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  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Recommended Website
  • Ethics Update Recommended Website
  • The Philosophy Pages Recommended Website
  • The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Recommended Website
  • Philosophy since the Enlightenment Recommended Website
  • Encyclopedia Britannica: Ethics Article Recommended Website
  • Introduction to Philosophy Recommended Website
  • Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought Recommended Website
  • The Ism Book Recommended Website
  • The Philosophers' Magazine on the web Recommended Website


    Aquinas (1225 or '27-1274)

  • All life has a purpose
  • Meeting this purpose allows one to be happy.
  • Happiness is to be found in the love of God.
  • God's grace providing entrance into heaven creates the highest form of human happiness.
  • Short of heaven, a person can achieve a more limited form of happiness through a life of virtue and friendship.
  • Morality is not determined by the arbitrary will of God.
  • Morality is derived from human nature and the activities that are objectively suited to it.
  • The difference between right and wrong can be appreciated through the use of reason and reflection.
  • Religious reflection may supplement the use of reason and reflection to determine right from wrong.
  • Societies must enact laws to ensure the correct application of moral reasoning.
  • Human nature is good because God made it good.
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    Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC)

  • The life of virtue is rewarding for the individual and the community.
  • The essence of a thing does not exist independent of the thing.
  • There is no completely universal idea of "the good."
  • There is an individualized ideal form for all living things.
  • In living in accordance with their true nature, humans will find the most enjoyment out of reasoning.
  • An investigation of human nature can reveal how humans ought to act.
  • Humans have a pre-defined purpose.
  • People can have variations on the best way to exist in order to meet their purpose.
  • The mean between the extremes of any given characteristic is the ideal.
  • The rule of the "Golden Mean" is not to be applied mechanically
  • Aristotle discusses having practical knowledge as being able to have the right means to one's action and the right ends
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    Augustine (354-430)

  • Happiness is a union of the soul with God after one has died
  • Bodily pleasures are relatively inferior to spiritual pleasures.
  • Philosophical reasoning is not the path to wisdom and happiness.
  • A love of God and faith in Jesus is the only path to happiness.
  • God is the one to allow people to practice the love of God.
  • One must love God in order to fulfill moral law.
  • People are inherently evil; only the grace of God (or is it merit to be saved?) can save them.
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    Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

  • We should all act with our own interests as the ultimate goal of our actions.
  • We have free will.
  • Moral standards are objective, and can be known rationally.
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    Cynicism

  • All the fruits of civilization are worthless
  • Salvation is found in a rejection of society and a return to simple ascetic living
  • Virtue consists in finding salvation in oneself
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    Simone de Beauvoir

  • Ethical questions cannot be solved abstractly
  • One must reject oppression of self and others
  • One must recognize one's own freedom
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    Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

  • When we choose something, we affirm the value of our choice because we have chosen it above other choices
  • When we choose something for ourselves, we should choose it for all people.
  • We must be consistent in our interpretations of moral situations regardless of whom the agent is.
  • Logic cannot help us specific situations
  • Making conscious moral choices is more significant than consistently following moral guidelines
  • The conflict between the interests of two people is in the end, irresolvable
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    Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

  • We can make a prior judgments; the negation of such judgments would a logical absurdity because a priori knowledge is known without sensory data.
  • We combine a priori and a posteriori knowledge to
  • We have freedom
  • God is not essential for his moral argumentation
  • The objective facts about the human knowledge leads to Kant's morality
  • We must act ought of a sense of duty in order to be moral
  • Moral action does not come out of following inclinations
  • Moral standards must be followed without qualification
  • We must always act so that the means of our actions could be a universal law
  • We must always treat people as ends not means
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    Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1844-1900)

  • We have free will
  • There is no God
  • Social conformity should not hold us back
  • The interests of others should not restrain us
  • We should be passionate beings
  • Masculinity, strength and passion are the highest qualities in a person
  • Conventional morality is a crutch to man
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    Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832)

  • Nature has placed humans under two states: pain and pleasure.
  • The words right and wrong are significant only when related to the Utilitarian principle.
  • Pleasures are not distinguished by quality; pleasure has quantifiable value.
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    Epicureanism
    Epicurus (341-270 BC) - Greek founder of Epicureanism

  • Pleasure is the ultimate moral end
  • Dynamic (passionate) pleasures are bad, passive (mild) pleasures are good
  • The end result of pleasure is what is significant
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  • Recommended Website: Epicurus & Epicurean Philosophy Page


    Noddings, Nel

  • Traditional western ethics has oppressed female voices
  • We should look to traditional women's practices as a way of determining our ethics
  • We should use an ethics of care: emphasizing loving others, meeting needs, and nurturing.
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    Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679)

  • By human nature, all of man's voluntary actions are aimed at self-pleasure and self-preservation
  • Altruism may be pleasurable for the giver
  • Good = 'any object of desire'
  • We must live under a social contract to have peace
  • We need a sovereign to enforce the social contract
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    Hume, David (1711-1776)

  • Reason can show us how to meet our ends, but only passions and sentiment can determine our ultimate goals.
  • No "is" implies an "ought."
  • Reason cannot give rise to moral judgments.
  • Humans are naturally sympathetic creatures
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    Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873)

  • The Utilitarian principle is correct when the quality of pleasures is accounted for
  • Liberty is the most important pleasure
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    Ockham, William of (1285-1347/49)

  • God's Will is the only determinant of good and evil.
  • Faith and revelation, not philosophizing, allow one to know good from evil.
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    Plato (427-347)

  • There is reason to act justly even if one can get away with acting unjustly.
  • There is a single, general, pure idea of goodness that all good things possess.
  • There is only one model of the just person.
  • Justice is a harmony of the soul: intellect, emotion, and desire.
  • The best activity is intellectual stimulation and the most important quality is a strong intellect.
  • The just person is pleased, not in a state of discord.
  • The conflict between one's own good and the good of the community is NOT irresolvable.
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    Prescriptivism, Universal

  • Moral judgments are an expression of our will.
  • once we have expressed our will through moral judgments, in order to be logically consistent, we must (1) make similar evaluations about similar cases and (2) we must keep our moral beliefs in harmony with how we live and want others to live.
  • Moral judgments are imperatives.
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    Spinoza, Baruch (later known as Benedictus)
    (1632-1677)

  • Determinist
  • Something must have a desirable affect on man in order to be good
  • Must understand determinism of the world
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    Stoicism

  • The common capacity to reason allows all humans to achieve virtue and wisdom.
  • The external circumstances of a person's life are irrelevant.
  • One can achieve virtue by becoming indifferent to external differences.
  • Passions must be rejected all together in deciding what is good and what is bad.
  • Reason alone must be used in deciding what is good and what is bad.
  • The common ability of humans to reason is why ethical relativism should be rejected.
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    Utilitarianism

  • Strives for moral objectivity
  • We ought to act in such a way that the consequence of our actions produce the greatest overall amount of good or utility
  • Rightness dependent on the consequences of the action
  • Consequences viewed in terms of how they affect everyone
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