Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy

Robert Cavalier

Philosophy Department
Carnegie Mellon

Part I History of Ethics

Preface: The Life of Socrates
Section 1: Greek Moral Philosophy
Section 2: Hellenistic and Roman Ethics
Section 3: Early Christian Ethics
Section 4: Modern Moral Philosophy
Section 5: 20th Century Analytic Moral Philosophy

Part II Concepts and Problems

Preface: Meta-ethics, Normative Ethics and Applied Ethics
Section 1: Ethical Relativism
Section 2: Ethical Egoism
Section 3: Utilitarian Theories
Section 4: Deontological Theories
Section 5: Virtue Ethics
Section 6: Liberal Rights and Communitarian Theories
Section 7: Ethics of Care
Section 8: Case-based Moral Reasoning
Section 9: Moral Pluralism

Part III Applied Ethics

Preface: The Field of Applied Ethics
Section 1: The Topic of Euthanasia
Multimedia Module: A Right to Die? The Dax Cowart Case
Section 2: The Topic of Abortion
Multimedia Module: The Issue of Abortion in America
Postscript: Conflict Resolution

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Early Christian Ethics

The Hellenistic and Roman periods saw a convergence of three great cultures: Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian. The Greek translation of the Hebrew biblion ("bible" or papyrus) around 332 BCE both gathered the stories of Abraham and his people (in much the same way that Homer gathered the stories of Agamemnon and the battle of Troy) and interpreted those stories through the translation of key terms. In a section from Isaiah, for example, a word referring to "a young maiden" who would give birth to a savior of the nation was translated as parthenos ("girl," "maiden," or "virgin"). Thus began the prophecy that the Savior would be born through a virgin from an "immaculate conception" (properly interpreted as "free from Original Sin"). For many, this prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in 4 BCE. And with the birth of Jesus and death of the christos (Annointed One, Savior), a new religion with values largely unfamiliar to the traditional pagan world came into being.

The reception of this faith, however, was already set into motion by the Orphic and Platonic separation of the soul from the body and the Stoic conception of a universal Logos. And whether one interprets this whole story from the perspective of the historical Jesus or the Christ of Faith, the evolution of the early Church up to the flourishing of the Medieval University Schools stands as an important moment in the history of ethics.

Augustine of Hippo

Thomas Aquinas

An excellent resource in Early Church History can be found at the Ecole Initiative site.

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Copyright 2002 (first published 1/96)