Ethics and Justice
Ethics is also referred to as moral philosophy. A branch of philosophy, ethics looks at questions and issues that surround morality. Put another way, ethics deals with right versus wrong, good versus evil, justice versus crime, and virtue versus vice. The field of ethics features several branches.
Greek philosophy boasted its share of famous thinkers whose ideas still resonate to this day. Socrates’ philosophy was based on the belief that every person should attain self-knowledge and do what is naturally good. Aristotle’s philosophical views centered around self-realization, which he claimed was the concept of people realizing their total potential as a means of becoming happy and good people. According to Aristotle’s way of looking at things, happiness should be the primary goal of every person.
Hedonism was another area of philosophy that came about from ideas produced by the Ancient Greeks. Hedonism asserts that the highest ethic one can aspire to is reduce pain while maximizing pleasure. One type of hedonism is Cyrenaic hedonism, which asserts that life’s goal should be instant gratification and pleasure. Epicurus, the philosopher from Ancient Greece, opposed the extremist views of Cyrenaic hedonism. Still, he did espouse that living well should be pursued, just not living well at the expense of health. The last of the significant Greek schools of philosophy is stoicism. This school of philosophical thought valued peace of mind and absolute liberation from being mastered by one’s emotions and desires.
Modern ethics deals with three branches in particular:
- Pragmatic ethics
Consequentialism deals with the moral theory that any given action’s outcome creates the basis for any ethical judgment about said action. In other words, morally right action is one that creates a good outcome. Deontology involves analyzing the rightness or the goodness of choices from the examination of the acts themselves. Pragmatic ethics concerns social reform ahead of any attempts to be held accountable for consequences, duty, or individual virtue.
Postmodern ethics gained popularity in the 20th century. This branch of ethics deals with the belief that the world is relational, which gives rise to the opinion that the complex constellation of actions must be studied. Thus, a fundamental alignment of ideas of individual acts and rightness is hardly possible. Another offshoot of postmodern ethics involves machine ethics, which refers to concern with artificially intelligent beings’ moral conduct.
A discipline of philosophy, applied ethics tries to apply ethics to situations that one will find themselves in in real life. Applied ethics has grown to include specialized fields like business ethics, bioethics, and engineering ethics. Some aspects of public policy planning depend on applied ethics to come up with new policies. Two of the more significant fields in which applied ethics are used are military ethics and relational ethics.
The branch of moral psychology has competing definitions. Some people refer to it as a means of studying and examining one’s moral development. Other people, however, use moral psychology as a reference to the study of things that are a combination of psychology and ethics. An example would be a subject that is significant to the mind while still including moral issues.
Descriptive ethics is best thought of as a value-free way of approaching ethics. This makes descriptive ethics the social science of sociology instead of humanity. Instead of analyzing ethics from a top-down observation, it examines ethics from the standpoint of real decisions made by practicing moral agents. Sometimes, this may lead to situated ethics and situational ethics.
Ethics and Morals in Modern Day Topics
Many modern-day topics are not immune to questions surrounding ethics and morals. One of the most divisive as well as popular modern-day topics to involve ethical and moral questions, is the issue of abortion. Opponents will say that it is unethical to abort fetuses (who would develop into actual babies) except in incest or rape. Still, proponents may say that it is unethical to force a woman to do something to her body (read: carry the baby to term) if she does not want to. Another modern-day topic that has grave ethical and moral implications is the death penalty. Proponents may insist that it has the effect of deterring people from committing serious crimes. At the same time, opponents say that even the government does not have the right to murder to punish serious crimes.