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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The Field of Applied Ethics

The current field of Applied Ethics arose during the 1960s and 1970s. It appeared, in part, by means of an unexpected confluence of advances in medical technology and a growing patients' rights movement. For example, cases arose in which it was no longer clear whether keeping a terminally ill patient alive through medical devices was really preserving the person's life or prolonging the person's death. People of good will had sincere disagreements over what ought to be done, and ethical guidance was sought. With the establishment of the Hastings Center (1969) and Georgetown's Kennedy Institute of Ethics (1971), the turn in applied ethics began as professional philosophers sought to address these concrete issues. But as these philosophers soon discovered, applied ethics involves more than the straightforward application of ethical theory. If meta-ethics is a reflection upon the scope and limits of ethics itself (e.g., analyses of ethical relativism) and if normative ethics seeks general theories that provide substantial action guides (like the anthologized versions of Kant's Categorical Imperative or Bentham's Principle of Utility), applied ethics focuses on domain-specific areas like medicine, business, and engineering. Ethical analyses in these domains require a level of detail not immediately available to the general theorist.


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Copyright 2002 (first published 1/96)