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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Modern Moral Philosophy

Broadly speaking, the Medieval Mind gradually gave way to the Modern Period through a series of cultural and political changes that involved both the Renaissance (c 14th-16th centuries) and the Reformation (marked by the 1517 posting of Luther's '95 Theses'). The former involved the expansion of trade and the rise of money-based economies, the invention of printing, Copernicus' challenge to Ptolemaic astronomy, and Galileo's confrontation with Aristotelian 'physics.' The New Sciences, with their empirical methods and mathematical tools, set about to provide a new grid by which to measure the universe. The Protestant Reformation, begun with an attack against 'indulgences' and a belief in power of simple faith, ended in schism and political dissent from the once 'universal' (catholos) Church.

In this historical context, Thomas Hobbes' political and moral writings represent the first truly 'modern' view of ethics.


Thomas Hobbes

David Hume

Immanual Kant

Bentham and Mill

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche



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Copyright 2002 (first published 1/96)

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