to describe much of the process of human decision making. On the other hand, its weakness is that there is a possibility of injustice regarding the distribution of goods. In other words, the rights of any one person are not taken into account no rights have any greater weight than others. Consequently, certain individuals may suffer great harm while others receive only modest benefits.

The difference between these two laws of utilitarianism in The Teleology Theory is: whereas act utilitarianism embodies a one stage procedure (action – benefit), rule utilitarianism embodies a two stage procedure (action – rule – benefit).

Problems with utilitarianism in The Teleology Theory

  1. It can be used to justify oppression of individuals and individual rights in a society.
  2. When the determination of good over evil is difficult, the theory in Teleological Theories and Ethics becomes difficult to apply.
  3. It’s very difficult to quantify and compare utilities.


Conclusion on the The Teleology Theory

The teleological morality of decision is determined by measuring the probable outcome of consequences. The theory most respective of this approach is utilitarianism, which seeks to assess the greatest “good” (or utility) for the greatest number. These theories are as forwarded, and represent Teleological Theory and Ethics.

Posted in : Ethics