Besides epistemology and metaphysics, axiology is another constituent of worldview. Axiology is the study of value--what things we consider as of value. It attempts to explain what is good and what is bad; what is right and what is wrong; how are we going to live. Axiology tries to inform people and give prescription on how we ought to live, that is, to advice them on ethics and morality. How to determine the right and the wrong behavior is depended on our belief in metaphysics and epistemology. This means that all components of worldview are inter-related or inter-dependent.
Those who claim that only material things exist, would also argue that knowledge is those that can be verified through scientific investigation, would not of course believe in Revelation from God. Therefore their practice on ethics and morality is depended on the mind. They believe that the mind is capable of coming up with the right strategy of living. This question may arise...whose mind are we going to follow? Therefore, they believe that everybody is entitled to come up with their own understanding and their own way of living. This means that what is true to me is not necessarily true to you; and we are both right. This means that values and ethics are relative and can change from place to place, time to time, culture to culture--even in the same community, people may practice different ethics.
What is the problem with relativity in ethics, if any? (time for reflection).
Thinkers and philosophers have come up with ways to determine what is right and what is wrong.
Consequentialist theories posit that morality is depended on the consequences of actions. The right moral conduct is determined exclusively by the greatest beneficial consequences of an action. An action is considered morally right if good consequences of the action outweigh bad consequences. This theory seems simple enough if an action results in good consequences to both the doer of the action and the person affected by the action. What if the consequences of an action are good only to either one party, the agent performing the action or the person affected by the action? Three competing theories emerge to explain this problem. First, Ethical Egoism theory posits that an action is morally right if its consequences are good to the doer of the action. Second, Ethical Altruism theory explains that an action is morally right if its consequences are beneficial to everyone else except the doer of the action. Third, Utilitarian theory asserts that an action is morally right if its consequences are good to everyone. These competing theories give different conclusions to the same action. For example according to ethical egoism theory lying is ethical if A can sell his products. But that same act of lying is not ethical according to ethical altruism theory for the products A sold are not to the standard he claimed, thus the consequence for others are not good.
Deontological or duty theories explain that human beings are obligated to do certain duties regardless of their consequences; thus also known as nonconsequentialist theories. Predominant duty theories are forwarded to explain and justify actions that are valued as human obligations. First, Pufendorf (1964) asserts that every individual has obligation towards God, him/herself, and others. Second theory of duty is rights theory which posits that rights of an individual entail duties of another person. For example, a child has a right for a safe environment thus it is the parents and society’s duty to provide safe environment for the child. In other words, rights give a person sound arguments against other person’s action. Third duty theory is Kant morality theory. Kant argues that one has commitment to act morally because it is one's duty. He declares that "Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law”. Fourth, Ross (2002) comes up with prima facie (apparent) theory. He claims that man’s duties are “part of the fundamental nature of the universe”. He listed fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, nonmaleficence as duties that ought to be performed by a morally upright person.
Another theory is naturalistic ethical theories or virtue theories. These theories posit that human nature ought to be the source of what is right and wrong. This means that morality is the good characteristics or habits of a human being. According to virtue theories, adults are not responsible to teach children to follow rules but to instill virtues in children so that the virtues become part of children’s characters by habituation; and equally important also to avoid acquiring bad habits or vices. The first virtue theory was developed by Plato and Aristotle. Plato accentuates four cardinal virtues which are wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Aristotle asserts that virtues are the golden means between two extremes which are vices. For example courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness. Another virtue theory is theological virtue theory which views virtues as objective realities revealed to human by God.
The fourth theory of normative ethics is feminist theories which assert that the most important moral obligation of an individual is to thwart injury to loved ones and other people and to assist the disadvantage. In other words the primary feature of feminist ethical theories is caring ethics. Other characteristics of feminist ethics are the emphasis of relationship vis-à-vis individualistic; personal meaning that it affects the performing agent personally; bias towards their loved; private; emphasis on feeling rather than rationality; compassionate; responsibility; and group solidarity.