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Ethics (or Moral Philosophy) is concerned with questions of how people ought
to act, and the search for a definition of right conduct (identified as the one
causing the greatest good) and the good life (in the sense of a life worth living or a
life that is satisfying or happy).
The word "ethics" is derived from the Greek "ethos" (meaning "custom" or
"habit"). Ethics differs from morals and morality in that ethics denotes
the theory of right action and the greater good, while morals indicate
their practice. Ethics is not limited to specific acts and defined moral codes, but
encompasses the whole of moral ideals and behaviours, a person's philosophy of
life (or Weltanschauung).
It asks questions like "How should people act?" (Normative or Prescriptive
Ethics), "What do people think is right?" (Descriptive Ethics), "How do we take
moral knowledge and put it into practice?" (Applied Ethics), and "What does 'right'
even mean?" (Meta-Ethics). See below for more discussion of these categories.
Ancient Greek Ethics

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Socrates, as recorded in Plato's dialogues, is customarily regarded as the father of
Western ethics. He asserted that people will naturally do what is good provided
that they know what is right, and that that evil or bad actions are purely the result
ofignorance: "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance". He
equated knowledge and wisdom with self-awareness (meaning to be aware of
every fact relevant to a person's existence) and virtue and happiness. So, in
essence, he considered self-knowledge and self-awareness to be the essential
good, because the truly wise (i.e. self-aware) person will know what is right, do
what is good, and therefore be happy.
According to Aristotle, "Nature does nothing in vain", so it is only when a person
acts in accordance with their nature and thereby realizes their full potential,
that they will do good and therefore be content in life. He held that selfrealization (the awareness of one's nature and the development of one's talents) is
the surest path to happiness, which is the ultimate goal, all other things (such as
civic life or wealth) being merely means to an end. He encouraged moderation in
all things, the extremes being degraded and immoral, (e.g. courage is the moderate
virtue between the extremes of cowardice and recklessness), and held that Man
should not simply live, but live well with conduct governed by moderate virtue.
Virtue, for Aristotle, denotes doing the right thing to the right person at the right
time to the proper extent in the correct fashion and for the right reason something of a tall order.
Cynicism is an ancient doctrine best exemplified by the Greek philosopher Diogenes
of Sinope, who lived in a tub on the streets of Athens. He taught that a life lived

according to Nature was better than one that conformed to convention, and that
a simple life is essential to virtue and happiness. As a moral
teacher, Diogenes emphasized detachment from many of those things
conventionally considered "good".
Hedonism posits that the principal ethic is maximizing pleasure and minimizing
pain. This may range from those advocatingself-gratification regardless of the
pain and expense to others and with no thought for the future (Cyrenaic
Hedonism), to those who believe that the most ethical pursuit maximizes pleasure
and happiness for the most people. Somewhere in the middle of this
continuum, Epicureanism observed that indiscriminate indulgence sometimes
result in negative consequences, such aspain and fear, which are to
be avoided.
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus posited that the greatest good
was contentment, serenity and peace of mind, which can be achieved by selfmastery over one's desires and emotions, and freedom from material
attachments. In particular, sex and sexual desire are to be avoided as the
greatest threat to the integrity and equilibrium of a man's mind. According
to Epictetus,difficult problems in life should not be avoided, but rather embraced
as spiritual exercises needed for the health of the spirit.
Pyrrho, the founding figure of Pyrrhonian Skepticism, taught that one
cannot rationally decide between what is good and what is bad although, generally
speaking, self-interest is the primary motive of human behaviour, and he was
disinclined to rely uponsincerity, virtue or Altruism as motivations.
Humanism, with its emphasis on the dignity and worth of all people and their
ability to determine right and wrong purely by appeal to universal human
qualities (especially rationality), can be traced back to Thales, Xenophanes of
Colophon (570 - 480 B.C.), Anaxagoras, Pericles (c. 495 429 B.C.), Protagoras, Democritus and the historian Thucydides (c. 460 - 375 B.C.).
These early Greek thinkers were all instrumental in the move away from a spiritual
morality based on the supernatural, and the development of a more
humanistic freethought (the view that beliefs should be formed on the basis
of science and logic, and not be influenced
by emotion, authority, tradition or dogma).
Normative Ethics

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Normative Ethics (or Prescriptive Ethics) is the branch of ethics concerned with
establishing how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things
are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong. It attempts to develop a
set ofrules governing human conduct, or a set of norms for action.

"Who is the primary beneficiary of moral action?". with John Stuart Mill as its foremost proponent. Personal Egoism holds that each person should act in his ownself-interest. Egoism may license actions which are good for the individual. Thus. . which is. Consequentialist theories must consider questions like "What sort of consequences count as good consequences?". "Live for others". o Egoism. Thus. The origins of Utilitarianism can be traced back as far as the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Thus. o Altruism. Universal Egoism holds that everyoneshould act in ways that are in their own interest. if necessary at the sacrifice of self-interest. according to Auguste Comte's dictum. but makes no claims about what anyone else ought to do. "How are the consequences judged and who judges them?" Some consequentialist theories include: o Utilitarianism. but which defines happiness more as a state of tranquillitythan pleasure). but its full formulation is usually credited to Jeremy Betham.Normative ethical theories are usually split into three main categories: Consequentialism. in some ways. which holds that an action is right if it maximizes good for the self. the opposite of Egoism in that it describes a life characterized by abstinencefrom egoistic pleasures especially to achieve a spiritual goal. a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome or consequence. Deontology and Virtue Ethics:  Consequentialism (or Teleological Ethics) argues that the morality of an action is contingent on the action's outcome or result. o Asceticism. but detrimental to the general welfare. serve or benefit others. Epicureanism is a more moderateapproach (which still seeks to maximize happiness. individuals have a moral obligation to help. which holds that an action is right if it leads to the most happiness for the greatest number of people ("happiness" here is defined as the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain). o Hedonism. which prescribes that an individual take actions that have the best consequences for everyone exceptfor himself. and that individuals should strive to maximise their own total pleasure (net of any pain or suffering). Individual Egoism holds that all people should do whatever benefits him or her self. which is the philosophy that pleasure is the most important pursuit of mankind.

people must act according to duty. or may only require passive avoidance of bad outcomes. o Natural Rights Theory (such as that espoused by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke). but that those rules should be chosen based on the consequences that the selection of those rules have. not because of any good consequences arising from that action. that moral behaviour involves following certain rules. Thus. Kant's formulation is deontological in that he argues that to act in the morally right way. which is a theory (sometimes seen as an attempt to reconcile Consequentialism andDeontology). and not contingent on human actions or beliefs). o Rule Consequentialism. This eventually developed into what we today call human rights. and that an act is obligatory if and only if (and because) it is commanded by God. Simply stated. which holds that humans have absolute. o Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative. natural rights (in the sense of universal rights that are inherent in the nature of ethics. and that it is the motives of the person who carries out the action that make them right or wrong. Deontology is an approach to ethics that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves. This may actually require active intervention (to prevent harm from being done). René Descartes and the 18th Century Calvinists all accepted versions of this moral theory. William of Ockham. which roots morality in humanity's rational capacity and asserts certaininviolable moral laws. the Categorical Imperative states that one should only act in such a way that one could want the maxim (or motivating principle) of one's action to become a universal law. Some deontological theories include: o Divine Command Theory: a form of deontological theory which states that an action is right if God has decreedthat it is right. o Negative Consequentialism. not the consequences of the actions. It argues that decisions should be made considering the factors of one's duties and other's rights (the Greek 'deon' means 'obligation' or 'duty'). moral obligations arise from God's commands. . as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions. and that one should always treat people as an end as well as a means to an end. and the rightness of any action depends upon that action being performed because it is a duty. which focuses on minimizing bad consequences rather than promoting good consequences.

which essentially holds that people give up some rights to a government and/or other authority in order to receive. social order. and therefore only people who understand and agree to the terms of the contract are bound by it. The system identifies virtues (those habits and behaviours that will allow a person to achieve"eudaimonia". Virtue Ethics. He argues that there are seven prima facie duties which need to be taken into consideration when deciding which duty should be acted upon: beneficence (to help other people to increase their pleasure. In some circumstances.1971). and claims that a lifetime of practising these virtues leads to. and that moral rules themselves are a sort of a contract. It holds that moral acts are those that we wouldall agree to if we were unbiased.D. and that right and wrong are a matter of whether we can justify the action to other people. happiness and the good life. reparation (to recompense someone if you have acted wrongly towards them). The theory stems initially from political Contractarianism and the principle of social contract developed by Thomas Hobbes. focuses on the inherent character of a person rather than on the nature or consequences of specific actions performed. and which can be achieved by a lifetime of practising the virtues in one's everyday activities. non-maleficence (to avoid harming other people). counsels practical wisdom to resolve any conflicts between virtues. selfimprovement (to improve ourselves). or jointly preserve. JeanJacques Rousseau and John Locke. o Eudaimonism is a philosophy originated by Aristotle that defines right action as that which leads to "well being". promise-keeping (to act according to explicit and implicit promises. although there are no hard and fast rules and no fixed order of significance. justice (to ensure people get what they deserve). etc). or in effect constitutes. including the implicit promise to tell the truth). o Contractarian Ethics (or the Moral Theory of Contractarianism) claims that moral norms derive theirnormative force from the idea of contract or mutual agreement. It was first advocated by Plato and is particularly associated with Aristotle. Ross (1877 . gratitude (to benefit people who have benefited us). although based more on the Kantian ideas that ethics is an essentially interpersonal matter. o Pluralistic Deontology is a description of the deontological ethics propounded by W. and . subject to the exercise of practical wisdom. Contractualism is a variation on Contractarianism. there may be clashes orconflicts between these duties and a decision must be made whereby one duty may "trump" another. or well being or a good life). improve their character.

and judgements and how they may be supported or defended. unlike a normative ethical theory (see below). and that their truth or falsity are independent of our beliefs. rather it tries to define the essential meaning and nature of the problem being discussed. kindness. statements. Meta-Ethics Back to Top Meta-Ethics is concerned primarily with the meaning of ethical judgements. which we can identify by looking at the people we admire. o Ethics of Care was developed mainly by Feminist writers. which are either true or false. and seeks to understand the nature of ethicalproperties. . patience. such as taking care of others. bad or evil. but that these properties are reducible to entirely non-ethical properties. does not attempt to evaluate specific choices as being better. It assumes cognitivism (the view that ethical sentences express propositions and can therefore be true or false). the ability to nurture. o Agent-Based Theories give an account of virtue based on our common-sense intuitions about which character traits are admirable (e. specifically the semantics. worse. so that evaluative statements are essentially factual claims. It is a cognitivist view in that it holds that ethical sentences express valid propositions and are therefore truth-apt. A meta-ethical theory. our moral exemplars. attitudes. self-sacrifice.became the prevailing approach to ethical thinking in the Ancient and Medieval periods. etc. benevolence. feelings or other attitudes towards the things being evaluated. good. There are two main variants: o Ethical Naturalism This doctrine holds that there are objective moral properties of which we have empirical knowledge. It fell out of favour in theEarly Modern period. epistemology and ontology of ethics. The major meta-ethical views are commonly divided into two camps: Moral Realism and Moral Anti-Realism:  Moral Realism: Moral Realism (or Moral Objectivism) holds that there are objective moral values. but has recently undergone a modern resurgence. compassion. and that the meanings of these ethical sentences can be expressed as natural properties without the use of ethical terms. etc). and calls for a change in how we view morality and the virtues.g. shifting towards the more marginalized virtues exemplified by women. It concerns itself with second order questions.

Moore) holds that ethical statements express propositions (in that sense it is also cognitivist) that cannot be reduced to non-ethical statements (e. Ethical Intuitionism is a variant of Ethical Non-Naturalism which claims that we sometimes have intuitive awareness of moral properties or of moral truths. Moore claimed that a naturalistic fallacy is committed by any attempt to prove a claim about ethics by appealing to a definition in terms of one or more natural properties (e.g. opinion. There are several different variants:  Simple Subjectivism: the view that ethical statements reflect sentiments. "desired". which holds that there are no objective moral properties and that moral statements are made true or false by the attitudes and/or conventions of the observers. leading to the conclusion that different things are right for people in different societies anddifferent periods in history. or that any ethical sentence merely implies an attitude. not genuine claims at all (Non-Cognitivism) or mistaken objective claims (Moral Nihilism or Moral Skepticism): o Ethical Subjectivism. "good" cannot be defined interms of "pleasant". E. depending on whether ethical statements are believed to be subjective claims (Ethical Subjectivism). Moral Anti-Realism: Moral Anti-Realism holds that there are no objective moral values. and comes in one of three forms.g.  Moral Relativism (or Ethical Relativism): the view that for a thing to be morally right is for it to be approved of by society. personal preference or feelingheld by someone. "more evolved".o  Ethical Non-Naturalism This doctrine (whose major apologist is G. "goodness" is indefinable in that it cannot be defined in any other terms).  Individualist subjectivism: the view (originally put forward by Protagoras) that there are as many distinctscales of good and evil as there are individuals in the world (effectively a form of Egoism). personal preferences andfeelings rather than objective facts.  Ideal Observer Theory: the view that what is right is determined by the attitudes that a hypothetical ideal . etc).

that ethical sentences serve merely to express emotions. o Non-Cognitivism.J. Stevenson (1908 . thus implying that moral knowledge is impossible. defended by A. Again there are different versions:  Emotivism: the view. for this would not allow for phenomena such as the gradual development of ethical positions over time or in differing cultural traditions. Blackburn argues that ethics cannot be entirely realist. . and can be appropriately called "true" or "false" even though there are no ethical facts for them to correspond to. but rather to express an evaluative attitude toward an object of evaluation.).M. developed from Expressivism and defended by Simon Blackburn (1944 . "Killing is wrong" really means "Do not kill!"  Expressivism: the view that the primary function of moral sentences is not to assert any matter of fact. L. propounded by R. that ethical statements behave linguistically like factual claims. even though it was philosophical orthodoxy throughout much of the 20th Century.e. moral sentences do not have any truth conditions. Therefore. and ethical judgements are primarily expressions of one's own attitude. Hare (1919 . because the function of moral language is (a being who is perfectly rational. which holds that ethical sentences are neither true nor false because they do not express genuine propositions.  Quasi-Realism: the view. Projectivism in Ethics (originally proposed by David Hume and more recently championed by Simon Blackburn) is associated by many with Moral Relativism. that moral statements function as imperatives which are universalizable (i. imaginative and informed) would have. Ayer and C.1979) among others.  Projectivism: the view that qualities can be attributed to (or "projected" on) an object as if those qualities actually belong to it.g. although to some extent they are also imperatives meant to change the attitudes and actions of other listeners. and is consideredcontroversial.2002). applicable to everyone in similar circumstances) e.  Prescriptivism (or Universal Prescriptivism): the view.

sex. and all the time. o Moral Skepticism. rather than explicitly prescribing. regardless of culture. which holds that no one has any moral knowledge (or the stronger claim that no one can have any moral knowledge). .g. sexuality or other distinguishing feature. but instead make claims relative to social. This has led to charges of individuals claiming to hold attitudes that they do not reallyhave. etc. It is particularly opposed to Moral Realism (see above) and perhaps its most famous proponent is Friedrich Nietzsche. a moral nihilist would say that murder is not wrong. theories of value or of conduct. which holds that ethical claims are generally false. nationality. cultural. and that certain actions are right or wrong. Descriptive Ethics Back to Top Descriptive Ethics is a value-free approach to ethics which examines ethics from the perspective of observations of actual choices made by moral agents in practice. bad. wrong.) because there are no moral truths (e. but neither is it right). historical or personal circumstances. Error Theory is a form of Moral Nihilism which combines Cognitivism (the belief that moral language consists oftruthapt statements) with Moral Nihilism (the belief that there are no moral facts). nor is it designed to evaluate the reasonableness of moral norms. but merely auseful fiction. It is not designed to provide guidance to people in making moral decisions. right. It holds that there are no objective values (that nothing is morally good.  Moral Relativism: The position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths. An alternative division of meta-ethical views is between:  Moral Absolutism: The ethical belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged.  Moral Universalism: The meta-ethical position that there is a universal ethic which applies to all people. race. regardless of the context of the act. and therefore are in some way insincere. o Moral Nihilism. Moral Fictionalism: the view that moral statements should not be taken to be literally true. It is the study of people's beliefs about morality. religion. and implies the existence of.

bioethics has become a fast-growing academic and professional area of inquiry. Applied Ethics is much more ready to include the insights of psychology. Non-maleficence ("first. Descriptive Ethics is sometimes referred to as Comparative Ethics because so much activity can involve comparing ethical systems: comparing the ethics of the past to the present. psychology. although information that comes from descriptive ethics is also used in philosophical arguments. "to practice and prescribe to the best of my ability for the good of my patients. and the decision of who gets what treatment). It is used in determining public policy. such as the Hippocratic Oath (at its simplest. and comparing the ethics which people claim to follow with the actual rules of conduct which do describe their actions. history oranthropology. principle-based ethical approaches often result in solutions to specific problems that are not universally acceptable or impossible to implement. and to try to avoid harming them").Autonomy (the patient has the right to refuse or choose their treatment). The following would be questions of Applied Ethics: "Is getting an abortion immoral?". comparing the ethics of one society to another. sociology. Six of the values that commonly apply to medical ethics discussions are:Beneficence (a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient. Public attention was drawn to these questions by abuses of human subjects in biomedical experiments. especially during the Second World War.It is more likely to be investigated by those working in the fields of evolutionary biology. Historically. and early rabbinic. Applied Ethics Back to Top Applied Ethics is a discipline of philosophy that attempts to apply ethical theory to real-life situations. "What are human rights. Muslim and Christian teachings. but with recent advances in bio-technology. Dignity (both the patient and the practitioner have the right to dignity). "Is euthanasia immoral?". Strict. stem cell research. Honesty (truthfulness and respect for the concept of informed consent). Justice (concerning the distribution of scarce health resources. sociology and other relevant areas of knowledge in its deliberations. "Is affirmative action right or wrong?". and how do we determine them?" and "Do animals have rights as well?" Some topics falling within the discipline include:  Medical Ethics: the study of moral values and judgements as they apply to medicine. do no harm"). Western medical ethics may be traced to guidelines on the duty of physicians in antiquity. .  Bioethics: concerns the ethical controversies brought about by advances in biology and medicine. Issues include consideration of cloning.

infertility treatment. over and above the statutory obligation to comply with legislation. This includes Corporate Social Responsibility. processing.  Media Ethics: deals with the specific ethical principles and standards of media in general. genetically modified food. dealings with persons other than clients. depleting fossil fuel resources while the technology exists to create zero-emission vehicles?". how one should behave in the infosphere. etc.transplant trade. It addresses questions like "Should we continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?". of information. :Should we continue to make gasoline powered vehicles. collection. shareholders. Ethics The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing. law firms and associations. employees. and professional independence are some of the defining features of legal ethics. advertising and maintaining the integrity of the profession. recording. candour toward the tribunal. and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers. including the ethical issues relating to journalism. defending. distribution. advertising and marketing. It is concerned with issues like the privacy of information. truthfulness in statements to others. whether artificial agents may be moral. and ownership and copyright problems arising from the creation. communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations. Philosophers today usually divide .  Business Ethics: examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. duties of a lawyer as advocate in adversary proceedings.  Environmental Ethics: considers the ethical relationship between human beings and the natural environment. etc  Legal Ethics: an ethical code governing the conduct of people engaged in the practice of law. :What environmental obligations do we need to keep for future generations?". etc. human genetic engineering. and entertainment media. "Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the (perceived or real) convenience of humanity?"  Information Ethics: investigates the ethical issues arising from the development and application of computers andinformation technologies. Respect of client confidences. public service. genomics. Model rules usually address the client-lawyer relationship.

the role of reason in ethical judgments. such as rocks. such as abortion. spirits. environmental concerns. or simply human . By using the conceptual tools of metaethics and normative ethics. Metaphysical Issues: Objectivism and Relativism Metaphysics is the study of the kinds of things that exist in the universe. the field of metaethics is the least precisely defined area of moral philosophy. infanticide. or bird's eye view of the entire project of ethics. Normative ethics takes on a more practical task. or nuclear war. The issue also rests on metaethical issues such as. The metaphysical component of metaethics involves discovering specifically whether moral values are eternal truths that exist in a spirit-like realm. and. such as the right of self-rule and the right to life. discussions in applied ethics try to resolve these controversial issues. or the consequences of our behavior on others. and applied ethics are often blurry. When compared to normative ethics and applied ethics. and what they mean.homosexuality. the will of God. are prominent: (1)metaphysical issues concerning whether morality exists independently of humans. consequently. But it also depends on more general normative principles. and gods. Two issues. and applied ethics. such as thoughts. the duties that we should follow. the notion of metaethics involves a removed. It covers issues from moral semantics to moral epistemology. applied ethics involves examining specific controversial issues. For example. Finally. animal rights. Some things in the universe are made of physical stuff. capital punishment. and (2)psychological issues concerning the underlying mental basis of our moral judgments and conduct. and perhaps other things are nonphysical in nature. We may define metaethics as the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. and the meaning of ethical terms themselves. the issue of abortion is an applied ethical topic since it involves a specific type of controversial behavior. The lines of distinction between metaethics. which is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. normative ethics. normative ethics. Metaethics The term "meta" means after or beyond. a. "where do rights come from?" and "what kind of beings have rights?" 1. though. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire.ethical theories into three general subject areas: metaethics. which are litmus tests for determining the morality of that procedure. Metaethics investigates where our ethical principles come from. Are they merely social inventions? Do they involve more than expressions of our individual emotions? Metaethical answers to these questions focus on the issues of universal truths.

He noted that moral values also are absolute truths and thus are also abstract. believe that God wills moral principles. this view was inspired by the notion of an all-powerful God who is in control of everything. for example. moral values are spiritual objects. such as "murder is wrong. skeptics did not reject moral values themselves. and they become reality. God informs humans of these commands by implanting us with moral intuitions or revealing these commands in scripture. The second and more this-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality follows in the skeptical philosophical tradition. he wills human life into existence and. This view was advocated by Sextus. In addition to espousing skepticism and . Plato explained the eternal character of mathematics by stating that they are abstract entities that exist in a spirit-like realm. A different other-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality is divine commands issuing from God's will. or eternal. they exist in a spirit-like realm. but only denied that values exist as spirit-like objects. though. Proponents of this view. The first isindividual relativism. Sometimes called voluntarism (ordivine command theory). and also that they are universal insofar as they apply to all rational creatures around the world and throughout time. a position that has since been called moral relativism. The most dramatic example of this view is Plato. They also hold that they are absolute. spirit-like entities. Technically. There are two general directions that discussions of this topic take. he wills all moral values into existence." and these exist in God's mind as commands. they argued. Moral values. they seem to be timeless concepts that never change. There are two distinct forms of moral relativism. The second is cultural relativismwhich maintains that morality is grounded in the approval of one's society .and not simply in the preferences of individual people. and denies the objective status of moral values. He wills the physical world into existence. Friedrich Nietzsche. oneother-worldly and one this-worldly. In this sense.conventions. in that they never change. who was inspired by the field of mathematics. Medieval philosophers commonly grouped all moral principles together under the heading of "eternal law" which were also frequently seen as spirit-like objects. and humans cannot alter them. and in more recent centuries by Michel Montaigne and William Graham Sumner. Humans do not invent numbers. such as medieval philosopher William of Ockham. 17th century British philosopher Samuel Clarke described them as spirit-like relationships rather than spirit-like objects. are strictly human inventions. such as 1+1=2. similarly. God simply wills things. and apply everywhere in the universe. argued that the superhuman creates his or her morality distinct from and in reaction to the slave-like value system of the masses. Proponents of the other-worldly view typically hold that moral values are objective in the sense that they exist in a spirit-like realm beyond subjective human conventions. such as that articulated by Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus. or as divine commands in the mind of God. for Plato. When we look at numbers and mathematical relations. In either case. which holds that individual people create their own moral standards.

Ayer. For example. or to fit in with society. of our actions are prompted by selfish desires. Closely related to psychological egoism is a view called psychological hedonism which is the view thatpleasure is the specific driving force behind all of our actions. the slave of the passions. such as don't kill and don't steal. We can amass all the reasons we want.J.relativism. b. We might explore this subject by asking the simple question. in Hume's words. Some answers to the question "Why be moral?" are to avoid punishment. This view is called psychological egoism and maintains that self-oriented interests ultimately motivate all human actions. most notably A. if not all. to attain happiness. Reason might be of service in giving us the relevant data. Psychological Issues in Metaethics A second area of metaethics involves the psychological basis of our moral judgments and conduct." Inspired by Hume's antirationalist views. although the . Egoism and Altruism One important area of moral psychology concerns the inherent selfishness of humans. similarly denied that moral assessments are factual descriptions. such as attitudes about polygamy. for example. but that alone will not constitute a moral assessment. "reason is. and not our reason. 17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes held that many. some 20th century philosophers. ii. Emotion and Reason A second area of moral psychology involves a dispute concerning the role of reason in motivating moral actions. to gain praise. and ought to be. to be dignified. such as experiencing power over other people. Butler argued that we also have an inherent psychological capacity to show benevolence to others. this does not necessarily mean that I will be psychologically compelled to act on them. However. particularly understanding what motivates us to be moral. Even if an action seems selfless. 18th century British philosopher David Hume argued that moral assessments involve our emotions. I make the statement "abortion is morally wrong. homosexuality and human sacrifice. this-worldly approaches to the metaphysical status of morality deny the absolute and universal nature of morality and hold instead that moral values in fact change from society to society throughout time and throughout the world. such as donating to charity. there are still selfish causes for this. 18 th century British philosopherJoseph Butler agreed that instinctive selfishness and pleasure prompt much of our conduct. We need a distinctly emotional reaction in order to make a moral pronouncement. "Why be moral?" Even if I am aware of basic moral standards. This view is called psychological altruism and maintains that at least some of our actions are motivated by instinctive benevolence. but. They frequently attempt to defend their position by citing examples of values that differ dramatically from one culture to another." am I making a rational assessment or only expressing my feelings? On the one side of the dispute. i. If.

engaging in business contracts. was proposed in direct opposition to the emotivist and prescriptivist theories of Ayer and others. On this model. and more spontaneous and creative action. If I claim that it is wrong to steal someone's car. then. and governing societies. First. All of our moral choices are. 18 th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant is a case in point. it is not. such as acquiring property. Second. we should nevertheless resist that kind of sway. "Donate to charity!" This is called the prescriptive element in the sense that I am prescribing some specific behavior. From Hume's day forward.statement "it is good to donate to charity" may on the surface look as though it is a factual description about charity. traditional morality is male-centered since it is modeled after practices that have been traditionally male-dominated. A recent rationalist approach. by contrast. such as lists of rights and duties. true moral action is motivated only by reason when it is free from emotions and desires. the basis of morality would be spontaneously caring for others as would be appropriate in each unique circumstance. Baier focuses more broadly on the reasoning and argumentation process that takes place when making moral choices. I (the speaker) I am expressing my personal feelings of approval about charitable donations and I am in essence saying "Hooray for charity!" This is called theemotive element insofar as I am expressing my emotions about some specific behavior. The rigid systems of rules required for trade and government were then taken as models for the creation of equally rigid systems of moral rules. or put the thief at risk of getting caught. he argued. I could argue that stealing Smith's car is wrong since this would upset her. or at least can be. These tasks require less rule following. Using the woman's experience as a model for moral theory. more rationally-minded philosophers have opposed these emotive theories of ethics (see non-cognitivism in ethics) and instead argued that moral assessments are indeed acts of reason. iii. Women. then I should be able to justify my claim with some kind of argument. proper moral decision making involves giving the best reasons in support of one course of action versus another. offered by Kurt Baier (1958). According to many feminist philosophers. According to Baier. This stands in contrast with male-modeled . I (the speaker) am trying to get you to donate to charity and am essentially giving the command. a moral utterance like this involves two things. Discussions of this issue focus on two claims: (1) traditional morality is male-centered. Male and Female Morality A third area of moral psychology focuses on whether there is a distinctly female approach to ethics that is grounded in the psychological differences between men and women. have traditionally had a nurturing role by raising children and overseeing domestic life. then. Although emotional factors often do influence our conduct. violate her ownership rights. backed by some reason or justification. For example. and (2) there is a unique female perspective of the world which can be shaped into a value theory. the agent becomes part of the situation and acts caringly within that context. Instead. Instead.

places less emphasis on learning rules. Historically. or vices. A care-based approach to morality. having its roots in ancient Greek civilization. The Golden Rule is a classic example of a normative principle: We should do to others what we would want others to do to us. Plato emphasized four virtues in particular. as it is sometimes called. is offered by feminist ethicists as either a replacement for or a supplement to traditional male-modeled moral systems. and instead stresses the importance of developing good habits of character. for example. Virtue theory emphasizes moral education since virtuous character traits are developed in one's youth. Three strategies will be noted here: (1) virtue theories. I will then habitually act in a benevolent manner. in response to my natural feelings of fear. or a set of good character traits. then I should help feed starving people. injustice. a. self-respect. whether it is a single rule or a set of principles. In a sense. Analyzing 11 . I can theoretically determine whether any possible action is right or wrong. virtue theorists hold that we should avoid acquiring bad character traits. Once I've acquired benevolence. good temper. insensibility. and vanity. Since I do not want my neighbor to steal my car. Since I would want people to feed me if I was starving. assault. and sincerity. 2. it would also be wrong for me to lie to. but can remain distanced from and unaffected by the situation. Virtue ethics. such as "don't kill. victimize. however. it is a search for an ideal litmus test of proper behavior. So.morality where the agent is a mechanical actor who performs his required duty. Virtue Theories Many philosophers believe that morality consists of following precisely defined rules of conduct. In addition to advocating good habits of character. The Golden Rule is an example of a normative theory that establishes a single principle against which we judge all actions. such as benevolence (see moral character). or kill others. (2) duty theories. virtue theory is one of the oldest normative traditions in Western philosophy. Other normative theories focus on a set of foundational principles." or "don't steal. based on the Golden Rule. Adults. Using this same reasoning. temperance and justice. therefore. I should develop the virtue of courage which allows me to be firm when facing danger. For example. harass. courage. then it is wrong for me to steal her car. which were later called cardinal virtues: wisdom. Aristotle argued that virtues are good habits that we acquire. Normative Ethics Normative ethics involves arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. I must learn these rules." Presumably. generosity. and (3) consequentialist theories. are responsible for instilling virtues in the young. such as cowardice. which regulate our emotions. The key assumption in normative ethics is that there is only one ultimate criterion of moral conduct. Other important virtues are fortitude. and then make sure each of my actions live up to the rules.

Concerning our duties towards God. and conditional duties. According to Aristotle. which are universally binding on people. and 2. If I have too much courage I develop the disposition of rashness which is also a vice. They are also sometimes called nonconsequentialist since these principles are obligatory. There are four central duty theories. and not killing oneself. Alasdaire MacIntyre (1984) defended the central role of virtues in moral theory and argued that virtues are grounded in and emerge from within social traditions. which are the result of contracts between people. medieval theologians supplemented Greek lists of virtues with three Christian ones. rather than on virtuous character traits. or theological virtues: faith. foundational principles of obligation. After Aristotle. a theoretical duty to know the existence and nature of God. In fact. hope. a practical duty to both inwardly and outwardly worship God. these are also of two sorts: 1. as we might through gluttony or drunkenness. such as to care for our children. which involve not harming our bodies. Duty Theories Many of us feel that there are clear obligations we have as human beings. duties of the soul. The first is that championed by 17th century German philosopher Samuel Pufendorf. and 2. I develop the disposition of cowardice. and duties to others. it is wrong to not care for our children even if it results in some great benefit. and to not commit murder. Duty theories base morality on specific. These theories are sometimes called deontological. duties to oneself. from the Greek worddeon. which is a vice. who classified dozens of duties under three headings: duties to God. Concerning our duties towards others. for example.specific virtues. or duty. Interest in virtue theory continued through the middle ages and declined in the 19 th century with the rise of alternative moral theories below. which involve developing one's skills and talents. and charity. In the mid 20th century virtue theory received special attention from philosophers who believed that more recent ethical theories were misguided for focusing too heavily on rules and actions. irrespective of the consequences that might follow from our actions. duties of the body. if I do not have enough courage. b. we need assistance from our reason to do this. he argued that there are two kinds: 1. it is not an easy task to find the perfect mean between extreme character traits. Absolute duties are of three sorts: . Pufendorf divides these between absolute duties. in view of the foundational nature of our duty or obligation. For example. Concerning our duties towards oneself. With courage. such as financial savings. Aristotle argued that most virtues fall at a mean between more extreme character traits.

Conditional duties involve various types of agreements. if I have a right to payment of $10 by Smith. Rights and duties are related in such a way that the rights of one person implies the duties of another person. irrespective of one's personal desires. avoid wronging others. they are equal in the sense that rights are the same for all people. First. However. liberty. we should always treat people with dignity. For example. which emphasizes a single principle of duty. including the rights of property. For Kant. "If you want to get a good job. speech. promote the good of others. they areuniversal insofar as they do not change from country to country. is morally correct since this . the principal one of which is the duty is to keep one's promises. given to us by God. irrespective of gender. such as by selling myself into slavery. such as "You ought to do X. Third. he argued. then Smith has a duty to pay me $10. these are our natural rights. 2. Fourth. There are four features traditionally associated with moral rights. A third duty-based theory is that by Kant. This is called the correlativity of rights and duties. treat people as equals. for example. they areinalienable which means that I cannot hand over my rights to another person. health. and keeping our promises to others. rights are natural insofar as they are not invented or created by governments. Donating to charity. then you ought to go to college.such as my right to not be harmed by you (see alsohuman rights). a categorical imperative simply mandates an action." Kant gives at least four versions of the categorical imperative. and never use them as mere instruments. and 3. liberty or possessions. such as developing one's talents. the United States Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson recognizes three foundational rights: life. Second. who argued that the laws of nature mandate that we should not harm anyone's life. Influenced by Pufendorf. is fundamentally different from hypothetical imperatives that hinge on some personal desire that we have.1. Most generally. race. A second duty-based approach to ethics is rights theory. It is a single. and the pursuit of happiness. for example. The most influential early account of rights theory is that of 17th century British philosopher John Locke. and never as a means to an end. self-evident principle of reason that he calls the "categorical imperative. Following Locke. or handicap." A categorical imperative. we treat people as an end whenever our actions toward someone reflect the inherent value of that person. That is. Kant argued that there is a more foundational principle of duty that encompasses our particular duties. For Locke. Jefferson and others rights theorists maintained that we deduce other more specific rights from these. but one is especially direct: Treat people as an end. and religious expression. movement. Kant agreed that we have moral duties to oneself and others. a "right" is a justified claim against another person's behavior ." By contrast.

Kant believes that the morality of all actions can be determined by appealing to this single principle of duty. Ross's list of duties is much shorter. Like his 17th and 18th century counterparts. Ross. for example. my duty of nonmaleficence emerges as my actual duty and I should not return the gun. Ross argues that our duties are "part of the fundamental nature of the universe. for example. suppose I borrow my neighbor's gun and promise to return it when he asks for it. One day. c. which emphasizes prima facie duties. By contrast. to steal my neighbor's car since I would be treating her as a means to my own happiness. we treat someone as a means to an end whenever we treat that person as a tool to achieve something else. on the other hand.D. the duty of nonmaleficence obligates me to avoid injuring others and thus not return the gun. Consequentialist Theories It is common for us to determine our moral responsibility by weighing the consequences of our actions." However. correct moral conduct is determined solely by a cost-benefit analysis of an action's consequences: . On the one hand. the duty of fidelity obligates me to return the gun. The categorical imperative also regulates the morality of actions that affect us individually. A fourth and more recent duty-based theory is that by British philosopher W. In this case.acknowledges the inherent value of the recipient. In a classic example. Suicide. According to Ross. and which is my apparent or prima facie duty. which he believes reflects our actual moral convictions:  Fidelity: the duty to keep promises  Reparation: the duty to compensate others when we harm them  Gratitude: the duty to thank those who help us  Justice: the duty to recognize merit  Beneficence: the duty to improve the conditions of others  Self-improvement: the duty to improve our virtue and intelligence  Nonmaleficence: the duty to not injure others Ross recognizes that situations will arise when we must choose between two conflicting duties. I will intuitively know which of these duties is my actual duty. It is wrong. in a fit of rage. my neighbor pounds on my door and asks for the gun so that he can take vengeance on someone. According to consequentialism. would be wrong since I would be treating my life as a means to the alleviation of my misery.

Most versions of consequentialism are more precisely formulated than the general principle above. like all normative theories. But. from the Greek word telos. On the principle of ethical egoism. the decision to drive on would be the morally proper choice. Consequentialist theories became popular in the 18 th century by philosophers who wanted a quick way to morally assess an action by appealing to experience.  Ethical Altruism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone except the agent. rather than by appealing to gut intuitions or long lists of questionable duties. competing consequentialist theories specify which consequences for affected groups of people are relevant. Tallying only those consequences reveals that . the woman in this illustration would only be concerned with the consequences of her attempted assistance as she would be affected. On the principle of ethical altruism. In particular. then the action is morally proper. or end. but. Consequentialist normative principles require that we first tally both the good and bad consequences of an action. A woman was traveling through a developing country when she witnessed a car in front of her run off the road and roll over several times. In fact. The driver continued explaining that road accident victims are therefore usually left unattended and often die from exposure to the country's harsh desert conditions. since the end result of the action is the sole determining factor of its morality. Consequentialist theories are sometimes called teleological theories. Consider the following example. then the action is morally improper. She asked the hired driver to pull over to assist. the above three theories are rivals of each other. the most attractive feature of consequentialism is that it appeals to publicly observable consequences of actions. If the good consequences are greater. If the victim dies. then the assisting person could be held responsible for the death. particularly the accident victim. Second. All three of these theories focus on the consequences of actions for different groups of people. then the police often hold the assisting person responsible for the accident itself. we then determine whether the total good consequences outweigh the total bad consequences. A few miles down the road the driver explained that in his country if someone assists an accident victim. the driver accelerated nervously past the scene. If the bad consequences are greater. to her surprise.Consequentialism: An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable. Clearly. she would be concerned only with the consequences of her action as others are affected. Three subdivisions of consequentialism emerge:  Ethical Egoism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable only to the agent performing the action.  Utilitarianism: an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone. They also yield different conclusions.

Bentham also proposed that we tally the pleasure and pain which results from our actions. which involves tallying any consequence that we intuitively recognize as good or bad (and not simply as pleasurable or painful). Types of Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham presented one of the earliest fully developed systems of utilitarianism. In turn. since our time could be spent in ways that produced a greater social benefit. John Stuart Mill's version of utilitarianism is rule-oriented. the rule against theft is morally binding because adopting this rule produces favorable consequences for everyone. according to hedonistic utilitarianism. morally speaking. In response to this problem. On the principle of utilitarianism. such as "stealing is wrong. Bentham proposed that we tally the consequences of each action we perform and thereby determine on a case by case basis whether an action is morally right or wrong. is judged wrong since it violates a moral rule against theft. and the woman would need to precisely calculate the overall benefit versus disbenefit of her action. Rule-utilitarianism. yet they are not always pleasing. a behavioral code or rule is morally right if the consequences of adopting that rule are more favorable than unfavorable to everyone. More significantly. A particular action. For Bentham." Adopting a rule against theft clearly has more favorable consequences than unfavorable consequences for everyone. then. According to ruleutilitarianism. though.E. For example. acts which foster loyalty and friendship are valued. seems too restrictive since it ignores other morally significant consequences that are not necessarily pleasing or painful. R. pleasure and pain are the only consequences that matter in determining whether our conduct is moral. specific acts of torture or slavery would be morally permissible if the social benefit of these actions outweighed the disbenefit. Also. such as charity work. First. The outcome here is less clear. The same is true for moral rules against lying or murdering. Critics point out limitations in both of these aspects. This aspect of Bentham's theory is known as hedonistic utilitarianism. But prohibiting leisure activities doesn't seem reasonable. pleasurable consequences are the only factors that matter. Hare . offers a threetiered method for judging conduct. G.M. Moore proposed ideal utilitarianism. i. irrespective of the negative consequences that result for her. which weighs the consequences of each particular action. according to actutilitarianism. Two features of his theory are noteworty. This aspect of Bentham's theory is known as act-utilitiarianism. ruleutilitarianism offers a litmus test only for the morality of moral rules. such as stealing my neighbor's car. First. A revised version of utilitarianism called rule-utilitarianism addresses these problems. This. it would be morally wrong to waste time on leisure activities such as watching television. Second. Second. Unlike act utilitarianism.assisting the victim would be the morally correct choice. she must consider the consequences for both herself and the victim. according to act-utilitarianism.

tax laws. Generally speaking. these rules will ensure safety for each agent only if the rules are enforced.proposed preference utilitarianism.i) that Hobbes was an advocate of the methaethical theory of psychological egoism—the view that all of our actions are selfishly motivated. these rules would include prohibitions against lying. Applied Ethics Applied ethics is the branch of ethics which consists of the analysis of specific. animal rights. Therefore. by contrast. gays in the military. For without moral rules. they are not all moral issues. for selfish reasons alone. Each agent would then be at risk from his neighbor. we are subject to the whims of other people's selfish interests. ii. is not an applied ethical issue. or energy conservation. and even our lives are at continual risk. our families. Not surprisingly. Moral issues. and sexual ethics. concern more universally obligatory practices. The issue of drive-by shooting. Some are only issues of social policy. the media presents us with an array of sensitive issues such as affirmative action policies. controversial moral issues such as abortion. Selfishness alone will therefore motivate each agent to adopt a basic set of rules which will allow for a civilized community. involuntary commitment of the mentally impaired. Although all of these issues are controversial and have an important impact on society. since everyone agrees that this practice is grossly immoral. The second requirement for an issue to be an applied ethical issue is that it must be a distinctly moral issue. which is a type of rule-ethical-egoism. 3. As selfish creatures. According to Hobbes. such as our duty to avoid . two features are necessary for an issue to be considered an "applied ethical issue. each of us would plunder our neighbors' property once their guards were down. Ethical Egoism and Social Contract Theory We have seen (in Section 1. public versus private health care systems. or euthanasia. the issue of gun control would be an applied ethical issue since there are significant groups of people both for and against gun control. and zoning codes. Hobbes developed a normative theory known as social contract theory. for example. Our property. The aim of social policy is to help make a given society run efficiently by devising conventions. we devise a means of enforcing these rules: we create a policing agency which punishes us if we violate these rules. environmental ethics. On any given day. the issue needs to be controversial in the sense that there are significant groups of people both for and against the issue at hand. for purely selfish reasons. In recent years applied ethical issues have been subdivided into convenient groups such as medical ethics. business ethics. By contrast. the agent is better off living in a world with moral rules than one without moral rules." First. which involves tallying any consequence that fulfills our preferences. Upon that foundation. stealing and killing. such as traffic laws. capitalistic versus socialistic business practices.b. However.

we would simply determine its morality by consulting our normative principle of choice. and are not confined to individual societies. Frequently. but may not feel that there should be social policies regulating sexual conduct. there are perhaps hundreds of rival normative principles from which to choose. Thus. Similarly. such as a version of act-egoism that might focus only on an action's short-term benefit. many people would argue that sexual promiscuity is immoral. principles that appeal to duty to God are not usually cited since this would have no impact on a nonbeliever engaged in the debate. The principles selected must not be too narrowly focused. resolving particular applied ethical issues should be easy. With the issue of abortion.lying. the two groups of issues are often distinct. the issue must be more than one of mere social policy: it must be morally relevant as well.  Principle of harm: do not harm others. then. The following principles are the ones most commonly appealed to in applied ethical discussions:  Personal benefit: acknowledge the extent to which an action produces beneficial consequences for the individual in question. many of which yield opposite conclusions. Unfortunately. The principles must also be seen as having merit by people on both sides of an applied ethical issue. The usual solution today to this stalemate is to consult several representative normative principles on a given issue and see where the weight of the evidence lies. Normative Principles in Applied Ethics Arriving at a short list of representative normative principles is itself a challenging task. issues of social policy and morality overlap. as with murder which is both socially prohibited and immoral. For this reason. However. For example. such as act-utilitarianism. . If a given abortion produces greater benefit than disbenefit. there is nothing immoral in itself about a resident having a yard sale in one of these neighborhoods. But. Thus.  Social benefit: acknowledge the extent to which an action produces beneficial consequences for society. for example. or laws punishing us for promiscuity.  Principle of paternalism: assist others in pursuing their best interests when they cannot do so themselves. so long as the neighbors are not offended. according to act-utilitarianism. it would be morally acceptable to have the abortion. a.  Principle of benevolence: help those in need. In theory. to qualify as an applied ethical issue. some social policies forbid residents in certain neighborhoods from having yard sales. the stalemate in normative ethics between conflicting theories prevents us from using a single decisive procedure for determining the morality of a specific issue.

and the various rights are based on moral rights. In 1982. the status of Baby Doe's right to life was not clear given the severity of the infant's mental impairment. Local courts supported the parents' decision. fair compensation for harm done. Arguments against corrective surgery derive from the personal and social disbenefit which would result from such surgery. Principle of honesty: do not deceive others. The remaining principles are duty-based. to possess moral rights. When examining both sides of the issue. had its stomach disconnected from its throat and was thus unable to receive nourishment. are consequentialist since they appeal to the consequences of an action as it affects the individual or society. known as Baby Doe. For. food. harm. Baby Doe's survival would have been a significant emotional and financial burden. a couple from Bloomington. An example will help illustrate the function of these principles in an applied ethical discussion.  Principle of lawfulness: do not violate the law. Although this stomach deformity was correctable through surgery. . The principles of autonomy. and is central to many applied ethical discussions. justice. and lawfulness are based on duties we have toward others. the couple did not want to raise a severely disabled child and therefore chose to deny surgery. Among other complications. Should corrective surgery have been performed for Baby Doe? Arguments in favor of corrective surgery derive from the infant's right to life and the principle of paternalism which stipulates that we should pursue the best interests of others when they are incapable of doing so themselves. paternalism. The principles of benevolence. and fair distribution of benefits.  Principle of justice: acknowledge a person's right to due process. and six days later Baby Doe died. foregoing surgery appeared to be in the best interests of the infant. The issue here involves what is often referred to as moral personhood. the infant. Also. and water for the infant. given the poor quality of life it would endure. its quality of life would have been poor and in any case it probably would have died at an early age.  Rights: acknowledge a person's rights to life. The above principles represent a spectrum of traditional normative principles and are derived from both consequentialist and duty-based approaches. privacy. and safety. Indiana gave birth to a baby with severe mental and physical disabilities. from the parent's perspective. honesty. information. it takes more than merely having a human body: certain cognitive functions must also be present. the parents and the courts concluded that the arguments against surgery were stronger than the arguments for surgery. If Baby Doe survived. personal benefit and social benefit. Second. First.  Principle of autonomy: acknowledge a person's freedom over his/her actions or physical body. The first two principles. free expression.

The Complete Works of Aristotle (Princeton. 1981). Finally. in Barnes. Religion and Politics (Oxford: Blackwell. welfare rights. then. pollution control.. ed.b. such as the confidentiality of the patient's records and the physician's responsibility to tell the truth to dying patients. drug testing. and the rights of the mentally disabled. and whistle blowing. .J. 33. reprinted in her Ethics. there are many controversial issues discussed by ethicists today. that medical ethics issues are more extreme and diverse than other areas of applied ethics. 4. affirmative action. N. Issues in environmental ethics often overlaps with business and medical issues. These include the rights of animals. Vol. there are issues of social morality which examine capital punishment. the morality of animal experimentation. Truth and Logic (New York: Dover Publications. Issues in Applied Ethics As noted. preserving endangered species. It is not surprising. genetic manipulation of fetuses. management of environmental resources. deceptive advertising.Elizabeth "Modern Moral Philosophy. some of which will be briefly mentioned here. and our obligation to future generations. the justifiability of suicide intervention. and abortion. basic employee rights.: Princeton University Press. nuclear war. Additional issues concern medical experimentation on humans. Language." Philosophy. 1946). and racism. job discrimination. sexual relations without love. 1984). A. physician assisted suicide. and whether physicians can refuse to treat AIDS patients. Prenatal issues arise about the morality of surrogate mothering. References and Further Reading  Anscombe. gun control. J. Other issues arise about patient rights and physician's responsibilities. The AIDS crisis has raised the specific issues of the mandatory screening of all patients for AIDS.  Ayer. homosexual relations. The field of business ethics examines moral controversies relating to the social responsibilities of capitalist business practices.  Aristotle. end of life issues arise about the morality of suicide. insider trading. Biomedical ethics focuses on a range of issues which arise in clinical settings. Finally.. the moral status of corporate entities. Jonathan. and extramarital affairs. the morality of involuntary commitment. Controversial issues of sexual morality include monogamy versus polygamy. the status of unused frozen embryos. Nichomachean Ethics. and euthanasia. the recreational use of drugs. 1958. Health care workers are in an unusual position of continually dealing with life and death situations. whether eco-systems are entitled to direct moral consideration.

"Ethics from the Stand Point Of Women. 1991). eds. The Moral Point of View: A Rational Basis of Ethics (Cornell University Press. The Language of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Alasdair.  Mill. 1984). (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press. Mary J. David. 1903)." in Deborah L. Baier. 1981). 1985).. in The Works of Jeremy Bentham. Immanuel.. 1958). Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789). New York: Oxford University Press. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Leviathan.. John Stuart. (Oxford: Clarendon Press.  Hume. Robson (London: Routledge and Toronto. Thomas. (New York: Penguin Books." in Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. ed.  Noddings. J. (Chicago. David Fate Norton.. The Basis of Morality According to William Ockham (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press.M. Two Treatises.. Rhode.  Moore. Nel. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. After Virtue.  Bentham.. edited by John Bowring (London: 1838-1843). ed. tr. ed. Moral Thinking. Ellington (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. Ont.  Hare.  Ockham.E. A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740). Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  MacIntyre. Fourth Book of the Sentences. Principia Ethica. 2000). 1990).  Locke. Ethics . 1963). Norton (Oxford.  Hare. IL: Hackett Publishing Company. R. second edition.M. Curley. tr.. ed. R. Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference (New Haven. E. John L.M. 1952).. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong.  Hobbes. Jeremy.: University of Toronto Press. James W.  Kant. 1977). William of. CT: Yale University Press. 1988). G. John. "Utilitarianism. Kurt. Lucan Freppert. 1994).  Mackie.

"culture" refers to all the practices of information exchange that are not genetic or epigenetic. but to our well-being and happiness. our actions would be random and aimless. Any flaw in our ethics will reduce our ability to be successful in our endeavors. There would be no way to work towards a goal because there would be no way to pick between a limitless number of goals.What is Ethics? Ethics is the branch of study dealing with what is the proper course of action for man. . At a more fundamental level. and that sacrifice is not only not necessary. It answers the question. it is the method by which we categorize our values and pursue them. and the happiness which makes them livable. What are the key elements of a proper Ethics? A proper foundation of ethics requires a standard of value to which all goals and actions can be compared to. Do we pursue our own happiness. even more specific to humans seems the capacity to use symbolic systems to communicate. we may be unable to pursue our goals with the possibility of success. Without it. It is our means of deciding a course of action. A system of ethics must further consist of not only emergency situations. the goal in which an ethical man must always aim. Even with an ethical standard. It must include our relations to others. Culture and Human Nature The ability to transmit information across generations and peers by means other than genetic exchange is a key trait of the human species. but the day to day choices we make constantly. or do we sacrifice ourselves to a greater cause? Is that foundation of ethics based on the Bible. To the degree which a rational ethical standard is taken. It is arrived at by an examination of man's nature. or on the very nature of man himself. This standard is our own lives. but destructive. or neither? Why is Ethics important? Ethics is a requirement for human life. This includes all behavioral and symbolic systems. "What do I do?" It is the study of right and wrong in human endeavors. and recognize their importance not only to our physical survival. and recognizing his peculiar needs. This is our ultimate standard of value. In the anthropological use of the term. we are able to correctly organize our goals and actions to accomplish our most important values. It must recognize that our lives are an end in themselves.

Such an attitude has been at the center of some of the most memorable debates over the past decades. however. which in some sense it means that the only way to study a culture is by not sharing it. for centuries "culture" was associated with a philosophy of education. that in order to study a culture one has to remove herself from it. The study of culture poses thus one of the hardest questions with respect to human nature: to what extent can you really understand yourself? To what extent can a society assess its own practices? If the capacity of self-analysis of an individual or a group is limited. While some societies have clear-cut gender and racial divisions. for instance. the anthropological conception of culture has been one of the most fertile terrains for cultural relativism. How to Study a Culture? One of the most intriguing philosophical aspects of culture is the methodology by means of which its specimens have been and are studied. Cultural relativists hold that no culture has a truer worldview than any other. who is entitled to a better analysis and why? Is there a point of view. It seems. or musical knowledge. that cultural anthropology developed at a similar time at whichpsychology and sociology also flourished. seem to potentially suffer of a similar defect: a weak theoretical foundation concerning their respective relationship with the object of study. others do not seem to exhibit a similar metaphysics. be it because of the exchange of culinary techniques. All three disciplines. and so on. they are simply different views. in other words. most notably in connection with the phenomenon of globalization.The Invention of Culture Although the term "culture" has been around at least since the early Christian era (we know. in fact. as we mostly employ the term nowadays. Multiculturalism The idea of culture. a large part of the contemporary world population lives in more than one culture. CONTINUE READING BELOW OUR VIDEO Culture and Relativism Within contemporary theorizing. is a recent invention. entrenched with socio-political consequences. Before this time. one could argue. has given rise to the concept of multiculturalism. In one way or other. We can hence say that culture. which is best suited for the study of an individual or a society? It is no accident. that Cicero used it). If in psychology it seems always legitimate to ask on which grounds a professional has a better insight into a patient’s life than the patient herself. its anthropological use was established between the end of eighteen-hundreds and the beginning of the past century. for instance. in cultural anthropology . or fashion ideas. "culture" typically referred to the educational process through which an individual had undergone.

And yet the foundation seems to be still in need of being addressed. To date. there certainly are several instances of research that try and address the questions raised above by means of sophisticated methodologies. from a philosophical point of view. or could ask on what grounds the anthropologists can better understand the dynamics of a society than the members of the society themselves. Further Online Readings . How to study a culture? This is still an open question.