Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Meta-ethics Normative · Descriptive Consequentialism Deontology Virtue ethics Ethics of care Good and evil · Morality
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Ethics is a branch of philosophy dealing with right and wrong in human behavior. Most religions have a moral component, and religious approaches to the problem of ethics historically dominated ethics over secular approaches. From the point of view of theistic religions, to the extent that ethics stems from revealed truth from divine sources, ethics is studied as a branch of theology. Many believe that the Golden Rule, which teaches people to "treat others as you want to be treated", is a common denominator in many major moral codes and religions.

Ethics in the Bible

Main article: Jewish ethics Jewish ethics
Ethics in systematic form, and apart from religious belief, is as little found in apocryphal or Judæo-Hellenistic literature as in the Bible. However, Greek philosophy greatly influenced Alexandrian writers such as the authors of IV Maccabees, the Book of Wisdom, and Philo.
Much progress in theoretical ethics came as Jews came into closer contact with the Hellenic world. Before that period the Wisdom literature shows a tendency to dwell solely on the moral obligations and problems of life as appealing to man as an individual, leaving out of consideration the ceremonial and other laws which concern only the Jewish nation. From this point of view Ben Sira's collection of sayings and monitions was written, translated into Greek, and circulated as a practical guide. The book contains popular ethics in proverbial form as the result of everyday life experience, without higher philosophical or religious principles and ideals. More developed ethical works emanated from Hasidean circles in the Maccabean time, such as are contained in Tobit, especially in ch. iv.; here the first ethical will or testament is found, giving a summary of moral teachings, with the Golden Rule, "Do that to no man which thou hatest!" as the leading maxim. There are even more elaborate ethical teachings in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, in which each of the twelve sons of Jacob, in his last words to his children and children's children, reviews his life and gives them moral lessons, either warning them against a certain vice he had been guilty of, so that they may avoid divine punishment, or recommending them to cultivate a certain virtue he had practised during life, so that they may win God's favor. The chief virtues recommended are: love for one's fellow man; industry, especially in agricultural pursuits; simplicity; sobriety; benevolence toward the poor; compassion even for the brute (Issachar, 5; Reuben, 1; Zebulun, 5-8; Dan, 5; Gad, 6; Benjamin, 3), and avoidance of all passion, pride, and hatred. Similar ethical farewell monitions are attributed to Enoch in the Ethiopic Enoch (xciv. et seq.) and the Slavonic Enoch (lviii. et seq.), and to the three patriarchs.
The Hellenistic propaganda literature made the propagation of Jewish ethics taken from the Bible its main object for the sake of winning the pagan world to pure monotheism. It was owing to this endeavor that certain ethical principles were laid down as guiding maxims for the Gentiles; first of all the three capital sins, idolatry, murder, and incest, were prohibited (see Sibyllines, iii. 38, 761; iv. 30 et seq.). In later Jewish rabbinic literature these "Noachide Laws" were gradually developed into six, seven, and ten, or thirty laws of ethics binding upon every human being.

Ethics in the Jewish Apocrypha
The Mussar Movement is a Jewish ethical movement which developed in the 19th century, and which still exists today.

Modern Jewish Ethics
Christian ethics developed while early Christians were subjects of the Roman Empire. From the time Nero blamed Christians for setting Rome ablaze (64 AD) until Galarius (311 AD), persecutions against Christians erupted periodically. Consequently, early Christian ethics included discussions of how believers should relate to Roman authority and to the empire.
Under the Emperor Constantine I (312-337), Christianity became the religion of the state. While some scholars debate whether Constantine's conversion to Christianity was authentic or simply matter of political expediency, Constantine's decree made the empire safe for Christian practice and belief. Consequently, issues of Christian doctrine, ethics and church practice were debated openly. By the time of Theodosius I (379-395), Christianity had become the normative religion of the empire. With Christianity now in power, ethical concerns broaden and included discussions of the proper role of the state.
Saint Augustine adapted Plato, and later, after the Islamic transmission of his works, Aquinas worked Aristotelian philosophy into a Christian framework.
Christian ethics in general has tended to stress the need for grace, mercy, and forgiveness because of human weakness. With divine assistance, the Christian is called to become increasingly virtuous in both thought and deed. Conversely, the Christian is also called to abstain from vice. There are several different schema of vice and virtue. Aquinas adopted the four cardinal virtues of Plato, (justice, courage, temperance, prudence) and added to them the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love (from St.Paul, First Corinthians 13). Other schema include the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven virtues. For more see Christian philosophy.

Christian ethics
Paul teaches (Rom., ii, 24 ff) that God has written his moral law in the hearts of all men, even of those outside the influence of Christian revelation; this law manifests itself in the conscience of every man and is the norm according to which the whole human race will be judged on the day of reckoning. In consequence of their perverse inclinations, this law had become, to a great extent, obscured and distorted among the pagans; Christian understand their mission as, to restore it to its pristine integrity.
The New Testament generally asserts that all morality flows from the Great Commandment to love God with all one's heart, mind, strength, and soul, and to love one's neighbor as oneself. In reaffirming this Great Commandment, Jesus Christ was reaffirming the teaching of the Torah.
Ecclesiastical writers, as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine of Hippo all wrote on ethics from a distinctly Christian point of view. Interestingly, they made use of philosophical and ethical principles laid down by their Greek (Pagan) philosopher forbears.
The Church fathers had little occasion to treat moral questions from a purely philosophical standpoint and independently of Christian Revelation; but in the explanation of Catholic doctrine their discussions naturally led to philosophical investigations.
This is particularly true of Augustine, who proceeded to develop thoroughly along philosophical lines and to establish firmly most of the truths of Christian morality. The eternal law (lex aeterna), the original type and source of all temporal laws, the natural law, conscience, the ultimate end of man, the cardinal virtues, sin, marriage, etc. were treated by him in the clearest and most penetrating manner. Hardly a single portion of ethics does he present to us but is enriched with his keen philosophical commentaries. Late ecclesiastical writers followed in his footsteps.

Far different from Catholic ethical methods were those adopted for the most part by Protestants. With the rejection of the Church's teaching authority, each individual became on principle his own supreme teacher and arbiter in matters appertaining to faith and morals. The Reformers held fast to the Bible as the infallible source of revelation, but as to what belongs or does not belong to it, whether, and how far, it is inspired, and what is its meaning — all this was left to the final decision of the individual.
Philipp Melanchthon, in his "Elementa philosophiae moralis", still clung to the Aristotelean philosophy; so, too, did Hugo Grotius, in his work, "De jure belli et pacis". But Cumberland and his follower, Samuel Pufendorf, moreover, assumed, with Descartes, that the ultimate ground for every distinction between good and evil lay in the free determination of God's will, a view which renders the philosophical treatment of ethics fundamentally impossible.
In the 20th century, some Christian philosophers, notably Dietrich Bonhoeffer questioned the value of ethical reasoning in moral philosophy. In this school of thought, ethics, with its focus on distinguishing right from wrong, tends to produce behavior that is simply not wrong, whereas the Christian life should instead be marked by the highest form of right. Rather than ethical reasoning, they stress the importance of meditation on and relationship with God.

Protestant Ethics
Hindu ethics are related to reincarnation, which is a way of expressing the need for reciprocity, as one may end up in someone else's shoes in their next incarnation. Intention is seen as very important, and thus selfless action for the benefit of others without thought for oneself is an important rule in Hinduism, known as the doctrine of karma yoga. This aspect of service is combined with an understanding that someone else's unfortunate situation, while of their own doing, is one's own situation since the soul within is the soul shared by all. The greeting namaskar is founded on the principle that one salutes the spark of the divine in the other. Kindness and hospitality are key Hindu values.
More emphasis is placed on empathy than in other traditions, and women are sometimes upheld not only as great moral examples but also as great gurus. Beyond that, the Mother is a Divine Figure, the Devi, and the aspect of the creative female energy plays a major role in the Hindu ethos. Vande Mataram, the Indian national song (not anthem) is based on the Divine mother as embodied by 'Mother India' paralleled to 'Ma Durga'. An emphasis on domestic life and the joys of the household and village may make Hindu ethics a bit more conservative than others on matters of sex and family.
Of all religions, Hinduism is among the most compatible with the view of approaching truth through various forms of art: its temples are often garishly decorated, and the idea of a guru who is both entrancing entertainer and spiritual guide, or who simply practices some unique devotion (such as holding up his arm right for his whole life, or rolling on the ground for years on a pilgrimage), is simply accepted as a legitimate choice in life.
Ethical traditions in Hinduism have been influenced by caste norms. In the mid-20th century Mohandas Gandhi, a Vaishnava, undertook to reform these and emphasize traditions shared in all the Indian faiths:
After his profound achievement of forcing the British Empire from India, these views spread widely and influence much modern thinking on ethics today, especially in the peace movement, ecology movement, and those devoted to social activism.
Many New Age traditions also derive from his thought and other Hindu traditions such as acceptance of reincarnation, which is a way of expressing the need for reciprocity, as one may end up in someone else's shoes "in a future life". A cardinal virtue in Hinduism is kindness.

vegetarianism and an ideology of harms reduction leading ultimately to nonviolence
active creation of truth through courage and his 'satyagraha'
rejection of cowardice and concern with pain or indeed bodily harm Hindu ethics
Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote: The need to internalize ethical virtue as the foundation for the Buddhist path translates itself into a set of precepts established as guidelines to good conduct. The most basic set of precepts found in the Buddha's teaching is the pañcasila, the five precepts, consisting of the following five training rules:
(1) the training rule of abstaining from taking life; (2) the training rule of abstaining from taking what is not given; (3) the training rule of abstaining from sexual misconduct; (4) the training rule of abstaining from false speech; and (5) the training rule of abstaining from fermented and distilled intoxicants which are the basics for heedlessness.
These five precepts are the minimal ethical code binding on the Buddhist laity. They are administered regularly by the monks to the lay disciples at almost every service and ceremony. They are also undertaken afresh each day by earnest lay Buddhists as part of their daily recitation.
It has to be pointed out that the five precepts, or even the longer codes of precepts promulgated by the Buddha, do not exhaust the full range of Buddhist ethics. The precepts are only the most rudimentary code of moral training, but the Buddha also proposes other ethical codes inculcating definite positive virtues. The Mangala Sutta, for example, commends reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude, patience, generosity, etc. Other discourses prescribe numerous family, social, and political duties establishing the well being of society. And behind all these duties lie the four attitudes called the "immeasurables" or brahma-viharas — loving-kindness (metta), compassion, sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity.
Corresponding to the negative side of abstaining from the destruction of life, there is the positive side of developing compassion and sympathy for all beings. Similarly, abstinence from stealing is paired with honesty and contentment, abstinence from sexual misconduct is paired with marital fidelity in the case of lay people and celibacy in the case of monks, abstinence from falsehood is paired with speaking the truth, and abstinence from intoxicants is paired with heedfulness.
In order to develop the positive virtues we have to begin by abstaining from the negative qualities opposed to them. The growth of the positive virtues will only be stunted or deformed as long as the defilements are allowed to reign unchecked. We cannot cultivate compassion while at the same time indulging in killing, or cultivate honesty while stealing and cheating. At the start we have to abandon the unwholesome through the aspect of avoidance. Only when we have secured a foundation in avoiding the unwholesome can we expect to succeed in cultivating the factors of positive performance. Source

Buddhist ethics
Chinese traditional systems of thought are both varied and often syncretic, so it is difficult to point to a single, central structure to Chinese ethics. In addition, there is always the question of whether beliefs form behaviour, or behavior forms beliefs — in other words, whether an ethical system is something that people try to follow, or just a description of what they do. However, this being said, it is nonetheless true that there are several basic threads in Chinese traditional ethics.
Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism emphasize the maintenance and propriety of relationships as the most important consideration in ethics. To be ethical is to do what one's relationships require. Notably, though, what you owe to another person is inversely proportional to their distance from you. In other words, you owe your parents everything, but you are not in any way obligated towards strangers. This can be seen as a recognition of the fact that it is impossible to love the entire world equally and simultaneously. This is called relational ethics, or situational ethics. The Confucian system differs very strongly from Kantian ethics in that there are rarely laws or principles which can be said to be true absolutely or universally.
This is not to say that there has never been any consideration given to universalist ethics. In fact, in Zhou dynasty China, the Confucians' main opponents, the followers of Mozi argued for universal love, jian'ai. The Confucian view eventually held sway, however, and continues to dominate many aspects of Chinese thought. Many have argued, for example, that Mao Zedong was more Confucian than Communist. Confucianism, especially of the type argued for by Mencius (Mengzi), argued that the ideal ruler is the one who (as Confucius put it) "acts like the North Star, staying in place while the other stars orbit around it". In other words, the ideal ruler does not go out and force the people to become good, but instead leads by example. The ideal ruler fosters harmony rather than laws.
Confucius stresses honesty above all. His concepts of li 理, yi 義, and ren 仁 can be seen as deeper expressions of honesty (cheng 誠, commonly translated as "sincerity") and fidelity (xiao 孝) to the ones to whom one owes one's existence (parents) and survival (one's neighbours, colleagues, inferiors in rank). He codifed traditional practice and actually changed the meaning of the prior concepts that those words had meant. His model of the Confucian family and Confucian ruler dominated Chinese life into the early 20th century. This had ossified by then into an Imperial hierarchy of rigid property rights, hard to distinguish from any other dictatorship. Traditional ethics had been perverted by legalism.
There are many other major threads in Chinese ethics. Buddhism, and specifically Mahayana Buddhism, brought a cohesive metaphysic to Chinese thought and a strong emphasis on universalism. Neo-Confucianism was largely a reaction to Buddhism's dominance in the Tang dynasty, and an attempt at developing a native Confucian metaphysical/analytical system.
Laozi and other Daoist authors argued for an even greater passivity on the part of rulers than did the Confucians. For Laozi, the ideal ruler is one who does virtually nothing that can be directly identified as ruling. Clearly, both Daoism and Confucianism presume that human nature is basically good. The main branch of Confucianism, however, argues that human nature must be nurtured through ritual (li 理), culture (wen 文) and other things, while the Daoists argued that the trappings of society were to be gotten rid of.
The Legalists, such as Hanfeizi, argued that people are not innately good. Laws and punishments are therefore necessary to keep the people good. Actual governing in China has almost always been a mixture of Confucianism and Legalism.
When the last dynasty of China, the Qing (1644-1911) fell, Chinese Nationalist reformer and Christian convert Sun Yat-Sen introduced modern notions of ethics and democracy. He remains the only twentieth century figure respected by Nationalist, Communist and modernizers alike.
Mao Zedong combined Classical Legalism and other native political infuences with the Marxist-Leninist emphasis on the role of economics in determining ethical relations. His Quotations of Chairman Mao were mandatory reading, and perhaps a billion copies are in existence. He emphasized the relation between power and the "mass line" of choices made by ordinary people in real life. Maoism is not very popular today, but his absolute rule of China made it impossible to avoid this strict bottom-up, agrarian, concept of ethics. In practice, of course, power flowed from the top. Ethical discourses are still viewed with suspicion in most of China today, as the behaviour of power seems rarely to be actually motivated by ethical norms.
Still, honesty and fidelity remain central to Chinese ethical thought. Where Mao is remembered unsympathetically in China, it is less for his brutality than for not doing as he said.

Chinese traditional ethics

Main article: Islamic ethics Islamic ethics
See Shinto.

Animist ethics

The Golden Rule
Ethics in the Bible
Catholic moral theology
Divine command ethics
Seven virtues
Secular Morality
Studies in Christian Ethics

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