Ethics

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Ethics (from an Ancient Greek word for custom) is one of the major branches of modern philosophy. It concerns the nature and origin of moral behavior, and concepts such as "right" and "wrong", goodness and justice, etc.

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The word ethical essentially means good or morally acceptable. Some non-religious people prefer to use the word ethical instead of moral because of the religious overtones implicit (to a significant segment of the population, anyway) in the former term. (See also You can't be moral without God.)

Meta-ethics and the basis of ethical judgment

Meta-ethics concerns the concept of ethics itself, including:

  1. the meaning of the terms good, right, moral, and ethical;
  2. whether moral/ethical judgments are objective or subjective in nature; and
  3. how moral/ethical judgments can be supported or defended.[1]

Major ethical theories

Moral realism 
holds that objective values exist and may be known either intuitively or empirically.
Ethical subjectivism 
holds there are no objective values and that values are therefore inherently subjective and/or determined by a privileged observer or entity (God, society, the individual).
  • Moral relativism is a special type of ethical subjectivist stance in which society is seen as the ultimate arbiter of ethical values.
  • Interestingly, the idea that morality comes from God, which is proposed by many religious detractors of moral relativism, is also an ethical subjectivist viewpoint.
  • See Wikipedia:Meta-ethics for more information.
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