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6. Ethics


Subject Philosophy » Ethics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00011.x


Reflection about ethics has been a vital component of all the traditions of philosophizing that we know. China, Greece, India and medieval and modern Europe all asked basic ethical questions. What is the good? What makes a life a good life? What are the virtues of a human being? Is there one good, or one unified scheme of virtues? What duties do we have to each other or to ourselves? So far as we have records of non-literate cultures and their oral traditions, we find the same questions being asked there too. They are philosophical questions if they examine moral habits and teachings in a reflective way. C lassical G reece ( chapter 22 and chapter 23 ) also moved to a second level of philosophical reflection: it asked questions about such questions. Can they have objective answers? If so, what kind of knowledge of these answers can we have? Are they matters of reason or feeling? These higher-order issues are often called meta-ethical. A striking feature of the Western tradition in philosophy is the urgency with which it has recurrently worried about them, from its Greek beginnings. And in this century meta-ethical questions have been pursued with an urgency and a perseverance never known before. We shall have to say something about meta-ethics as well as about ethical questions themselves. But first, what is the scope of ethics as such? It does not deal with the whole domain ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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