ETHICS or MORAL PHILOSOPHY is a branch of philosophy that involves
systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong
conduct . The term ethics derives from
Three major areas of study within ethics recognized today are:
* Meta-ethics , concerning the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions, and how their truth values (if any) can be determined * Normative ethics , concerning the practical means of determining a moral course of action * Applied ethics , concerning what a person is obligated (or permitted) to do in a specific situation or a particular domain of action
* 1 Defining ethics * 2 Meta-ethics
* 3 Normative ethics
* 3.1 Virtue ethics
* 3.2 Hedonism
* 3.2.1 Cyrenaic hedonism
* 3.3 State consequentialism
* 3.4 Consequentialism/teleology
* 3.4.1 Utilitarianism
* 4 Applied ethics
* 4.1 Specific questions
* 4.2 Particular fields of application
* 4.2.1 Bioethics * 4.2.2 Business ethics * 4.2.3 Machine ethics * 4.2.4 Military ethics * 4.2.5 Political ethics * 4.2.6 Public sector ethics * 4.2.7 Publication ethics * 4.2.8 Relational ethics * 4.2.9 Animal ethics
* 5 Moral psychology
* 5.1 Evolutionary ethics
* 6 Descriptive ethics * 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 References * 10 Further reading * 11 External links
Rushworth Kidder states that "standard definitions of ethics have
typically included such phrases as 'the science of the ideal human
character' or 'the science of moral duty'". Richard William Paul and
Linda Elder define ethics as "a set of concepts and principles that
guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms sentient
creatures". The Cambridge Dictionary of
The word ethics in English refers to several things. It can refer to
philosophical ethics or moral philosophy—a project that attempts to
use reason to answer various kinds of ethical questions. As the
The English word "ethics" is derived from an
Main article: Meta-ethics
Meta-ethics asks how we understand, know about, and what we mean when we talk about what is right and what is wrong. An ethical question fixed on some particular practical question—such as, "Should I eat this particular piece of chocolate cake?"—cannot be a meta-ethical question. A meta-ethical question is abstract and relates to a wide range of more specific practical questions. For example, "Is it ever possible to have secure knowledge of what is right and wrong?" would be a meta-ethical question.
Meta-ethics has always accompanied philosophical ethics. For example,
Studies of how we know in ethics divide into cognitivism and non-cognitivism ; this is similar to the contrast between descriptivists and non-descriptivists. Non-cognitivism is the claim that when we judge something as right or wrong, this is neither true nor false. We may, for example, be only expressing our emotional feelings about these things. Cognitivism can then be seen as the claim that when we talk about right and wrong, we are talking about matters of fact.
The ontology of ethics is about value -bearing things or properties, i.e. the kind of things or stuff referred to by ethical propositions. Non-descriptivists and non-cognitivists believe that ethics does not need a specific ontology since ethical propositions do not refer. This is known as an anti-realist position. Realists, on the other hand, must explain what kind of entities, properties or states are relevant for ethics, how they have value, and why they guide and motivate our actions.
Main article: Normative ethics
Normative ethics is the study of ethical action. It is the branch of ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking. Normative ethics is distinct from meta-ethics because normative ethics examines standards for the rightness and wrongness of actions, while meta-ethics studies the meaning of moral language and the metaphysics of moral facts. Normative ethics is also distinct from descriptive ethics , as the latter is an empirical investigation of people's moral beliefs. To put it another way, descriptive ethics would be concerned with determining what proportion of people believe that killing is always wrong, while normative ethics is concerned with whether it is correct to hold such a belief. Hence, normative ethics is sometimes called prescriptive, rather than descriptive. However, on certain versions of the meta-ethical view called moral realism , moral facts are both descriptive and prescriptive at the same time.
Traditionally, normative ethics (also known as moral theory) was the study of what makes actions right and wrong. These theories offered an overarching moral principle one could appeal to in resolving difficult moral decisions.
At the turn of the 20th century, moral theories became more complex and were no longer concerned solely with rightness and wrongness, but were interested in many different kinds of moral status. During the middle of the century, the study of normative ethics declined as meta-ethics grew in prominence. This focus on meta-ethics was in part caused by an intense linguistic focus in analytic philosophy and by the popularity of logical positivism .
Virtue ethics describes the character of a moral agent as a driving
force for ethical behavior, and it is used to describe the ethics of
The Stoic philosopher
Contemporary Virtue Ethics
Modern virtue ethics was popularized during the late 20th century in
large part as a response to
G. E. M. Anscombe 's "Modern Moral
Main article: Hedonism
Hedonism posits that the principal ethic is maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain . There are several schools of Hedonist thought ranging from those advocating the indulgence of even momentary desires to those teaching a pursuit of spiritual bliss. In their consideration of consequences, they range from those advocating self-gratification regardless of the pain and expense to others, to those stating that the most ethical pursuit maximizes pleasure and happiness for the most people. :37
Aristippus of Cyrene,
Epicurean ethics is a hedonist form of virtue ethics. Epicurus
"...presented a sustained argument that pleasure, correctly
understood, will coincide with virtue." He rejected the extremism of
Main article: State consequentialism
State consequentialism , also known as Mohist consequentialism, is
an ethical theory that evaluates the moral worth of an action based on
how much it contributes to the basic goods of a state. The Stanford
Stanford sinologist David Shepherd Nivison , in The Cambridge History of Ancient China , writes that the moral goods of Mohism "are interrelated: more basic wealth, then more reproduction; more people, then more production and wealth ... if people have plenty, they would be good, filial, kind, and so on unproblematically." The Mohists believed that morality is based on "promoting the benefit of all under heaven and eliminating harm to all under heaven". In contrast to Bentham's views, state consequentialism is not utilitarian because it is not hedonistic or individualistic. The importance of outcomes that are good for the community outweigh the importance of individual pleasure and pain.
Consequentialism refers to moral theories that hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action (or create a structure for judgment, see rule consequentialism ). Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence. This view is often expressed as the aphorism "The ends justify the means".
The term "consequentialism" was coined by
G. E. M. Anscombe in her
essay "Modern Moral
The defining feature of consequentialist moral theories is the weight given to the consequences in evaluating the rightness and wrongness of actions. In consequentialist theories, the consequences of an action or rule generally outweigh other considerations. Apart from this basic outline, there is little else that can be unequivocally said about consequentialism as such. However, there are some questions that many consequentialist theories address:
* What sort of consequences count as good consequences? * Who is the primary beneficiary of moral action? * How are the consequences judged and who judges them?
One way to divide various consequentialisms is by the types of consequences that are taken to matter most, that is, which consequences count as good states of affairs. According to utilitarianism , a good action is one that results in an increase in a positive effect, and the best action is one that results in that effect for the greatest number. Closely related is eudaimonic consequentialism, according to which a full, flourishing life, which may or may not be the same as enjoying a great deal of pleasure, is the ultimate aim. Similarly, one might adopt an aesthetic consequentialism, in which the ultimate aim is to produce beauty. However, one might fix on non-psychological goods as the relevant effect. Thus, one might pursue an increase in material equality or political liberty instead of something like the more ephemeral "pleasure". Other theories adopt a package of several goods, all to be promoted equally. Whether a particular consequentialist theory focuses on a single good or many, conflicts and tensions between different good states of affairs are to be expected and must be adjudicated.
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that argues the proper course of action is one that maximizes a positive effect, such as "happiness", "welfare", or the ability to live according to personal preferences. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are influential proponents of this school of thought. In A Fragment on Government Bentham says 'it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong' and describes this as a fundamental axiom . In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation he talks of 'the principle of utility' but later prefers "the greatest happiness principle".
Utilitarianism is the paradigmatic example of a consequentialist
moral theory. This form of utilitarianism holds that the morally
correct action is the one that produces the best outcome for all
people affected by the action.
John Stuart Mill , in his exposition of
utilitarianism, proposed a hierarchy of pleasures, meaning that the
pursuit of certain kinds of pleasure is more highly valued than the
pursuit of other pleasures. Other noteworthy proponents of
utilitarianism are neuroscientist Sam Harris , author of The Moral
Landscape , and moral philosopher
There are two types of utilitarianism, act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism . In act utilitarianism, the principle of utility applies directly to each alternative act in a situation of choice. The right act is the one that brings about the best results (or the least amount of bad results). In rule utilitarianism, the principle of utility determines the validity of rules of conduct (moral principles). A rule like promise-keeping is established by looking at the consequences of a world in which people break promises at will and a world in which promises are binding. Right and wrong are the following or breaking of rules that are sanctioned by their utilitarian value.
Deontological ethics or deontology (from Greek δέον, deon, "obligation, duty"; and -λογία, -logia ) is an approach to ethics that determines goodness or rightness from examining acts , or the rules and duties that the person doing the act strove to fulfill. This is in contrast to consequentialism , in which rightness is based on the consequences of an act, and not the act by itself. In deontology, an act may be considered right even if the act produces a bad consequence, if it follows the rule that "one should do unto others as they would have done unto them", and even if the person who does the act lacks virtue and had a bad intention in doing the act. According to deontology, people have a duty to act in a way that does those things that are inherently good as acts ("truth-telling" for example), or follow an objectively obligatory rule (as in rule utilitarianism ). For deontologists, the ends or consequences of people's actions are not important in and of themselves, and people's intentions are not important in and of themselves.
Immanuel Kant's theory of ethics is considered deontological for several different reasons. First, Kant argues that to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty (deon). Second, Kant argued that it was not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong but the motives (maxime) of the person who carries out the action. Kant's argument that to act in the morally right way, one must act from duty, begins with an argument that the highest good must be both good in itself, and good without qualification. Something is 'good in itself' when it is intrinsically good , and 'good without qualification' when the addition of that thing never makes a situation ethically worse. Kant then argues that those things that are usually thought to be good, such as intelligence , perseverance and pleasure , fail to be either intrinsically good or good without qualification. Pleasure, for example, appears to not be good without qualification, because when people take pleasure in watching someone suffer, they make the situation ethically worse. He concludes that there is only one thing that is truly good:
Nothing in the world—indeed nothing even beyond the world—can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will.
Main article: Pragmatic ethics
Associated with the pragmatists ,
Charles Sanders Peirce
ETHICS OF CARE
Main article: Ethics of care
Care ethics contrasts with more well-known ethical models, such as consequentialist theories (e.g. utilitarianism) and deontological theories (e.g., Kantian ethics) in that it seeks to incorporate traditionally feminized virtues and values that—proponents of care ethics contend—are absent in such traditional models of ethics. These values include the importance of empathetic relationships and compassion.
Care-focused feminism is a branch of feminist thought, informed primarily by ethics of care as developed by Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings . This body of theory is critical of how caring is socially assigned to women, and consequently devalued. They write, “Care-focused feminists regard women’s capacity for care as a human strength,” that should be taught to and expected of men as well as women. Noddings proposes that ethical caring has the potential to be a more concrete evaluative model of moral dilemma than an ethic of justice. Noddings’ care-focused feminism requires practical application of relational ethics , predicated on an ethic of care.
Main article: Role ethics
Role ethics is an ethical theory based on family roles. Unlike
virtue ethics , role ethics is not individualistic.
Anarchist ethics is an ethical theory based on the studies of
anarchist thinkers. The biggest contributor to the anarchist ethics is
the Russian zoologist, geographer, economist, and political activist
Peter Kropotkin . The anarchist ethics is a large, vague field that
can depend on different historical situations and different anarchist
Peter Kropotkin explains, "any “bourgeois” or
“proletarian” ethics rests, after all, on the common basis, on the
common ethnological foundation, which at times exerts a very strong
inﬂuence on the principles of the class or group morality." Still,
most of the anarchist ethics schools are based on three fundamental
ideas, which are: "solidarity, equality, and justice". Kropotkin
This principle of treating others as one wishes to be treated oneself, what is it but the very same principle as equality, the fundamental principle of anarchism? And how can any one manage to believe himself an anarchist unless he practices it? We do not wish to be ruled. And by this very fact, do we not declare that we ourselves wish to rule nobody? We do not wish to be deceived, we wish always to be told nothing but the truth. And by this very fact, do we not declare that we ourselves do not wish to deceive anybody, that we promise to always tell the truth, nothing but the truth, the whole truth? We do not wish to have the fruits of our labor stolen from us. And by that very fact, do we not declare that we respect the fruits of others' labor? By what right indeed can we demand that we should be treated in one fashion, reserving it to ourselves to treat others in a fashion entirely different? Our sense of equality revolts at such an idea.
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The 20th century saw a remarkable expansion and evolution of critical theory, following on earlier Marxist Theory efforts to locate individuals within larger structural frameworks of ideology and action.
Antihumanists such as
Louis Althusser ,
Michel Foucault and
structuralists such as
Post-structuralism and postmodernism argue that ethics must study the complex and relational conditions of actions. A simple alignment of ideas of right and particular acts is not possible. There will always be an ethical remainder that cannot be taken into account or often even recognized. Such theorists find narrative (or, following Nietzsche and Foucault, genealogy ) to be a helpful tool for understanding ethics because narrative is always about particular lived experiences in all their complexity rather than the assignment of an idea or norm to separate and individual actions.
Zygmunt Bauman says postmodernity is best described as modernity without illusion, the illusion being the belief that humanity can be repaired by some ethic principle. Postmodernity can be seen in this light as accepting the messy nature of humanity as unchangeable.
David Couzens Hoy states that
Hoy's post-critique model uses the term ethical resistance. Examples of this would be an individual's resistance to consumerism in a retreat to a simpler but perhaps harder lifestyle, or an individual's resistance to a terminal illness. Hoy describes Levinas's account as "not the attempt to use power against itself, or to mobilize sectors of the population to exert their political power; the ethical resistance is instead the resistance of the powerless"(2004, p. 8).
Hoy concludes that
The ethical resistance of the powerless others to our capacity to exert power over them is therefore what imposes unenforceable obligations on us. The obligations are unenforceable precisely because of the other's lack of power. That actions are at once obligatory and at the same time unenforceable is what put them in the category of the ethical. Obligations that were enforced would, by the virtue of the force behind them, not be freely undertaken and would not be in the realm of the ethical. (2004, p.184)
Main article: Applied ethics
Applied ethics is a discipline of philosophy that attempts to apply ethical theory to real-life situations. The discipline has many specialized fields, such as engineering ethics , bioethics , geoethics , public service ethics and business ethics .
Applied ethics is used in some aspects of determining public policy, as well as by individuals facing difficult decisions. The sort of questions addressed by applied ethics include: "Is getting an abortion immoral?" "Is euthanasia immoral?" "Is affirmative action right or wrong?" "What are human rights, and how do we determine them?" "Do animals have rights as well?" and "Do individuals have the right of self-determination?"
A more specific question could be: "If someone else can make better out of his/her life than I can, is it then moral to sacrifice myself for them if needed?" Without these questions, there is no clear fulcrum on which to balance law, politics, and the practice of arbitration—in fact, no common assumptions of all participants—so the ability to formulate the questions are prior to rights balancing. But not all questions studied in applied ethics concern public policy. For example, making ethical judgments regarding questions such as, "Is lying always wrong?" and, "If not, when is it permissible?" is prior to any etiquette.
People, in general, are more comfortable with dichotomies (two opposites). However, in ethics, the issues are most often multifaceted and the best-proposed actions address many different areas concurrently. In ethical decisions, the answer is almost never a "yes or no", "right or wrong" statement. Many buttons are pushed so that the overall condition is improved and not to the benefit of any particular faction.
PARTICULAR FIELDS OF APPLICATION
Main article: Bioethics
Bioethics is the study of controversial ethics brought about by advances in biology and medicine . Bioethicists are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences , biotechnology , medicine , politics , law , and philosophy . It also includes the study of the more commonplace questions of values ("the ethics of the ordinary" ) that arise in primary care and other branches of medicine.
Bioethics also needs to address emerging biotechnologies that affect basic biology and future humans. These developments include cloning , gene therapy , human genetic engineering , astroethics and life in space, and manipulation of basic biology through altered DNA, RNA and proteins, e.g.- "three parent baby, where baby is born from genetically modified embryos, would have DNA from a mother, a father and from a female donor. Correspondingly, new bioethics also need to address life at its core. For example, biotic ethics value organic gene/protein life itself and seek to propagate it. With such life-centered principles, ethics may secure a cosmological future for life.
Main article: Business ethics
Business ethics (also corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment, including fields like medical ethics . Business ethics represents the practices that any individual or group exhibits within an organization that can negatively or positively affect the businesses core values. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and entire organizations.
Business ethics has both normative and descriptive dimensions. As a
corporate practice and a career specialization, the field is primarily
normative. Academics attempting to understand business behavior employ
descriptive methods. The range and quantity of business ethical issues
reflect the interaction of profit-maximizing behavior with
non-economic concerns. Interest in business ethics accelerated
dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, both within major
corporations and within academia. For example, today most major
corporations promote their commitment to non-economic values under
headings such as ethics codes and social responsibility charters. Adam
Smith said, "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for
merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy
against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."
Governments use laws and regulations to point business behavior in
what they perceive to be beneficial directions.
Main article: Machine ethics
In Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen conclude that issues in machine ethics will likely drive advancement in understanding of human ethics by forcing us to address gaps in modern normative theory and by providing a platform for experimental investigation. The effort to actually program a machine or artificial agent to behave as though instilled with a sense of ethics requires new specificity in our normative theories, especially regarding aspects customarily considered common-sense. For example, machines, unlike humans, can support a wide selection of learning algorithms , and controversy has arisen over the relative ethical merits of these options. This may reopen classic debates of normative ethics framed in new (highly technical) terms.
Military ethics are concerned with questions regarding the application of force and the ethos of the soldier and are often understood as applied professional ethics. Just war theory is generally seen to set the background terms of military ethics. However individual countries and traditions have different fields of attention.
Military ethics involves multiple subareas, including the following among others:
* what, if any, should be the laws of war. * justification for the initiation of military force. * decisions about who may be targeted in warfare. * decisions on choice of weaponry, and what collateral effects such weaponry may have. * standards for handling military prisoners. * methods of dealing with violations of the laws of war.
Main article: Political ethics
Political ethics (also known as political morality or public ethics) is the practice of making moral judgements about political action and political agents.
Public Sector Ethics
Main article: Public sector ethics
Public sector ethics is a set of principles that guide public officials in their service to their constituents, including their decision-making on behalf of their constituents. Fundamental to the concept of public sector ethics is the notion that decisions and actions are based on what best serves the public's interests, as opposed to the official's personal interests (including financial interests) or self-serving political interests.
Publication ethics is the set of principles that guide the writing and publishing process for all professional publications. To follow these principles, authors must verify that the publication does not contain plagiarism or publication bias . As a way to avoid misconduct in research these principles can also apply to experiments that are referenced or analyzed in publications by ensuring the data is recorded honestly and accurately.
Publication bias occurs when the publication is one-sided or "prejudiced against results". In best practice, an author should try to include information from all parties involved, or affected by the topic. If an author is prejudiced against certain results, than it can "lead to erroneous conclusions being drawn".
Misconduct in research can occur when an experimenter falsifies
results. Falsely recorded information occurs when the researcher
"fakes" information or data, which was not used when conducting the
actual experiment. By faking the data, the researcher can alter the
results from the experiment to better fit the hypothesis they
originally predicted. When conducting medical research, it is
important to honor the healthcare rights of a patient by protecting
their anonymity in the publication. Respect for autonomy is the
principle that decision-making should allow individuals to be
autonomous; they should be able to make decisions that apply to their
own lives. This means that individuals should have control of their
Relational ethics are related to an ethics of care . :62–63 They are used in qualitative research, especially ethnography and autoethnography. Researchers who employ relational ethics value and respect the connection between themselves and the people they study, and "...between researchers and the communities in which they live and work." (Ellis, 2007, p. 4). Relational ethics also help researchers understand difficult issues such as conducting research on intimate others that have died and developing friendships with their participants. Relational ethics in close personal relationships form a central concept of contextual therapy .
Main article: Animal ethics
Animal ethics is a term used in academia to describe human-animal relationships and how animals ought to be treated. The subject matter includes animal rights , animal welfare , animal law , speciesism , animal cognition , wildlife conservation , the moral status of nonhuman animals, the concept of nonhuman personhood , human exceptionalism , the history of animal use, and theories of justice .
Main article: Moral psychology
MORAL PSYCHOLOGY is a field of study that began as an issue in philosophy and that is now properly considered part of the discipline of psychology . Some use the term "moral psychology" relatively narrowly to refer to the study of moral development . However, others tend to use the term more broadly to include any topics at the intersection of ethics and psychology (and philosophy of mind ). Such topics are ones that involve the mind and are relevant to moral issues. Some of the main topics of the field are moral responsibility , moral development, moral character (especially as related to virtue ethics ), altruism , psychological egoism , moral luck , and moral disagreement.
Evolutionary ethics concerns approaches to ethics (morality) based on the role of evolution in shaping human psychology and behavior. Such approaches may be based in scientific fields such as evolutionary psychology or sociobiology , with a focus on understanding and explaining observed ethical preferences and choices.
Main article: Descriptive ethics
Descriptive ethics is on the less philosophical end of the spectrum since it seeks to gather particular information about how people live and draw general conclusions based on observed patterns. Abstract and theoretical questions that are more clearly philosophical—such as, "Is ethical knowledge possible?"—are not central to descriptive ethics. Descriptive ethics offers a value-free approach to ethics, which defines it as a social science rather than a humanity . Its examination of ethics doesn't start with a preconceived theory but rather investigates observations of actual choices made by moral agents in practice. Some philosophers rely on descriptive ethics and choices made and unchallenged by a society or culture to derive categories, which typically vary by context. This can lead to situational ethics and situated ethics . These philosophers often view aesthetics , etiquette , and arbitration as more fundamental, percolating "bottom up" to imply the existence of, rather than explicitly prescribe, theories of value or of conduct. The study of descriptive ethics may include examinations of the following:
* Ethical codes applied by various groups. Some consider aesthetics itself the basis of ethics—and a personal moral core developed through art and storytelling as very influential in one's later ethical choices. * Informal theories of etiquette that tend to be less rigorous and more situational. Some consider etiquette a simple negative ethics, i.e., where can one evade an uncomfortable truth without doing wrong? One notable advocate of this view is Judith Martin ("Miss Manners"). According to this view, ethics is more a summary of common sense social decisions. * Practices in arbitration and law , e.g., the claim that ethics itself is a matter of balancing "right versus right", i.e., putting priorities on two things that are both right, but that must be traded off carefully in each situation. * Observed choices made by ordinary people, without expert aid or advice, who vote , buy, and decide what is worth valuing. This is a major concern of sociology, political science , and economics .
Corporate social responsibility
Declaration of Geneva
Declaration of Helsinki
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* Hoy, D. (2005). Critical Resistance from Poststructuralism to
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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