No less a mind than the esteemed British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once quipped that the "safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. Virtue Ethics Contemporary philosophers still disagree on what exactly the term "ethics" means. Many such philosophers today consider ethical language to be nothing more than a moral fiction. Nevertheless, the general consensus in the field diverges among three major branches:
References and Further Reading 1. Metaethics The term "meta" means after or beyond, and, consequently, the Plato normative ethical theory of metaethics involves a removed, or bird's eye view of the entire project of ethics.
We may define metaethics as the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. When compared to normative ethics and applied ethics, the field of metaethics is the least precisely defined area of moral philosophy. It covers issues from moral semantics to moral epistemology.
Two issues, though, are prominent: Objectivism and Relativism Metaphysics is the study of the kinds of things that exist in the universe. Some things in the universe are made of physical stuff, such as rocks; and perhaps other things are nonphysical in nature, such as thoughts, spirits, and gods.
The metaphysical component of metaethics involves discovering specifically whether moral values are eternal truths that exist in a spirit-like realm, or simply human conventions.
There are two general directions that discussions of this topic take, one other-worldly and one this-worldly. Proponents of the other-worldly view typically hold that moral values are objective in the sense that they exist in a spirit-like realm beyond subjective human conventions.
They also hold that they are absolute, or eternal, in that they never change, and also that they are universal insofar as they apply to all rational creatures around the world and throughout time. The most dramatic example of this view is Platowho was inspired by the field of mathematics.
Humans do not invent numbers, and humans cannot alter them. Plato explained the eternal character of mathematics by stating that they are abstract entities that exist in a spirit-like realm. He noted that moral values also are absolute truths and thus are also abstract, spirit-like entities.
In this sense, for Plato, moral values are spiritual objects. Medieval philosophers commonly grouped all moral principles together under the heading of "eternal law" which were also frequently seen as spirit-like objects.
In either case, though, they exist in a spirit-like realm. A different other-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality is divine commands issuing from God's will.
Sometimes called voluntarism or divine command theorythis view was inspired by the notion of an all-powerful God who is in control of everything. God simply wills things, and they become reality. He wills the physical world into existence, he wills human life into existence and, similarly, he wills all moral values into existence.
Proponents of this view, such as medieval philosopher William of Ockhambelieve that God wills moral principles, such as "murder is wrong," and these exist in God's mind as commands.
God informs humans of these commands by implanting us with moral intuitions or revealing these commands in scripture.
The second and more this-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality follows in the skeptical philosophical tradition, such as that articulated by Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and denies the objective status of moral values.
Technically, skeptics did not reject moral values themselves, but only denied that values exist as spirit-like objects, or as divine commands in the mind of God.
Moral values, they argued, are strictly human inventions, a position that has since been called moral relativism. There are two distinct forms of moral relativism. The first is individual relativism, which holds that individual people create their own moral standards.
Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, argued that the superhuman creates his or her morality distinct from and in reaction to the slave-like value system of the masses. The second is cultural relativism which maintains that morality is grounded in the approval of one's society - and not simply in the preferences of individual people.
In addition to espousing skepticism and relativism, this-worldly approaches to the metaphysical status of morality deny the absolute and universal nature of morality and hold instead that moral values in fact change from society to society throughout time and throughout the world.
They frequently attempt to defend their position by citing examples of values that differ dramatically from one culture to another, such as attitudes about polygamy, homosexuality and human sacrifice. Psychological Issues in Metaethics A second area of metaethics involves the psychological basis of our moral judgments and conduct, particularly understanding what motivates us to be moral.
We might explore this subject by asking the simple question, "Why be moral? Some answers to the question "Why be moral? Egoism and Altruism One important area of moral psychology concerns the inherent selfishness of humans.Plato: Normative Ethical Theory Essay Ancient moral theory explains morality in terms that focus on the moral agent.
These thinkers are interested in what constitutes, e.g., a just person. Hypothetical Treatment of Ethical Dilemma - This paper is an analysis of a hypothetical vignette in which a counselor-in-training named Callie, a fairly experienced and nearly-licensed counselor supervisee, approaches her counselor supervisor for advice and direction regarding an ethical dilemma.
Critical Theory has a narrow and a broad meaning in philosophy and in the history of the social sciences. “Critical Theory” in the narrow sense designates several generations of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition known as the Frankfurt School.
Comparing Plato and Aristotle's Acquisition of Ethical Understanding It is almost impossible to have a universal definition of what ethics is, the only way to really observe it is in practise; how does ethics shape our lives and how is it acquired?
Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach that emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).
Plato: Normative Ethical Theory Words | 5 Pages. Ancient moral theory explains morality in terms that focus on the moral agent. These thinkers are interested in what constitutes, e.g., a just person.