This article, then, will deal with ethics as a field of philosophy, especially as it has developed in the West. For coverage of religious conceptions of ethics and the ethical systems associated with world religions, see Buddhism ; Christianity ; Confucianism ; Hinduism ; Jainism ; Judaism ; Sikhism. When did ethics begin and how did it originate? If one has in mind ethics proper—i. This reflective stage emerged long after human societies had developed some kind of morality, usually in the form of customary standards of right and wrong conduct.
The process of reflection tended to arise from such customs, even if in the end it may have found them wanting. Accordingly, ethics began with the introduction of the first moral codes. Virtually every human society has some form of myth to explain the origin of morality. In the Louvre in Paris there is a black Babylonian column with a relief showing the sun god Shamash presenting the code of laws to Hammurabi died c. To make up for these deficiencies, Zeus gave humans a moral sense and the capacity for law and justice , so that they could live in larger communities and cooperate with one another.
That morality should be invested with all the mystery and power of divine origin is not surprising.
Nothing else could provide such strong reasons for accepting the moral law. By attributing a divine origin to morality, the priesthood became its interpreter and guardian and thereby secured for itself a power that it would not readily relinquish. This link between morality and religion has been so firmly forged that it is still sometimes asserted that there can be no morality without religion.
According to this view, ethics is not an independent field of study but rather a branch of theology see moral theology. There is some difficulty, already known to Plato, with the view that morality was created by a divine power. In his dialogue Euthyphro , Plato considered the suggestion that it is divine approval that makes an action good. Plato pointed out that, if this were the case, one could not say that the gods approve of such actions because they are good.
Why then do they approve of them? Is their approval entirely arbitrary? Plato considered this impossible and so held that there must be some standards of right or wrong that are independent of the likes and dislikes of the gods. Ethics philosophy. Written By: Peter Singer. Read More on This Topic.
Christians acknowledge not only a duty to announce the gospel, profess the faith, and worship God but also to live their entire lives according…. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. Load Next Page. This is the definitive companion to the study of ethics. It provides students with an accessible, comprehensive and philosophically rigorous introduction to the major thinkers, issues and debates.
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Ideal for use on undergraduate courses, but also of lasting value for postgraduate students, the structure and content of this textbook closely reflect the way ethics is studied. Thematically structured, the text provides a historical overview of the subject and a comprehensive introduction to the main branches of ethics: meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics.
The book also includes coverage of key aspects of value-theory and key issues concerning agency and moral responsibility. Crucially, the book encourages students to do ethics for themselves, equipping the reader with a wide-ranging grasp of the discipline in all its central areas of contemporary study and reflection. Robin Attfield's cogent and thorough analysis is supplemented by student-friendly features, including chapter summaries, study questions, exercises, and a comprehensive guide to further reading and other resources.
Preface Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations 1.
- Brief Textbook of Moral Philosophy.
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Every chapter is divided into a sequence of related topics, each accompanied by its own study questions, reading lists and references. A related website carries notes, background essays and a series of PowerPoint presentations, which could be useful for lecturers, tutors and student study-groups. The beginner is spared some of the grind of annotation, and so has more time for reflection, discussion and working out a personal response Every student and teacher of philosophy should consider buying this book.
In choosing those topics, Attfield was very clearly playing to his own strengths nowhere is this more clear than in the refreshingly sophisticated chapter on applied ethics , but those strengths are wide-ranging enough that the book never feels like an excuse to explore the author's pet projects The text as a whole remains highly useful for its purpose. Ethics: An Overview focuses on stimulating and ongoing de-bates, especially ones in applied ethics ranging from medical ethics to the ethics of war and peace , and at the same time provides a good grounding in normative ethical principles and virtues, and in their status and basis.
There again, it also offers suggestions for ways of taking study further, for example through the useful study questions and reading lists with which each of the twenty-eight sections is equipped. In other words, it encourages students to become their own philosophers Taught in this way, even meta-ethics can come alive, and its importance be recognized Clutterbuck, Open Journal of Philosophy. This book offers well-developed analyses of a variety of relevant topics and provides a good overview of the field of ethics.
Moral Philosophy beyond the Textbook
It can be recommended to all those who are committed to ethics, both students and teachers alike. It can be used to briefly refresh the memory on certain topics, or as a brief introduction to an as yet unconsidered area.
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- The origins of ethics.
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Attfield is particularly good about Evolution.