Ethical Theories Comparison Chart: Plato, Kant, Aristotle, Stuart Mill, St. Thomas Aquinas and John Rawls

Ethical Theories Comparison Chart

Ethics and morals are debated subjects in different spheres. The understanding of what is ethical or moral practices vary from place to place, organization to organization or person to person. It is a broad subject; however, several renowned theorists and philosophers have endeavored to lay down some ethical theories that will be compared. The theorists considered include Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls.

TheoristHow Good Id DeterminedMajor StrengthsMajor Weaknesses
PlatoAbsolutism The theory argues that there are practices that are intrinsically good and others bad.The theory directly identifies what is right and what is wrong as opposed to other theorists who define right or wrong based on  context and consequencesCulture influences what is considered moral and therefore the theory may be manipulated to support what a culture has set out to be right.
AristotleEudaimonism  According to Aristotle, what constitutes goodness relates to exercises of certain virtues that make life happy.The theory motivates people to seek and do well in order to be happy.The theory is open and what makes one happy may not constitute the source of happiness to another person.What true happiness is not defined and someone may be working on an endless definition of true happiness and not reach it
St. Thomas AquinasNatural Law Asserts that specific rights by nature are ascribed to humans and that these rights can be identified through human reasoning universally. These rights govern morality.The theory attributes certain rights as inalienable human rights and this forms the basis of constitutions today.It delegates the determination of what a natural law to human reasoning which varies across the globe. Moreover, what is a human right in one location may not be so in another location. This ambiguity may create confusion.
Immanuel KantDeontology What is good is determined by preset rules that bind one to particular duties. A deviation from the rules is considered unethical.Determination of what is right is straight and defined from the start which minimizes or eliminates ambiguity.The criterion for identifying what is wrong or right may is often influenced by time, which makes it an inconsistent one. The rules defining right today may be wrong tomorrow which requires that constant modifications are done on the rules. Therefore, the theory is limited to a preset definition of good and bad.
John Stuart MillUtilitarianism Happiness is attributed as The source of good. Therefore, something is morally good if it can cause happiness.Moral practices are aimed at providing happiness to all. By focusing on happiness, one can be motivated to do well to others and self in order to achieve true happiness.To determine what is morally good through happiness is a fickle definition. In exercising this theory, someone who is a sadist may derive happiness from the sufferings of others.The theory should strictly define practices that bring true happiness and not just happy for the sake of it.
John Rawls Theory of justice Good is constitutes being fair to all regardless of their identity and most importantly to those who are less advantaged.    The theory has a constitutional back up. Justice is the ultimate goal of all constitutions. Therefore, the theory can be made practical where constitutional rights are guaranteed.This theory faces formidable challenges coming from cultural positions. Fairness may not be guaranteed at all levels particularly cultures that set distinctions between ranks especially gender.