a. laical: direct moral questions, moralizing statements
‘Ethics and morals are the same.’
‘Ethics makes direct moral questions or statements.’
(e.g. ‘Is euthanasia right?’, ‘Bigamy is wrong.’)
b. descriptive: the description of moral questions and statements
‘Ethics and morals are not the same.’
‘Ethics describes the direct moral statements.’
(e.g. ‘Jesus says the foundation of right attitude is love.’)
c. critical: evaluation of moral questions and statements
‘Ethics and morals are not the same.’
‘Ethics explains the direct moral questions.’
(e.g. ‘Inconsistency leads to unprincipledness.‘)
- individual ethics: evaluates the norms (principles) of individual acts
- social ethics: evaluates the norms (principles) of common acts and common institutions
- applied ethics: evaluates the norms of a particular technical field (i.e. sport ethics)
- critical ethics: scrutinizes the fundamental questions of a philosophical school within ethics
The most common concepts of ethics:
- ethos (Greek): custom
- éthos (Greek): facade, character, morality (social, common morals)
- morals (Latin): custom, morality (conscientious, individual morals)
- morality: the system of principles and rules (norms) of attitude
common morals, principled)
common morals, principled)
If morality is proportional to the consistency in principles, then every morality can be classified by a logical analysis and so the most consistent and therefore the rightest morality can be chosen. Even so, there is no perfect ethical code. Why? There are at least two theoretical obstacles.
a. perfect consistency is generally impossible
b. even if a ‘perfect script’ were created, there would be no perfect reading or even a unified reading of it.
Perfect morality is impossible, but a more perfect is.
The crisis of the common moral is that the moral of the majority consensus disintegrates and disappears because the system of values and similar interests disintegrates and disappears, therefore the old system of principles loses credit and/or new principles disseminate. Morals in societies with a slow paced change are more permanent, and the crises of adaptation and morals became permanent phenomena in the rapidly changing modern societies.
This modern crisis of morality is only intensified by the modern world’s freedom of speech and the disputability of morals. These achievements are moral phenomena too, namely the modern crisis of morality is the ‘morality of the possibility of the rapidly changing morality’, a kind of accelerated adaptation.
One form of the permanent modern moral crisis is ‘moral relativism’, which says that moralities cannot be classified because none can be the measure of the other and that there is no higher measure. It mainly tries to avoid the classification and prejudicial interpretation of the various cultures and traditions since it is aware of the fact that the moral rules are meant to serve a given community’s survival and that life conditions can be very different (e.g. polygamy contra bigamy). This perception attempts to avoid futile moral debates as well as groundless moral superciliousness, therefore it aims for moral patience, tolerance, and peacefulness. Nevertheless, it does not solve conflicts, only postpones them or leaves them up to the power balance behind the debate, therefore ultimately to a form of violence.
- ‘sensation-ethics’: feeling-based attitude, situation adapted ‘principles’
- ‘authority-ethics’: whatever an accepted authority demands (e.g. church) must be followed
- ‘hedonism’: whatever feels good must be done
- ‘intuitional-ethics’: whatever the intuition of conscience suggests must be followed
- ‘intention-ethics’: whatever the good will of conscience dictates must be done
- ‘consequence-ethics’: the result qualifies the act
- ‘machiavellianism’: the end justifies the means
- ‘common sense-ethics’: the practical solutions of common sense must be followed
- ‘utilitarianism’: whatever is useful must be done
- ‘greater good ethics’: the bigger happiness of more people must be served
None of these ethics define what the acceptable ‘usefulness’, ‘consciousness’, ‘commonsensicalness’, ‘pleasantness’, ‘effectiveness’ means therefore they do not show us the direction in a debate, they are logically useless and ultimately rely upon violent solutions.
It is a typically modern conception that was formed against the disoriented relativisms since the era of Rationalism. It is the brainchild of the modern contract-theories and it defines the harmonious condition of the mutually non-limiting freedoms, the criteria of the mutual maximal freedom from the perspective of free individuals (e.g. Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant).
The most important representative of justful ethics is Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) who invented a ‘deonthologic’ (postulate-based) ‘commandment-ethics’ that proved enough consistent to pass the test of logical analysis and to supply practical approaches to a violence-avoiding and logics-following attitude. Kant says that a morality is only acceptable if it is justful, in other words it is in a harmonic relation with logical truth.
Instead of the laws of attitude, Kant started with the laws of making laws because a law cannot be justful if it was based on unjustfulness, since that would fundamentally contradict to its own generalness.
Kant found the highest precondition of justfulness in the universality of mutuality which says do not do unto others what we do not want others do unto us. The basis of every morality is the mutual and universal respect of laws, logicality, and consistency because laws can only be changed in accordance with higher (more general and universal) laws. This is the logical precondition of all law systems and the desire for values.
Not all ‘justful-ethics’ stood by Kant. He says that only such ethics makes sense which is not absurd (not ‘nonsensual’, not irrealizable). For all that, striving for goodness without the help of God is destined to fail for two reasons:
a. crucifixion is pointless without resurrection, namely honourable life is pointless without God’s reward (mercy)
b. adapting to a sinful world makes someone become sinful anyhow, namely striving for goodness only make sense with God’s pardon (mercy)
Whoever is not gratified by persistence, by the value-following (truthfulness) itself, is not justful, is not striving for values and is therefore not moral, instead he/she is merely an opportunist serving a higher power. The essence of human life and honour is its absurdness and that nothing is guaranteed. So why should we be good after all? ‘Just because’ – says for example Camus or Sartre.
From the beginnings till today we are greatly anguished by our inhumanities. From the beginnings till today the picture of a ‘declining world’ is a popular explanation. On the other hand, humanity’s continuous and ever-growing ambitiousness that sets the bar higher and higher is also the reason why we see ourselves in an ever-deepening and ever-worsening situation.
From a more objective point of view it is only the stakes and the risks that are getting higher, therefore the game is still on, but we can certainly win or lose more and more. It can also feel heavy that more and more depend on us and that instead of having to fight with our external circumstances we already have to fight our internal limits. And this is more difficult. Furthermore, the more effective we are the more effective our inhumanity becomes.
Nietzsche regarded morality as a means of pitiful survival, while Marx thought it to be the means of mindless oppression and class struggle. They were the first to explain moral decline as the morality of the change-fearing social groups. The myth of ‘moral decline’ is a kind of morality that focuses not on improving justfulness but on the conservation or the reinstating of the related social group. This is therefore another logics-eliminating, violence-based myth.
G. E. Moore (1873-1958) called the type of conclusion about supersensual values being derived from sensual experiences as ‘naturalistic fallacy’. He believed that the only connection between the sensual world and e.g. moral values is the mercy of God which enables our conscience to feel the good. The ancient religions of the East and the newest versions of ‘justful-ethics’ (e.g. Fromm), however, think that the logics of existence and of the sensual world are normative, just like ‘Tao’.