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Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The term ethics derives from the Ancient Greek word ἠθικός ethikos, which is derived from the word ἦθος ethos (habit, "custom"). The branch of philosophy axiology comprises the sub-branches of ethics and aesthetics, each concerned with values.
As a branch of philosophy, ethics investigates the questions "What is the best way for people to live?" and "What actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances?" In practice, ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality, by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. As a field of intellectual enquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory.
Three major areas of study within ethics recognised today are:
Rushworth Kidder states that "standard definitions of ethics have typically included such phrases as 'the science of the ideal human character' or 'the science of moral duty'". Richard William Paul and Linda Elder define ethics as "a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms sentient creatures". The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy states that the word ethics is "commonly used interchangeably with 'morality' ... and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group or individual." Paul and Elder state that most people confuse ethics with behaving in accordance with social conventions, religious beliefs and the law and don't treat ethics as a stand-alone concept.
- What sort of consequences count as good consequences?
- Who is the primary beneficiary of moral action?
- How are the consequences judged and who judges them?
Ethical codes applied by various groups. Some consider aesthetics itself the basis of ethics—and a personal moral core developed through art and storytelling as very influential in one's later ethical choices.
- Informal theories of etiquette that tend to be less rigorous and more situational. Some consider etiquette a simple negative ethics, i.e., where can one evade an uncomfortable truth without doing wrong? One notable advocate of this view is Judith Martin ("Miss Manners"). According to this view, ethics is more a summary of common sense social decisions.
- Practices in arbitration and law, e.g., the claim that ethics itself is a matter of balancing "right versus right", i.e., putting priorities on two things that are both right, but that must be traded off carefully in each situation.
Observed choices made by ordinary people, without expert aid or advice, who vote, buy, and decide what is worth valuing. This is a major concern of sociology, political science, and economics.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
- The London Philosophy Study Guide offers many suggestions on what to read, depending on the student's familiarity with the subject: Ethics
Encyclopedia of Ethics. Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker, editors. Second edition in three volumes. New York: Routledge, 2002. A scholarly encyclopedia with over 500 signed, peer-reviewed articles, mostly on topics and figures of, or of special interest in, Western philosophy.
Azurmendi, J. 1998: "The violence and the search for new values" in Euskal Herria krisian, (Elkar, 1999), pp. 11–116.
Blackburn, S. (2001). Being good: A short introduction to ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- De Finance, Joseph, An Ethical Inquiry, Rome, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1991.
De La Torre, Miguel A., "Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins", Orbis Books, 2004.
Derrida, J. 1995, The Gift of Death, translated by David Wills, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Fagothey, Austin, Right and Reason, Tan Books & Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 2000.
Levinas, E. 1969, Totality and infinity, an essay on exteriority, translated by Alphonso Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh.
Perle, Stephen (March 11, 2004). "Morality and Ethics: An Introduction"., Butchvarov, Panayot. Skepticism in Ethics (1989).
Solomon, R.C., Morality and the Good Life: An Introduction to Ethics Through Classical Sources, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1984.
- Vendemiati, Aldo, In the First Person, An Outline of General Ethics, Rome, Urbaniana University Press, 2004.
- John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, August 6, 1993.
- D'Urance, Michel, Jalons pour une éthique rebelle, Aléthéia, Paris, 2005.
- John Newton, Ph.D. Complete Conduct Principles for the 21st Century, 2000. .
- Guy Cools & Pascal Gielen, The Ethics of Art. Valiz: Amsterdam, 2014.
- Lafollette, Hugh [ed.]: Ethics in Practice: An Anthology. Wiley Blackwell, 4th edition, Oxford 2014.
- An entire issue of Pacific Island Studies devoted to studying "Constructing Moral Communities" in Pacific islands, 2002, vol. 25: Link
Paul R. Ehrlich (May 2016), Conference on population, environment, ethics: where we stand now (video, 93 min), University of Lausanne
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