An examination of comprehensive moral theories as the right tools for ethical reasoning

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An examination of comprehensive moral theories as the right tools for ethical reasoning

Ancient Greece Ancient Greece was the birthplace of Western philosophical ethics. The ideas of Socrates c. The sudden flowering of philosophy during that period was rooted in the ethical thought of earlier centuries.

In the poetic literature of the 7th and 6th centuries bce, there were, as in other culturesmoral precepts but no real attempts to formulate a coherent overall ethical position. The Greeks were later to refer to the most prominent of these poets and early philosophers as the seven sagesand they are frequently quoted with respect by Plato and Aristotle.

Knowledge of the thought of this period is limited, for often only fragments of original writings, along with later accounts of dubious accuracy, remain. He appears to have written nothing at all, but he was the founder of a school of thought that touched on all aspects of life and that may have been a kind of philosophical and religious order.

In ancient times the school was best known for its advocacy of vegetarianismwhich, like that of the Jains, was associated with the belief that after the death of the body, the human soul may take up residence in the body of an animal see reincarnation.

An examination of comprehensive moral theories as the right tools for ethical reasoning

Pythagoreans continued to espouse this view for many centuries, and classical passages in the works of writers such as Ovid 43 bce—17 ce and Porphyry — opposing bloodshed and animal slaughter can be traced to Pythagoras.

This term was used in the 5th century to refer to a class of professional teachers of rhetoric and argument. The Sophists promised their pupils success in political debate and increased influence in the affairs of the city.

They were accused of being mercenaries who taught their students to win arguments by fair means or foul. Aristotle said that Protagoras c.

They regarded themselves as imparters of the cultural and intellectual qualities necessary for success, and their involvement with argument about practical affairs naturally led them to develop views about ethics.

The recurrent theme in the views of the better-known Sophists, such as Protagoras, Antiphon c. He argued that, while the particular content of the moral rules may vary, there must be rules of some kind if life is to be tolerable. Thus, Protagoras stated that the foundations of an ethical system needed nothing from the gods or from any special metaphysical realm beyond the ordinary world of the senses.

He explained that the concept of justice means nothing more than obedience to the laws of society, and, since these laws are made by the strongest political group in its own interest, justice represents nothing but the interest of the stronger.

General Philosophical Questions about Moral Reasoning

Presumably he would then encourage his pupils to follow their own interests as best they could. It is not surprising that, with ideas of this sort in circulation, other thinkers should react by probing more deeply into ethics to see whether the potentially destructive conclusions of some of the Sophists could be resisted.

This reaction produced works that have served ever since as the cornerstone of the entire edifice of Western ethics.

An examination of comprehensive moral theories as the right tools for ethical reasoning

Yet, unlike other figures of comparable importance, such as the Buddha or Confucius, he did not tell his audience how they should live. What Socrates taught was a method of inquiry. When the Sophists or their pupils boasted that they knew what justice, piety, temperance, or law was, Socrates would ask them to give an account, which he would then show was entirely inadequate.

For those who thought that adherence to the conventional moral code was more important than the cultivation of an inquiring mind, the charge was appropriate.

By conventional standards, Socrates was indeed corrupting the youth of Athens, though he himself considered the destruction of beliefs that could not stand up to criticism as a necessary preliminary to the search for true knowledge. In this respect he differed from the Sophists, with their ethical relativism, for he thought that virtue is something that can be known and that the virtuous person is the one who knows what virtue is.

SocratesSocrates, herm from a Greek original, second half of the 4th century bce; in the Capitoline Museums, Rome. He believed that virtue could be known, though he himself did not profess to know it. He also thought that anyone who knows what virtue is will necessarily act virtuously.

Those who act badly, therefore, do so only because they are ignorant of, or mistaken about, the real nature of virtue.

This belief may seem peculiar today, in large part because it is now common to distinguish between what a person ought to do and what is in his own interest. Once this assumption is made, it is easy to imagine circumstances in which a person knows what he ought to do but proceeds to do something else—what is in his own interests—instead.

Indeed, how to provide self-interested or merely rational people with motivating reasons for doing what is right has been a major problem for Western ethics.

The Philosophical Importance of Moral Reasoning

In ancient Greece, however, the distinction between virtue and self-interest was not made—at least not in the clear-cut manner that it is today. The Greeks believed that virtue is good both for the individual and for the community. He also took over the Socratic method of conducting philosophy, developing the case for his own positions by exposing errors and confusions in the arguments of his opponents.

He did this by writing his works as dialogues in which Socrates is portrayed as engaging in argument with others, usually Sophists. PlatoPlato, marble portrait bust, from an original of the 4th century bce; in the Capitoline Museums, Rome.Behaviors that are judged to be consistent with good ethical thinking and decision making.

Critical Thinking. Informed and logical thought. Bases Moral right and wrong on self derived,universal, moral duties, determined through reason Ethics: Comprehensive Quizlet. 42 terms. Ethics: Absolute Morals, Kant, Ethics of Care, Virtue.

“Ethical reasoning” is reserved for the work of philosophers and other professionals who reason about developing systems of right or wrong in the abstract, rather than using already formed ethical schemas to decide on right or wrong actions in specific cases.

Research - Free ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online for free. BOOK III. BEFORE speaking of the different forms of government, let us try to fix the exact sense of the word, which has not yet been very clearly explained..

1. GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL. I WARN the reader that this chapter requires careful reading, and that I am unable to make myself clear to those who refuse to be attentive.

. More than 4, ebooks and many book collections, including archive collections of critical historical material, as well as publisher and topical collections. This doctoral seminar will explore the predominant methods used in ethics today and apply them to contemporary issues.

This course will draw upon the core bibliography in Ethics and Social Theory to help the student prepare for comprehensive exams.

Mill's Moral and Political Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)