Chapter Four :  Ethical Theories
Section 1. The Problem with Ethics

If Normative Ethical Relativism is flawed and cannot provide for a basis for moral society for humans on planet earth, then what is to provide that basis? What would provide a basis for universal moral codes ?  If the theory of Normative Ethical Relativism is flawed then what is the alternative.  Can there be an ethics?  Can there be a basis for moral rule making?  Since Socrates in the West and Confucius in the East, philosophers have sought that basis in REASON.  All humans have reason and if through the use of reason certain principles of ethics, the principle of the GOOD, can be discerned or discovered, then all humans would have contact with the basis for the moral life that all cultures and societies need.  Plato believed he had found those principles.  After him several others in the West have reached similar conclusions concerning the existence of principles that might have universal application.  Unfortunately, they have not all agreed as to what those principles are.

There are some fundamental distinctions to be made in the approaches taken to thinking about the GOOD.  What makes something, an action, GOOD?  Is it something in the act or in the intention behind the act?  Is it the result of the act or what is in the act itself?

The task of philosophers, indeed the task for all humans who wish to live together on planet earth with as little discord as possible and with a sense of the value of life and the possibility of living a good life and a life marked by virtue is to find a set of principles and a theory of the good that has the fewest problems with it that it can gain acceptance by rational humans around the planet regardless of their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

So now we turn to what philosophers have been considering in pursuing that task.

GLOSSARY of Terms associated with Ethics and Ethical Theories


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Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.


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