In Ancient Greece, philosophy was a big deal, and the more intellectual you were, the more successful you became. Socrates is claimed by many historians to be the founder of western philosophy.
He believed that philosophy was all about achieving results that were beneficial to a society, and he studied ethics based on human reason.
‘A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.’ – Socrates
êthos (Greek) meaning character and moral nature is where the word ethics originated from. Ethics is to understand and think critically about moral values and how they are to be applied to a situation.
Meta-ethics is about understanding how to tell what is good, and what is bad, and philosophers deem this as a necessary component to evaluate moral decision making. To start one must understand the definition of what ‘good‘, ‘bad‘, ‘right‘ and ‘wrong‘ mean? And how actions can have implications that can dramatically affect an outcome, as in every action has a reaction.
Ethical naturalism is essentially objective ethics, meaning that we can understand the difference between something that’s empirical and something like ‘pleasure‘, ‘wanting‘, ‘needing‘ or ‘desiring‘ which are non-ethical, which displays cognitive reasoning. This takes away personal opinion and involves the application of ‘fact‘, ‘truth‘ and ‘realism‘.
Axiology is derived from Greek meaning ‘value‘, ‘worth‘ and is a necessary part of the study of ethics and aesthetics, and understanding value and why it’s valuable. This generally falls into two categories.
• instrumental value
• intrinsic value
Instrumental value isn’t the value of the subject, it’s the subject that gives value. Faith to a Christian, harmony of humanity to a Humanist, a book to an intellectual, or sex to a hedonist.
Intrinsic value is the value of right, or good, or necessary, and many philosophers believe it’s at the basis of ethical, and moral judgement.
consequentialism, whether an action is morally right or wrong has exclusively to do with whether its consequences are intrinsically better than those of any other action one can perform under the circumstances.’ –Stanford
The main way the Greeks studied was through observation, and to approach situations through a rational mind, and question what had previously been answered by religious doctrine.
This is basically the way that Humanism approaches life.
‘Humanists are people who shape their own lives in the here and now, because we believe it’s the only life we have. We make sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us with warmth, understanding, and respect.’
The Greeks believed that you must be able to supply justification before morality can be applied.
How can you prove that murder is bad?
Murder is bad because not only are you taking a life that isn’t yours to take, but it involves malice. The desire to cause harm to another human being. Often murder is premeditated which means there was time to consider the action before the act was carried out.
So, the act of murder is immoral because I’m able to justify it. The way I personally see morality is something that’s beneficial to the majority, and immorality is something that has a negative impact on the majority. Take honesty as an example. Being honest is being truthful to someone, with no motive, no agenda and no desire to deceive. Being honest is beneficial to everyone. Whereas lying is being dishonest, usually with an agenda, be it guilt, deception or a motive to trick someone into a false belief. Lying isn’t beneficial to the majority.
This is essentially an example of Utilitarianism, but it can cause dilemma in some situations. Is it ethically correct to let one person die to save five people? If it means taking a life, to save five lives that’s doing something beneficial to the majority, but is immoral as it’s taking a life.
Moral actions aren’t as black and white as they sometimes appear, especially in the modern world. The Bible was written thousands of years ago, and Greek philosophers only understood the world around them, and the history that preceded them.
In the modern world we have situations that thousands of years ago wouldn’t have been imagined never mind considered. Take Nuclear energy, stem cell research, organ transplants, abortions, or gender modification. Only through moral philosophy can modern ethics be studied and acknowledged, without dogma or superstition.
‘An ethical idealist, a person whom embraces the honorable philosophy of ethical idealism, performs acts that are honest, pure, and righteous regardless of their fearfulness.