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- What actions are good? What actions are evil?
- How can we tell the difference?
- Are good and evil the same for everyone?
- How should we make hard decisions that might help or hurt other people?
- How do our actions affect others?
Ideas about ethics
Some philosophers call ethics the "science of morality". Morality is what someone thinks or feels is good or bad. There are many different moralities, but they share some things. For example most people think that murder (killing somebody) is wrong.(compare Exodus 20:13) Some philosophers have hope to find more things that moralities share. They think that ethics should use the scientific method to study things that people think are good or bad. Their work can be used to test the fairness of a situation, such as how people should treat each other. An example of this kind of thinking is the categorical imperative. Many countries have laws based on this idea of fairness.
Other philosophers[source?] think that ethics is separate from morality. They do not think that ethics can be studied using the scientific method and they think it is closer to metaphysics. Some of them think like platonists about what is good and bad.
Some philosophers[source?] believe that ethics is subjective. This means that they think that what is right for me is whatever I say is right. These philosophers do not think that ethics is the same for all people.
What is ethics used for?
Understanding ethics can help people decide what to do when they have choices. Many philosophers think that doing anything or making any choice is a part of ethics.
Ethics is part of other fields of study in many ways. Here are some ways:
- Ethics is part of the study of religion. In religion, people often learn what is good or bad from what they believe about God (or gods). Some important ideas about what is good or bad have come from religion. See Ten Commandments.
- Some theories of economics say ethics has to do with money. Money is a big part of most people's lives. Thinking about morality can be important in economics. For example, there is a saying about ethics taken from the Bible that 'the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil' (1 Timothy).The philosophy of Marxism also says that a few people using money in the wrong way can hurt many other people.
- Government policy can be affected by what politicians think is ethical. Politicians try to create laws that help everyone do what is right. Political debates happen when the people who make public policy do not agree about what is right.
- In work, thinking about ethics can help with hard questions. Work can be like both economics and politics. Workers have to make money and follow laws. But the best way to do both is not always easy to know. The study of this is called business ethics
- People like doctors and nurses have to make hard choices about how to care for people. Sometimes the person being cared for, their family or the doctor do not agree what is best for them. Also, choices have to be made if there is not enough money for all people to get the help they need. The study of this is called medical ethics
- Discussing ethics can also be a way to stop people fighting or starting a war. By talking about ethics, people hope to get what they want without being violent. This works when all people agree that peace is very important. But not everyone agrees about what is right or wrong. So, sometimes anger can make it hard to talk without fighting.
- Conflict of interest
- The Republic is a book by Plato that says that people who have power should use ethics to make choices.
- The Prince is a book by Niccolò Machiavelli that says that people who have power should not use ethics to make choices.