By Danielle,

What is Moral/Ethics Philosophy?

7/12/2012 DK 0 Comments


In moral or ethics philosophy, the two terms (moral, ethics) are interchangeable. It is practical philosophy in that it tries to find clean systems of life, asking general questions such as 'how should I live?'

As with anything that we study, it is important to understand the significance of moral philosophy: Why do we focus on the topic, morality?

To answer this, we should firstly understand the meaning of morality. In brief, morality refers to the norms respecting the equal worth of the lives of all persons (or perhaps all living things?). According to the Oxford Dictionary, morality is the 'principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour'.

So, why do we study morality?
  1. Moral norm have overriding power - they are more important than other norms with which they might conflict, even self-interest. For example, after finding 50 dollars on the street, our self-interest conflicts with the moral norms according to which we do not deserve the money.
  2. Morality is a defining and distinctive feature of humans as persons.
    • A person is a locus of moral responsibility and a target of moral respect.
      • We are expected to know our moral responsibility and to conform to them. For example, animals are not accountable of their moral responsibility.
  3. Moral norms are inescapable and have a pervasive influence on our lives.
The three main models of ethics of normative ethics (which seeks to specify which types of actions are morally right and wrong) are consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics.
In short, consequentialism (Bentham, Mill) says that the right action is the action which produces the best consequences for all concerned, for example, utilitarianism. Deontology (Kant) says that the right action is the action which respects rights and duties of all persons concerned - for example, even if our actions may produce undesirable or less desirable consequences, we ought to follow our duties. Virtue theory (Aristotle) says that the right action is the action which a virtuous person would perform - however, we would have to define who the virtuous person is.

As a lot of morality-related contents on my blog are concerned with these types of moral philosophy, I thought I would very briefly define some of the terms and concepts. I hope this was useful, but if you would like to read more about morality in philosophy, I highly suggest that you check out James Gray's post in which he explains different aspects of morality in depth.

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