I have always assumed, perhaps naively, that the basic goal of ethics is to provide judgements of possible outcomes of one's actions, and thus also advice on the way one should act. I just realised that others view this matter quite differently, and I wanted to clarify this somewhat.
Let me elaborate on how I understand ethics. Consider a person just about to make a decision. The decision leads to some possible outcomes, and suppose for the purpose of simplicity that the outcomes are known and well understood. The possible outcomes are evaluated using ethics; some will be considered better, some worse, and ideally it will be possible to compare each pair. Then, the "right" or "moral" thing for the person in question to do is to to choose the highest-ranked of the possible outcomes, and act accordingly. Note that by "outcome" I mean everything that happens after the decision is made, including all the costs and side effects.
For example, ethics could tell me that killing innocent people is wrong; then common sense would tell me that if I have my finger on a trigger of a loaded gun pointed at a person then my pressing the trigger would result in killing that person; therefore I should not press the trigger in this situation, all other things being equal. But if that person happened to be just about to kill two other people, then ethics would (arguably) also tell me that one dead person is not as bad as two dead people, and if experience told me that the only way to save the two is to kill that one person, then I would conclude that I should, after all, pull the trigger. Call this "outcome oriented ethics".
However, it I realised that some others seem to view ethics more as a set of "rules", "rights", and so on. Thus, I might have a rule saying "I shouldn't kill", which would require me not to kill another person. As the example above suggest, this rule should probably be extended with "... except to save a life" or something of this kind. Call this "means oriented" ethics. I suppose that if each rule produced by "means oriented" ethics was given a disclaimer "... unless it serves greater good to do otherwise", then it would reduce to "outcome oriented" ethics.
I have considered "outcome oriented ethics" as the natural way to go about ethics for most of my life, so I am confused. Is ethics as understood in (modern) philosophy "outcome oriented" or "means oriented" (or both, or neither)? Given that ethics is apparently quite a big chunk of philosophy, the answer is not very likely to be a simple "yes/no", so perhaps a more reasonable question is: How does "my" conception of ethics relate to what ethics actually is?
Let me end with a disclaimer: I am definitely not a philosopher, my interest in matters related to philosophy arises mostly from simple human curiousity.