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At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives.

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Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated
Bentham also benefited from Hume's work, though in many waystheir approaches to moral philosophy were completely different. Humerejected the egoistic view of human nature. Hume also focused oncharacter evaluation in his system. Actions are significant asevidence of character, but only have this derivative significance. Inmoral evaluation the main concern is that of character. Yet Benthamfocused on act-evaluation. There was a tendency — remarked on byJ. B. Schneewind (1990), for example — to move away from focus oncharacter evaluation after Hume and towards act-evaluation. Recallthat Bentham was enormously interested in social reform. Indeed,reflection on what was morally problematic about laws and policiesinfluenced his thinking on utility as a standard. When one legislates,however, one is legislating in support of, or against, certainactions. Character — that is, a person's truecharacter — is known, if known at all, only by that person. If onefinds the opacity of the will thesis plausible then character, whiletheoretically very interesting, isn't a practical focus forlegislation. Further, as Schneewind notes, there was an increasingsense that focus on character would actually be disruptive, socially,particularly if one's view was that a person who didn'tagree with one on a moral issues was defective in terms of his or hercharacter, as opposed to simply making a mistake reflected inaction.

15/12/2009 · What is ethics

Bentham's view was surprising to many at the time at least in partbecause he viewed the moral quality of an action to be determinedinstrumentally. It isn't so much that there is a particular kind ofaction that is intrinsically wrong; actions that are wrong are wrongsimply in virtue of their effects, thus, instrumentally wrong. Thiscut against the view that there are some actions that by their verynature are just wrong, regardless of their effects. Some may be wrongbecause they are ‘unnatural’ — and, again, Benthamwould dismiss this as a legitimate criterion. Some may be wrongbecause they violate liberty, or autonomy. Again, Bentham would viewliberty and autonomy as good — but good instrumentally, notintrinsically. Thus, any action deemed wrong due to a violation ofautonomy is derivatively wrong on instrumental grounds as well. Thisis interesting in moral philosophy — as it is far removed fromthe Kantian approach to moral evaluation as well as from natural lawapproaches. It is also interesting in terms of political philosophyand social policy. On Bentham's view the law is not monolithic andimmutable. Since effects of a given policy may change, the moralquality of the policy may change as well. Nancy Rosenblum noted thatfor Bentham one doesn't simply decide on good laws and leave it atthat: “Lawmaking must be recognized as a continual process inresponse to diverse and changing desires that requireadjustment” (Rosenblum 1978, 9). A law that is good at one pointin time may be a bad law at some other point in time. Thus, lawmakershave to be sensitive to changing social circumstances. To be fair toBentham's critics, of course, they are free to agree with him thatthis is the case in many situations, just not all — and thatthere is still a subset of laws that reflect the fact that someactions just are intrinsically wrong regardless ofconsequences. Bentham is in the much more difficult position ofarguing that effects are all there are to moral evaluation of actionand policy.


At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles

John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) was a follower of Bentham, and, throughmost of his life, greatly admired Bentham's work even though hedisagreed with some of Bentham's claims — particularly onthe nature of ‘happiness.’ Bentham, recall, hadheld that there were no qualitative differences between pleasures, onlyquantitative ones. This left him open to a variety ofcriticisms. First, Bentham's Hedonism was tooegalitarian. Simple-minded pleasures, sensual pleasures, werejust as good, at least intrinsically, than more sophisticated andcomplex pleasures. The pleasure of drinking a beer in front ofthe T.V. surely doesn't rate as highly as the pleasure one getssolving a complicated math problem, or reading a poem, or listening toMozart. Second, Bentham's view that there were noqualitative differences in pleasures also left him open to thecomplaint that on his view human pleasures were of no more value thananimal pleasures and, third, committed him to the corollary that themoral status of animals, tied to their sentience, was the same as thatof humans. While harming a puppy and harming a person are bothbad, however, most people had the view that harming the person wasworse. Mill sought changes to the theory that could accommodatethose sorts of intuitions.

Scarre then uses the example of telling a lie to illustrate: lyingis harmful to the person to whom one lies, and so this is viewed withdisfavor, in general. However, in a specific case, if a lie isnecessary to achieve some notable good, consequentialist reasoning willlead us to favor the lying. But this example seems toput all the emphasis on a consideration of consequences inmoral approval and disapproval. Stephen Darwall notes (1995,216 ff.) that the moral sense is concernedwith motives — we approve, for example, of the motive ofbenevolence, and the wider the scope the better. It is the motivesrather than the consequences that are the objects of approval anddisapproval. But inasmuch as the morally good person cares about whathappens to others, and of course she will, she will rank order acts interms of their effects on others, and reason is used in calculatingeffects. So there is no incompatibility at all.

They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives

It was the remembrance of this scientific and religious Absolute, of this doctrine that is summed up in a word, of this Word, in fine, alternately lost and found again, that was transmitted to the Elect of all the Ancient Initiations: it was this same remembrance, preserved, or perhaps profaned in the celebrated Order of the Templars, that became for all the secret associations, of the Rose-Croix, of the Illuminati, and of the Hermetic Freemasons, the reason of their strange rites, of their signs more or less conventional, and, above all, of their mutual devotedness and of their power.

Knight of the Brazen Serpent - Morals and Dogma by Albert …

Under an invisible spell, they always revolve once more in the same orbit; however independent of each other they may feel themselves with their criticalor systematic wills, something within them leads them, something impels them in a definite order, one after the other — to wit, the innate systematic structure and relationship of their concepts, Their thinking is, in fact, far less a discovery than a racognition, a remembering, a return and a homecoming to a remote, primordial, and inclusive household of the soul, out of which those concepts grew originally: philosophizing is to this extent a kind of atavism of the highest order.

MORALS and DOGMA by Albert Pike

Henry Sidgwick's (1838–1900) The Methods of Ethics (1874) isone of the most well known works in utilitarian moral philosophy, anddeservedly so. It offers a defense of utilitarianism, though somewriters (Schneewind 1977) have argued that it should not primarily beread as a defense of utilitarianism. In The Methods Sidgwickis concerned with developing an account of “…thedifferent methods of Ethics that I find implicit in our common moralreasoning…” These methods are egoism, intuition basedmorality, and utilitarianism. On Sidgwick's view, utilitarianism isthe more basic theory. A simple reliance on intuition, for example,cannot resolve fundamental conflicts between values, or rules, such asTruth and Justice that may conflict. In Sidgwick's words“…we require some higher principle to decide theissue…” That will be utilitarianism. Further, the ruleswhich seem to be a fundamental part of common sense morality are oftenvague and underdescribed, and applying them will actually requireappeal to something theoretically more basic — again,utilitarianism. Yet further, absolute interpretations of rules seemhighly counter-intuitive, and yet we need some justification for anyexceptions — provided, again, by utilitarianism. Sidgwickprovides a compelling case for the theoretical primacy ofutilitarianism.