An Introduction to Ethics (Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy)
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This book examines the central questions of ethics through a study of theories of right and wrong that are found in the great ethical works of Western philosophy. It focuses on theories that continue to have a significant presence in the field. The core chapters cover egoism, the eudaimonism of Plato and Aristotle, act and rule utilitarianism, modern natural law theory, Kant's moral theory, and existentialist ethics. Readers will be introduced not only to the main ideas of each theory but to contemporary developments and defenses of those ideas. A final chapter takes up topics in meta-ethics and moral psychology. The discussions throughout draw the reader into philosophical inquiry through argument and criticism that illuminate the profundity of the questions under examination. Students will find this book to be a very helpful guide to how philosophical inquiry is undertaken as well as to what the major theories in ethics hold.
as no different in kind from the life of other animals capable of experiencing pleasure and pain. J. S. Mill, in his discussion of hedonism, put the objection directly when he wrote: Now such a theory of life excites in many minds, and among them in some of the most estimable in feeling and purpose, inveterate dislike. To suppose 1 Aristippus of Cyrene (435–356 BC). Eudaimonism that life has (as they express it) no higher end than pleasure – no better and nobler object of desire and pursuit –
spending or giving away cash that one knows belongs to someone else and that one possesses without its owners consent is not a matter of the consequences for good or ill of the action. It is rather a matter of the actions circumstances (viz., that the cash belongs to someone else) and the absence of certain past actions (viz., that the owner never consented to ones disposing of her cash as one sees fit). Similarly, the dishonesty of telling a lie is not a matter of the consequences of saying
that no conventional morality could be the subject of ethics. A conventional morality is a set of norms of a particular society that are generally accepted and followed by the societys members. These norms reflect the members shared beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil, and they define corresponding customs and practices that prevail in the society. As is all too common, sometimes these beliefs rest on superstitions and prejudices, and sometimes the corresponding customs and practices
same subjects standards of right and wrong. The possibility of bad laws enacted by corrupt rulers makes this point clear. But the same point, you might think, could not possibly apply to Gods laws. In Christian thought, in particular, the authoritativeness of Gods laws necessarily coincides with their being universal standards of right and wrong. To assume otherwise would be to assume that God could make bad laws, and because of Gods attributes, specifically, his being a loving God who is
revelation of its authority the inherent value of ones rational nature is revealed as well. From these observations Kant draws the idea of reasons being the sole, authoritative source of categorical imperatives, which is to say, the maker of universal law. This idea is the most fundamental idea of his theory. Kant, then, identifies it with a third formulation of the Categorical Imperative. This formulation, he declares, is a synthesis of the other two. It resembles the first more than the