Ethics asks how we should live, what choices we should make and what makes our lives worth living.
Think about the last time you made a big decision. Why did you make that choice? What makes you choose one way, rather than picking any of the other options available to you?
What makes something right or wrong? One answer comes from the work of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who is considered the founder of an ethical theory called deontology. Deontology comes from the Greek word deon, meaning duty. It holds, quite simply, that actions are good or bad based on whether they fulfil universal moral duties.
What makes something right or wrong? One of the oldest ways of answering this question comes from the Ancient Greeks. They defined good actions as ones that reveal us to be of excellent character. What matters is whether our choices display virtues like courage, loyalty, or wisdom. Importantly, virtue ethics also holds that our actions shape our character. The more times we choose to be honest, the more likely we are to be honest in future situations – and when the stakes are high.
For lots of people, what makes a decision right or wrong depends on the outcome of that decision: does it increase or decrease the amount of happiness in the world? This kind of thinking is typical of consequentialism: an ethical school of thought that says what makes an action good or bad is, you guessed it, the consequences.
The basic idea of human rights is that each one of us, no matter who we are or where we are born, is entitled to the same basic rights and freedoms. That may sound straightforward enough, but it gets incredibly complicated as soon as anyone tries to put the idea into practice. What exactly are the basic human rights? Who gets to pick them? Who enforces them—and how? Benedetta Berti explores the subtleties of human rights.
Get inspired and dip into our selection of fiction books with philosophical or moral themes. You will find a range from classics to new releases, across genres such as science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, thrillers and real life. Visit the Nora Collisson Centre to borrow print books, or read eBooks on our eBook app Sora.
New Philosopher Magazine. For curious people interested in the fundamental issues facing humankind.
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