Ethics is a major part of philosophy which subject of studying is morality. Morality does not form a special area in human life, but it is present in people’s every relation (the relation surrounding people surrounding, to the nature, to animals). Ethics have a close connection with sciences about humans – psychology, cultural science, pedagogies, and history).
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Already the first antique philosophers, such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and Democritus, examined moral problems: about the meaning of life and people’s mission, what should be considered as good and bad, how to act, about happiness, duty, and the virtue of love. These concepts (happiness, duty, conscience, the meaning of life, good and bad, and justice) are ethical categories.
If philosophy is rational thinking about the world as a whole and human’s place in it ethics are the rational thinking about the values of human life. Moral values are making the main categories of ethics. Antique philosophers were the first to attempt comprehending and understanding, what is happiness, love, and justice, i.e. to give these values a rational and universal look. Before the occurrence of philosophy and ethics, people did not think of the value of these concepts because they accepted the values of that culture in which they were brought up as something given and consequently true. The rational judgment of values begins with critical doubt in the real and ends with the search for what is due. The basic directions and doctrines in ethics distinguish traditional and modern ethics.
Traditional ethics outlines various directions and frameworks depending on which category acts as central and dominant. Based on traditional ethics lies the idea of searching for the ideals that should be realized. In virtue ethics, the dominant category is accordingly, virtue. An example of such ethics in Aristotle’s ethics, which was “basically naturalistic: human good is defined by human nature.” (Moore & Bruder, 2005, p. 263) The main question in this ethics is what kind of person ought one to be?
The theory of our duties is another traditional ethics which is deontological ethics. (Kay, 1997) This philosophy was proposed by Kant who had a system of morality. In this system he defined categorical imperative, i.e. “to act always in such a way that you could, rationally, will the principle on which you act to be a universal law.” (Moore & Bruder, 2005, p. 279)
This can be followed by consequentialism a popular doctrine of which is utilitarianism. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill were utilitarians, which is “they believed that the rightness of an action is identical with the happiness it produces as its consequence.” (Moore & Bruder, 2005, p. 281)
In modern ethics, “Thomas Hobbes’ political and moral writings represent the first truly ‘modern’ view of ethics.” (“Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy,” 2008) However, it could be said that radically different opinions on ethics and moral judgment as a starting point of modern ethics, was set by emotivists. “The emotivists maintained that moral judgments have no factual meaning whatsoever.” (“Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy,” 2008, p. 362) There were arguments on the moral judgment defined by the emotivists. In such a sense, other theories arose. Relativism and egoism are also examples of modern ethics.
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Traditional and modern ethics are connected in a way that both of them rely on moral judgments as to the basis. In that sense, most of the occurring doctrines and theories were differing according to the individual definition of moral judgment within this doctrine.