Understanding ethics: an introduction to moral theory
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God and Moral Obligation. Stephen Evans - - Oxford University Press. Peter Byrne - - St.
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Thomas W. Smythe - - Journal of Value Inquiry 33 4 A Distinction Without a Difference? Good Advice for Moral Error Theorists. It teaches that some acts are right or wrong in themselves, whatever the consequences, and people should act accordingly. Virtue ethics looks at virtue or moral character, rather than at ethical duties and rules, or the consequences of actions - indeed some philosophers of this school deny that there can be such things as universal ethical rules. Virtue ethics is particularly concerned with the way individuals live their lives, and less concerned in assessing particular actions.
It develops the idea of good actions by looking at the way virtuous people express their inner goodness in the things that they do.
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To put it very simply, virtue ethics teaches that an action is right if and only if it is an action that a virtuous person would do in the same circumstances, and that a virtuous person is someone who has a particularly good character. Situation ethics rejects prescriptive rules and argues that individual ethical decisions should be made according to the unique situation.
Rather than following rules the decision maker should follow a desire to seek the best for the people involved. There are no moral rules or rights - each case is unique and deserves a unique solution. Some philosophers teach that ethics is the codification of political ideology, and that the function of ethics is to state, enforce and preserve particular political beliefs. They usually go on to say that ethics is used by the dominant political elite as a tool to control everyone else.
More cynical writers suggest that power elites enforce an ethical code on other people that helps them control those people, but do not apply this code to their own behaviour. One of the big questions in moral philosophy is whether or not there are unchanging moral rules that apply in all cultures and at all times. Some people think there are such universal rules that apply to everyone. This sort of thinking is called moral absolutism. Moral absolutism argues that there are some moral rules that are always true, that these rules can be discovered and that these rules apply to everyone. Immoral acts - acts that break these moral rules - are wrong in themselves, regardless of the circumstances or the consequences of those acts.
Absolutism takes a universal view of humanity - there is one set of rules for everyone - which enables the drafting of universal rules - such as the Declaration of Human Rights. Moral relativists say that if you look at different cultures or different periods in history you'll find that they have different moral rules.
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Therefore it makes sense to say that "good" refers to the things that a particular group of people approve of. Moral relativists think that that's just fine, and dispute the idea that there are some objective and discoverable 'super-rules' that all cultures ought to obey. They believe that relativism respects the diversity of human societies and responds to the different circumstances surrounding human acts.
Edited by David Copp
Search term:. Read more. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving. Ethics guide. Ethics: a general introduction. On this page What is ethics?
What use is ethics? Ethics and people Are ethical statements objectively true? Four ethical 'isms' Where does ethics come from? Are there universal moral rules? Page options Print this page. What is ethics? Ethics covers the following dilemmas: how to live a good life our rights and responsibilities the language of right and wrong moral decisions - what is good and bad? Approaches to ethics Philosophers nowadays tend to divide ethical theories into three areas: metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics.
Meta-ethics deals with the nature of moral judgement. It looks at the origins and meaning of ethical principles. Normative ethics is concerned with the content of moral judgements and the criteria for what is right or wrong.
Applied ethics looks at controversial topics like war, animal rights and capital punishment Top. Ethics needs to provide answers. However, ethics does provide good tools for thinking about moral issues. Ethics can provide a moral map Most moral issues get us pretty worked up - think of abortion and euthanasia for starters.
Kowalski, Dean A.: Moral Theory at the Movies: An Introduction to Ethics
Ethics can pinpoint a disagreement Using the framework of ethics, two people who are arguing a moral issue can often find that what they disagree about is just one particular part of the issue, and that they broadly agree on everything else. But sometimes ethics doesn't provide people with the sort of help that they really want. Ethics doesn't give right answers Ethics doesn't always show the right answer to moral problems. Ethics can give several answers Many people want there to be a single right answer to ethical questions.
Ethics as source of group strength One problem with ethics is the way it's often used as a weapon. Good people as well as good actions Ethics is not only about the morality of particular courses of action, but it's also about the goodness of individuals and what it means to live a good life. Virtue Ethics is particularly concerned with the moral character of human beings.
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