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Individualistic Ethics Case Study: Abortion 7. Utilitarianism Case Study: War 9. Continental Ethics Case Study: Euthanasia More than a descriptive enterprise, this book will help all who read it to grow in their capacity for moral discernment. Boyd and Thorsen expertly bring theology and philosophy into conversation with each other in a volume that lucidly explains the varying theories while also offering case studies in applied ethics.

Students and a broader audience will greatly benefit from this work. Mary Veeneman , associate professor of biblical and theological studies, North Park University. It is clear, comprehensive, and accessible with many illuminating examples and clearly explained central concepts. The book would be excellent for college students taking a related course or for anyone wanting to learn more about how morality and ethics are central to the Christian life.

Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy | Rowman & Littlefield

I highly recommend it. Burdett , assistant professor of Christian theology, University of Nottingham. Christians claim a unique source of moral knowledge in revelation, yet even the apostle Paul formulated his ethical thought in conversation with the best philosophical wisdom. Furthermore, what counts as 'pure' philosophical ethics today is deeply indebted to the moral impulses unleashed by Christianity.

Mapping out the connections between these two approaches to moral knowledge is therefore a challenge. Craig Boyd and Don Thorsen have given us an accessible introduction to this difficult intellectual terrain, one that orients students to the key typologies and terms necessary to think as a Christian about the moral life today. Conquering the fear of death would naturally lead to a happier life. Epicurus reasoned if there were an afterlife and immortality, the fear of death was irrational.

If there was no life after death, then the person would not be alive to suffer, fear or worry; he would be non-existent in death. It is irrational to fret over circumstances that do not exist, such as one's state of death in the absence of an afterlife. State consequentialism , also known as Mohist consequentialism, [27] 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 "material wealth" of Mohist consequentialism refers to basic needs like shelter and clothing, and the "order" of Mohist consequentialism refers to Mozi's stance against warfare and violence, which he viewed as pointless and a threat to social stability.

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 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 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.


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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. Anscombe in her essay " Modern Moral Philosophy " in , to describe what she saw as the central error of certain moral theories, such as those propounded by Mill and Sidgwick. The defining feature of consequentialist moral theories is the weight given to the consequences in evaluating the rightness and wrongness of actions.

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:. One way to divide various consequentialisms is by the many 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 and 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. 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.


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The major division within utilitarianism is between 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. Under deontology, an act may be considered right even if the act produces a bad consequence, [40] if it follows the rule or moral law. According to the deontological view, 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.

Immanuel Kant's theory of ethics is considered deontological for several different reasons. 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. 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. Immanuel Kant 's theory of ethics is considered deontological for several different reasons. Kant's argument that to act in the morally right way one must act purely from duty begins with an argument that the highest good must be both good in itself and good without qualification.

Pleasure, for example, appears not to be good without qualification, because when people take pleasure in watching someone suffer, this seems to make the situation ethically worse. Kant then argues that the consequences of an act of willing cannot be used to determine that the person has a good will; good consequences could arise by accident from an action that was motivated by a desire to cause harm to an innocent person, and bad consequences could arise from an action that was well-motivated.

Instead, he claims, a person has a good will when he 'acts out of respect for the moral law'. So, the only thing that is truly good in itself is a good will, and a good will is only good when the willer chooses to do something because it is that person's duty, i. He defines respect as "the concept of a worth which thwarts my self-love". Kant's three significant formulations of the categorical imperative are:. Kant argued that the only absolutely good thing is a good will, and so the single determining factor of whether an action is morally right is the will, or motive of the person doing it.

If they are acting on a bad maxim, e. For a lie always harms another; if not some human being, then it nevertheless does harm to humanity in general, inasmuch as it vitiates the very source of right [ Rechtsquelle ] All practical principles of right must contain rigorous truth This is because such exceptions would destroy the universality on account of which alone they bear the name of principles.

Although not all deontologists are religious, some believe in the 'divine command theory', which is actually a cluster of related theories which essentially state that an action is right if God has decreed that it is right. If God commands people not to work on Sabbath , then people act rightly if they do not work on Sabbath because God has commanded that they do not do so. If they do not work on Sabbath because they are lazy, then their action is not truly speaking "right", even though the actual physical action performed is the same.

If God commands not to covet a neighbour's goods, this theory holds that it would be immoral to do so, even if coveting provides the beneficial outcome of a drive to succeed or do well. One thing that clearly distinguishes Kantian deontologism from divine command deontology is that Kantianism maintains that man, as a rational being, makes the moral law universal, whereas divine command maintains that God makes the moral law universal.

Rejecting any form of coercion or manipulation, Habermas believes that agreement between the parties is crucial for a moral decision to be reached. It also formulates a rule by which ethical actions can be determined and proposes that ethical actions should be universalisable, in a similar way to Kant's ethics. Habermas argues that his ethical theory is an improvement on Kant's ethics. Kant distinguished between the phenomena world, which can be sensed and experienced by humans, and the noumena , or spiritual world, which is inaccessible to humans.

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This dichotomy was necessary for Kant because it could explain the autonomy of a human agent: although a human is bound in the phenomenal world, their actions are free in the intelligible world. For Habermas, morality arises from discourse, which is made necessary by their rationality and needs, rather than their freedom. Associated with the pragmatists , Charles Sanders Peirce , William James , and especially John Dewey , pragmatic ethics holds that moral correctness evolves similarly to scientific knowledge: socially over the course of many lifetimes.

Thus, we should prioritize social reform over attempts to account for consequences, individual virtue or duty although these may be worthwhile attempts, if social reform is provided for. Care ethics contrasts with more well-known ethical models, such as consequentialist theories e. 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. Noddings proposes that ethical caring has the potential to be a more concrete evaluative model of moral dilemma than an ethic of justice.

Role ethics is an ethical theory based on family roles. Morality is derived from a person's relationship with their community. Ames and Henry Rosemont, "Confucian normativity is defined by living one's family roles to maximum effect. Confucian roles are not rational , and originate through the xin , or human emotions. 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. Starting from the premise that the goal of ethical philosophy should be to help humans adapt and thrive in evolutionary terms, Kropotkin's ethical framework uses biology and anthropology as a basis — in order to scientifically establish what will best enable a given social order to thrive biologically and socially — and advocates certain behavioural practices to enhance humanity's capacity for freedom and well-being, namely practices which emphasise solidarity, equality, and justice.

Kropotkin argues that ethics itself is evolutionary, and is inherited as a sort of a social instinct through cultural history, and by so, he rejects any religious and transcendental explanation of morality. The origin of ethical feeling in both animals and humans can be found, he claims, in the natural fact of "sociality" mutualistic symbiosis , which humans can then combine with the instinct for justice i. 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. 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 Roland Barthes challenged the possibilities of individual agency and the coherence of the notion of the 'individual' itself.

This was on the basis that personal identity was, in the most part, a social construction. As critical theory developed in the later 20th century, post-structuralism sought to problematize human relationships to knowledge and 'objective' reality. 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 Emmanuel Levinas 's writings on the face of the Other and Derrida 's meditations on the relevance of death to ethics are signs of the "ethical turn" in Continental philosophy that occurred in the s and s.

3.2 Moral philosophy

Hoy describes post-critique ethics as the "obligations that present themselves as necessarily to be fulfilled but are neither forced on one or are enforceable" , p. 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" , p. 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.

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? But not all questions studied in applied ethics concern public policy. For example, making ethical judgments regarding questions such as, "Is lying always wrong? 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.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

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. And it has not only been shown that people consider the character of the moral agent i.

Introduction to Hume's Moral Philosophy

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, [66] and manipulation of basic biology through altered DNA, RNA and proteins, e.

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.


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  • 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 s and s, 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. Ethics implicitly regulates areas and details of behavior that lie beyond governmental control. 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.

    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. However individual countries and traditions have different fields of attention. 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 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.

    Plagiarism is the failure to give credit to another author's work or ideas, when it is used in the publication. Publication bias occurs when the publication is one-sided or " prejudiced against results". 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. When conducting medical research, it is important to honor the healthcare rights of a patient by protecting their anonymity in the publication.

    Here is a brief overview of the main branches of moral philosophy, from ancient times to the present day. In daily life, nothing is really sure for the subject. Even obvious truths are doubtful: should I live here or there, should I forgive…. Contents 1 The importance of moral philosophy in philosophy 2 Moral Philosophy or Ethics? Let us then begin by dismissing all the facts, because they do not touch the question. Without going as far as Rousseau in this famous….