Ethics (Greek ἠθικά, from ηθικός – relating to nature, character) – practical philosophy, the science of morality (morality). As a term and the designation of a special systematic discipline, ethics goes back to Aristotle; first found in the title of all three of his works on the problems of morality (“Nicomachean ethics”, “Evdemova ethics”, “Great Ethics”), and carries in them the main content load. Later it also remains one of the typical names of philosophical works (eg, “Ethics” by Abelard, “Ethics” of Spinoza, “Ethics” by N.Gartman) and becomes the accepted designation of the academic discipline. Aristotle spoke of ethics in three senses: how about ethical theory, ethical books, ethical practice. The concept of “ethical”, from which ethics originated, was formed by Aristotle by the word ἠθος (see Ethos), which denoted once habitual habitat, and then simply habits, temper, temperament, custom. It singled out that special section of human reality (a certain class of individual qualities correlated with certain habitual forms of social behavior), which constitutes the subject area of ethics. At present, the established academic and academic tradition understands by ethics primarily the field of knowledge, and under morality (or morality) its subject matter. In social experience and a living language, such a demarcation is not yet fixed.
Direct isolation of ethics as a special aspect of philosophy in the European cultural region is connected with the discovery of the Sophists, according to which the establishment of culture differs substantially from the laws of nature. Sophists have found that the laws, customs, customs of people are variable and diverse. Unlike the necessity of nature, which is always the same, they are random and arbitrary. There was a problem of comparing different laws, morals, the choice between them, and their justification, which would be at the same time their justification. It was necessary to show that social mores are not only traditionally considered, but in essence can be beautiful and fair. Socrates put an equal sign between the perfection of man, his virtue, and knowledge. Plato went further: to give a new legitimacy to the morals and institutions of the policy, it is necessary to know the idea of the good and be guided by this knowledge by entrusting the management of society to philosopher-wise men. According to Aristotle, the identification of virtue with the sciences was a mistake. The goal of ethics is not knowledge, but deeds, it deals not with the good in itself, but with the realizable good. Thus, ethics as a practical philosophy was separated from theoretical philosophy (metaphysics). The starting point of ethics is not the principles, but the experience of social life, and therefore it is impossible to achieve the degree of precision that is characteristic, for example, of mathematics; the truth in it is established “approximately and in general terms”.
Zenon of Kitia and Epicurus shared a philosophy on logic, physics and ethics, following this tradition, which goes back to the Academy of Plato. Some of the ancients reduced philosophy to two or one part (for example, Stoic Ariston identified it with one ethic). However, the three-part division corresponds to the uniqueness of philosophical knowledge, which in a certain sense, following Kant, can be considered exhaustive. The prevailing in post-Aristotelian philosophy was the point of view, according to which physics was decisive in this interrelated triad. An orderly, reasonably organized space was considered as a fertile soil of ethics. Essentially new in comparison with Plato and Aristotle in this formulation of the question was that ethics was emancipated from politics and the moral perfection of man was not placed in a link and dependence on the perfection of social life. The mediating role between the individual and the virtue played by the policy, within the framework of a new understanding of the subject of ethics, philosophy began to play. The absence of spiritual anxiety and bodily suffering, which constitute the goal of the ethic of Epicurus, is achieved through the correct understanding of pleasures and reasonable enlightenment, freeing oneself from fears. Philosophy is the only way to happiness, open to both young and old. The path to stoic apathy and skeptical ataraxia also lies through philosophy, knowledge. Where philosophy is, there is a wise man. The sage, whose image is most fully developed in the Stoic ethics, appears as an embodied virtue. The precedent of the sage is the justification of morality – and ethics does not appear in the impersonal rigor of logical formulas, but in exemplary examples, consolations and exhortations addressed to an individual person. Sage can be above suffering, destiny and circumstances, living in inner harmony with himself and nature as a whole. His home and policy is the cosmos as a whole; he is cosmopolitan. “The city and the fatherland to me, Antonina, is Rome, and to me, to man, is peace,” said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. The sage is oriented towards the good work of the world mind.
The main efforts of medieval Christian philosophers (after the initial period of confrontation with Greek philosophy, which was declared the culprit of the disastrous fall of manners) were aimed at justifying the possibility of integrating the ethics of pagan antiquity into the structure of Christian values. The predominant point of support in solving this problem initially becomes the tradition of Plato. Augustine highly appreciates Plato’s division of philosophy into physics, logic and ethics, believing that he only discovered (and did not create) an objectively prescribed order of things. In this context, patristicism did not consider ethics in the post-Aristotelian individualistic version, preferring its Aristotelian socio-polis version. Essential was considered the inner unity of all parts of philosophy, which was understood as the unity set by God. God, who is the creator of the world, says Augustine, is also his teacher. Pagan authors (and this was their root mistake) wanted to find in themselves and by their reason to justify what is given by God and only in it finds its justification: they comprehended the divine order, not realizing that it is divine. Hence – the task of rethinking their creations in the light of the teachings of Christ. For Abelard, the Gospel is the reform and improvement of the natural law of philosophers. Therefore, it is necessary to write ethics in the attitude of man to God and understand that it can not pretend to be the first discipline. Theology remains the first. One God is the highest good, and the attitude towards him (right when he is recognized and revered as the highest good, wrong when there is no unconditional respect for him) ultimately determines the manners, virtues and vices of the soul, the good and evil deeds of man. Christian thought of the Middle Ages proceeds from the belief that ethics (or morality) does not contain its bases in itself, only in correlation with theology it can delineate the boundaries between good and bad. However, along with this attitude, an intellectual tradition (e.g., Pelagianism) was introduced, which viewed ethics as the exhaustive foundation of human emancipation. As an independent educational discipline within the framework of the medieval code of knowledge, ethics is singled out in the Aristotelian version; after the transfer in the 13th century in the Latin language of “Nicomachean ethics” the latter becomes the main university textbook. Ethics is a designation of both the whole practical philosophy and its first component (along with economics and politics). A systematics of virtues is developed, where ten Aristotelian virtues are taken in conjunction with the four basic virtues of Socrates – Plato in the hierarchy, culminating in the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love. Ethical systematics of the late Middle Ages was developed by Thomas Aquinas (“Comments on Nicomachean Ethics”). According to his concept, the basis of the ordering of philosophical knowledge is the category of order. The order of things considers natural philosophy or metaphysics, the order of its notions of reason – rational philosophy, the order of volitional actions – moral philosophy, the order of objects created by human intelligent activity – mechanics. In moral philosophy, only volitional and rational actions, organized by the unity of goals, are included. It is divided into monastic (Latin monos – one), considering the actions of an individual, the economy and politics. The unity of these parts is ensured by their focus on a single higher good and involvement in it. The consideration of the highest human good and the ways to it, the illumination of the divine commandments with the light of reason, is the task of philosophical ethics.
The ethics of modern times abandons the idea of transcendental moral essences and appeals to human empiricism, seeking to understand how morality, being a property of an individual, is at the same time an obligatory, socially organizing force. Unlike the medieval orientation on the Platonic-Aristotelian circle of ideas, it begins with a primary appeal to Stoicism, Epicureanism and skepticism. In the methodological plan, it pretends to become a mathematically rigorous science. The founders of modern philosophy F. Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes did not create their ethical systems, confining themselves to general sketches, but methodologically, and to a large extent and meaningfully, they predetermined the further development of ethics. Bacon divides ethics into two teachings – the ideal (or the image of the good) and the management and upbringing of the soul. The second part, which he calls the “Douglas of the soul,” is the greatest, although the philosophers paid the least attention to it. Ethics – part of the philosophy of man, studying human will; it deals only with achievable goals, and the sign of such feasibility, according to Bacon, is the ability to create the practically effective technology of upbringing. Descartes likened philosophy to a tree whose roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and branches are practical sciences (medicine, mechanics and ethics, which is “the highest and most perfect science”). Since ethics crowns philosophy and its unshakably true rules can’t be found before full knowledge of other sciences is achieved, Descartes confines himself to imperfect ethics and proposes temporary rules of morality (“Discourse on the Method”, Part III), the first of which obliges us to live in accordance with the laws and customs of their country, and the third – to strive to win more than yourself, than fate.
According to Hobbes, ethics must follow geometry and physics and be based on them (“On the Body,” Chapter II, VI). These methodological guidelines of Hobbes are combined with meaningful conclusions, which do not follow from them, although in themselves they are very important and open up a fundamentally new research perspective of ethics. Hobbes disputes the notion of a man as a social (political) animal, from which the previous ethics was implicit or implicit. Man is originally selfish, aimed at his benefit. The natural state of people is the war of all against all, and “the concepts of the right and wrong, the just and the unjust are not here”. The natural state makes it impossible to save a life for a long time, which contradicts the initial impulses that generate this state. Some of the passions are pushed out of him (primarily fear of death), and partly the mind that opens natural laws that allow people to agree. The main one says that we should seek peace and follow it. Hence the following: a person must “be content with such a degree of freedom in relation to other people as he would allow himself to do with himself”. The basic rule of morality, later called goldenly (see Golden Rule of Morality), is a public summary of numerous natural laws. According to Hobbes, there can not be a science of morality outside the state. Morality is of contractual origin; it, like the state, grows out of selfishness and distrust of people to each other. The universal measure of good and evil is the laws of this state, and the moral judge is its legislator. B.Spinoza tends to go “in a geometric way” in ethics and to explore human actions “just as if the question were about lines, surfaces and bodies”. He creates the ethics of personality, which coincides in its power with the world itself. The subject and task of ethics is human freedom, understood as liberation from the power of affects, passive-passive states, and the ability to be the cause of oneself. It is achieved through knowledge, which is the essence and power of the human soul. Spinoza breaks with tradition, which directly linked ethics with the social being of man, with cultural institutions: a man in nature can not be portrayed as a state in a state. The mediating link between the individual and virtue is not politics, but cognition (there is no intelligent life without knowledge). His ethics, which is in organic unity with ontology and epistemology (from the latter it is derived to the same extent as is their justification), at the same time is independent of logic, social sciences and medicine. Especially it is necessary to note the independence of the ethics of Spinoza from his political concept.
The one-sidedness of the supra-individual ethics of the social contract and the ethics of personality reflects the inherent contradiction between the socially-universal and individual-personal dimensions of human existence inherent in the bourgeois epoch, tragically experienced by it. The search for a synthesis between them is a characteristic feature of the ethics of the 18th century.
One of the experiments of this synthesis was the English sentimentalism ethical. According to Hutcheson, virtue is embedded in man by nature and God. Its basis is a moral feeling as an inner consciousness and propensity to the common good; it acts directly, without regard for personal egoistic interest; accompanying our actions, it directs them to the worthy and beautiful. Hutcheson believed that the natural law finds in its moral sense its foundation and guarantee. A pantheistically colored idea, which reduces the universality of morality to the concreteness of immediate feeling, was even more clearly than Hutcheson’s, was presented to his teacher Shaftesbury. According to D.Yum, a person is characterized by social feelings and his moral judgments are associated with feelings of philanthropy, sympathy. However, he inherent desire for personal interest, benefit. Hume with skeptical caution joins these two principles, believing that considerations of utility are always present in moral assessments. A. Smith brings morality out of the feeling of sympathy, giving a big role to the mechanism of assimilation, which allows a person to put himself in the place of another and take as a model what he likes in others. Bentham goes beyond the subjective ethics of moral feeling, considering the basis of ethics as the principle of good. The construction of benefits in the ethical principle was necessary to justify the duties of a person not only within the small circle of communication, but also as a citizen of the state.
The most significant experience in the synthesis of various ethical teachings of the New Times was the ethics of Kant, who first established that in morality a person “is subordinated only to his own and, nevertheless, to general legislation”. Proceeding from the generally accepted notions of a moral law as an absolute necessity, Kant comes to the conclusions that the moral law is identical with a pure (good) will, acts as a debt, coincides with a universal form of legislation that unconditionally limits the maxims of behavior to the condition of their general validity , the self-goal of humanity in the person of each individual and the autonomy of the will. The categorical imperative is the law of pure practical reason; speaking differently, only becoming moral, practical, pure mind reveals its purity, not connected with any experience of primordiality. The explanation of how the pure mind becomes practical, according to Kant, is beyond the capabilities of the human mind. The desire to justify the truth of the moral law ends with the postulate of freedom, the assumption of the existence of the noumenal world, which is the conclusion of the mind, which designates its limit. “Freedom and unconditional practical law refer to each other”. Freedom of human actions does not cancel their necessity, they exist in different relationships, in different planes that do not intersect each other. The concepts of freedom and the intelligible world are “only a point of view that the mind is forced to accept outside of phenomena, to think itself practical”. This means that morality is given to man insofar as he is a rational being and also belongs to the noumenal world of freedom and that it reveals its unconditionedness only as an internal conviction, a way of thinking. Despite the fact that Kant did much for the ethical justification of law, the tension between morality and legality is a characteristic feature of his teaching. The combination of freedom with necessity, duty with inclinations, the transition from moral law to concrete moral duties is the most intense and perhaps weak point of Kant’s ethics. So that the morality of thought could be realized, Kant introduces the postulates of the immortality of the soul and the existence of God.
Hegel tries to remove dualism (freedom and necessity, virtue and happiness, duty and inclinations, categorical and hypothetical imperatives, etc.) that permeates Kant’s ethics. Seeking to justify morality, not only as a subjective principle of obligation, but also as an objective state, he proceeds from the assumption that the individual is isolated as an individual, confirms his subjectivity only in society, the state. Universal will – in itself and for itself reasonable in the will, it is embodied in the state, which is an objective spirit, “the procession of God in the world; its foundation is the power of reason, exercising itself as will”. The modern law-based state is characterized by the fact that the principle of subjectivity reaches completion in it. It “is the reality of concrete freedom,” “the universal is connected in it with the complete freedom of the singularity and with the welfare of individuals”. Denoting a new stage when the moral acquires an institutional character and establishes itself as an actual relation, and not only as a principle of obligation, Hegel develops the concepts of morality and morality. The moral will reveals its infinity as a subjective principle, affirms the person as the subject; it is “for oneself a real freedom.” Morality is the reality of morality, it is a universal mode of action for individuals, in it freedom, without ceasing to be a subjective principle of morality, rises to the actual relationship. If the categories of morals are “intent”, “guilt”, “intention”, “good”, “good”, “conscience”, then categories of morality of a different kind – “family”, “civil society”, “state”. The philosophy of Hegel virtually eliminates ethics as a special discipline, because in it morality coincides with the state and leaves open the question of the boundaries of individually responsible behavior, since morality is included in the process of the movement of the absolute idea to itself and acts as the idea of the state itself.
After Hegel there was a turn in ethics, which can be called antinormativity; He was directed to criticize the moralizing attitude to reality and declared himself in two basic variants – in Marxism and Nietzsche’s philosophy. The pathos of the philosophy of K. Marx and F. Engels was to give human activity an objective, world-transforming character. Kant, they wrote, stopped at one goodwill, transferring its realization to the other world. The task was to realize it in this world, to transform the timeless ideal into a program of historical action. Proceeding from the understanding of being as practice, Marx and Engels substantiated the perspective of the morally transformed being, the perspective of communism, described by them as practical humanism. Such an understanding presupposed criticism of moral consciousness with its claims of self-endeavor. Morality in its historically developed form was interpreted as a special, moreover, a transformed form of social consciousness. It was believed that revolutionary action removes morality, makes it unnecessary. Morality was reduced to the tasks of the class struggle of the proletariat, to revolutionary strategy and tactics, which was most consistently expressed in Lenin’s works. Thus, ethics in its traditional meaning were deprived of its subject; Lenin agreed with the statement that “in Marxism, from the beginning to the end, there is no grain of ethics”. Subsequent experiments in the creation of Marxist ethics were attempts to inoculate the shoots of the old ethical tree onto the Marxist trunk. This also applies to Soviet ethics as it has evolved since the 1960s; the main positive task that she solved was to “rehabilitate” morality, to justify it as a relatively independent, irreplaceable (not reducible to politics and political ideology) layer of culture.
Another line of concrete, non-metaphysical, anti-speculative ethics are outlined in the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard, who appealed to the individual, an individual, linking the origins of morality and its practical forms with the individuality of human existence. Anti-speculative and anti-rationalist attitude to the classical tradition with special convexity was revealed in Nietzsche’s philosophy, which, in its basis and overall focus, is a criticism of morality. On the ethics of Nietzsche, one can speak mainly in the negative sense. Nietzsche opposes the objectivized consideration of man, and in this context against the subordination of morality to knowledge, and ethics – to epistemology and ontology. He proceeds from the willful principle in man as the most specific and essential feature of it. The will as an inalienable property of man encapsulates his mind in himself; “The will to truth is the will to power”. Realizing being as an activity and considering that, in particular, there are no moral facts at all, no “being” hidden behind the action, Nietzsche resolutely opposes European morality in its Christian and socialist forms that are identical to it. Morality in its historically developed form, he believes, kills the will to become, creativity, perfection, it became a continuous mask, a hypocritical apology for weakness. The very concepts of good and evil are, in Nietzsche’s opinion, the products of plebeianism, the deadening spirit of slavish envy, for the designation and exposure of which it introduces a unique concept: ressentiment. The exposure of the inner falsity, the tricks of moral consciousness, reveals in Nietzsche a deep psychologist and constitutes his greatest merit. However, Nietzsche’s position can not be characterized only as moral nihilism. He denies not all, but “only one kind of human morality, to which and after which many other, primarily higher,” morals “are possible or should be possible. Nietzsche poses the task of reassessing values, the essence of which is not to narrow down, limit the value claims of philosophy, but, on the contrary, maximize them. He affirms the primacy of morality before being, values before knowledge. Moral (or immoral) goals, he believes, constitute the vital grain from which the tree of philosophy grows; create values - this is the own task of philosophy, everything else is a precondition for this. Within this methodology, ethics as a special discipline is impossible; it coincides with philosophy. Ethical works of Nietzsche are at the same time his main philosophical works. An expansive understanding of morality and ethics, which coincides with ontology and predetermines the entire structure of philosophy, in the 20 century is developed in existentialism. A change in the disposition of ethics about one’s subject, when its task is reduced to criticism of morality (rather than clarification and substantiation of its content), leads to the disappearance of ethics as an independent discipline, as evidenced by both the Marxist experience and Nietzsche’s experience.
After a radical rejection of morality and ethics in their traditional understanding, which was the prevailing mood in post-Hegelian philosophy, by the end of the 19th century, a positive attitude towards morality is restored, and with it a special disciplinary status of ethics. Indicative of these changes are such ideologically unrelated phenomena as the revival of interest in Kant and the emergence of evolutionary ethics.
Neo-Kantians essentially abandoned the Kantian metaphysics of morality, the idea of the noumenal world and the primacy of practical reason over the theoretical. In the version of the Marburg School, neo-Kantianism interpreted ethics as the logic of the social sciences; it sought to remove the gap between duty and inclinations, virtue and happiness, brought ethics closer to law, pedagogy (G. Cohen, M. Wencher). In the version of the Baden School (V. Vindelband, G. Rickert), the formal image of morality was supplemented by a view according to which the real motives of behavior do not lend themselves to ethical generalization, and the value definitions have a historically individualized character. Evolutionary ethics, connected primarily with the name of Spencer and his work “Foundations of Ethics” (1892-93), considers morality as a stage of a universal evolutionary process. Morality coincides with social actions aimed at equalizing egoism and altruism. The adaptation of human nature to the needs of social life, according to Spencer, can be so complete that socially useful activity will always cause joy, and socially harmful – unpleasant feelings. The difference between pleasure and suffering is interpreted as an immediate measure of the virtue of behavior. At the same time, it is assumed that the evolutionary potential of society can reach such a high level when motives and actions are serving the public need arecertainly accompanied by joyful sensations.
In the 20th century ethics developed under the essential (perhaps decisive) impact of the ideal of scientific rationality, which did not prevent it from maintaining a socially-critical focus and in its way to resist the totalitarian spirit of the times. The most characteristic from this point of view are analytical ethics and phenomenological ethics, the first one continues the empirical, and the second one tries to revive the metaphysical tradition in the understanding of morality. Analytical ethics arose within the framework of analytic philosophy and identified itself as a meta-tic, having its content a critical analysis of linguistic forms of moral statements. The subject of ethics with this understanding from the analysis of the moral principles of behavior, norms and virtues shifts to clarifying the verified meaning of moral concepts and sentences. All advocates of analytical ethics proceed from the recognition of the qualitative difference of moral judgments as judgments of prescriptive, descriptive judgments with which cognition deals. The analytical method aimed at clarifying the measure of the scientific rigor of ethics has an important spiritual-emancipating implication: it is directed against moral demagoguery and other forms of manipulation of the public consciousness, speculating on the unclear multivaluedness of value concepts and judgments.
Phenomenological ethics are sharpened both against the rigid dogmatism of classical ethics (in particular, Kant’s rationalistic apriorism) and against utilitarian relativism. It proceeds from the fact that values represent some objective structure (a world of values) that is given to a person in direct acts of feeling. Unlike rationalism, which saw in feelings an expression of subjectivity, phenomenology considers the act of feeling as a way of knowing values. The willful act aimed at the good, according to Husserl, is good not because of natural grounds or other reasons external to good itself, it concludes the good in itself as an ideal image that always remains equal to itself regardless of who specifically perceives it in this content. A priori, ideal-objective values become the limit of a sustainable desire and appear before a person as a practical imperative. The problem that arises with this is that in the act of assessment, the values themselves should be highlighted in their universally significant content and to transform their objective order into a vital task. According to M. Scheler, whose work “Formalism in Ethics and the Material Ethics of Values” unfolds phenomenological ideas into a thoughtful ethical system, values form a hierarchy consisting of four main stages: hedonistic, vital, spiritual and religious. This is not about the historical stages, but about the timeless structure. The difference between absolute values and their historically conditioned existence in the form of human goals has a significant significance for phenomenological ethics, which became one of the central ideas in N.Gartman’s book Ethics (1925). The task of morality and ethics is to direct human behavior “upwards” – by the objective order of values. Phenomenological ethics has transformed metaphysical traditions in the understanding of morals, so that it can equally be regarded as the ethics of a particular person, and the ethics of abstract principles.
Noteworthy from understanding the subject of ethics in the 20th century are the images of morality that have arisen in American pragmatism (James, Dewey).
Pragmatism connects moral concepts with interests, needs, the success of behavior gives them a situational character. Morality is demystified to such an extent that it, traditionally viewed as a source of internal discontent, begins to be interpreted as a means on the way to spiritual comfort and contentment with life.
Russian religious and philosophical ethics of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, just like the whole of the Western ethics of modern times, is inspired by the idea of a morally sovereign personality, its difference consists in the fact that it seeks to substantiate this idea without abandoning the metaphysics of morality and the idea of the original collective human existence. Both of them acquire in it religious-mystical forms: the foundations of morality are seen in the divine absolute, collectivity is interpreted as a religious and spiritual all-human conciliarity.
The end of the 20th century in European ethics is characterized by two new trends – a transition to applied ethics and rethinking the subject of ethics in the context of postmodern philosophy. Applied ethics deals with moral conflicts in specific areas of social practice and exists as a set of disciplines (bioethics, business ethics, ethics of science, political ethics, etc.), which have become integral elements of these practices themselves. The question of the status of applied ethics is debatable, in particular, whether they remain an integral part of philosophical ethics or become private disciplines. The nature of the argumentation of ethical-applied research, directly related to the philosophical images of a person and presupposing a preliminary solution of issues relating to the understanding of morality, its place in the system of human priorities, human dignity and human rights, ontological signs of personality, etc., suggests that applied ethics is an important the stage of the process of historical development of morality itself. It can be interpreted as a special kind of theorizing – theorizing in terms of life.
Postmodern philosophy with its rejection of logocentrism, the deconstruction of classical philosophical oppositions, especially the opposition of the knowing subject and objective reality, with its characteristic pathos of singularity, situatedness, openness, has an important, yet unrecognized value for ethics. It destroys the prevailing in philosophy enlightening-repressive image of ethics, boiling down to abstract principles and universal definitions. Meaningful in the perspective of postmodernism, ethics blends with a living moral experience, becomes plural, multi-voiced, open. The proclaimed overcoming of the boundary between the writer, the reader and the text, as a result of which the meaning merges with the expression, and together with understanding, it acquires a high degree of effectiveness precisely about morality, which is not attached to the individual but is established by the individual. Postmodernism can be interpreted as an antinomativism that has been brought to an end, which became the leading one in post-Hegelian ethics. He proceeds from the belief that there is no morality separated from the individual and ascended over him.
Reflections on the subject of ethics in the history of European philosophy centered around a series of cross-cutting issues, such as the relationship between happiness and virtue, individual and social ethics, intentions and actions, reason and feelings in moral motivation, freedom and the need for human behavior, etc. Their peculiarity consisted in The fact that they in the real experience of moral life most often acquired the character of dilemmas, testifying to the multiple disharmonies, the torn-out nature of human existence.
Ethics can be defined as a reflection on the moral foundations of human life (understanding by reflection the reversal of consciousness to oneself). If morality is the immediate consciousness of the meaning of life, imprinted in the language of the practice itself, then ethics is the consciousness of the consciousness of life, i.e., the consciousness of the life of the second level. The decisive reason that determines the need for such secondary reflection is that the moral consciousness falls into a situation which, following Kant, could be called a situation of the ambiguity of claims. It is a question of the conflict (crisis) of values when the morality is losing its obviousness, the power of tradition can not support it, and people torn by contradictory motives cease to understand what is good and what is evil. Such, as a rule, occur in the collision of different cultures or cultural epochs, when, for example, new generations abruptly break with the traditional foundations. To find a common language with each other, people are forced to re-answer the question of what morality is-to turn to the cognitive mind, to restore the broken lines of public communication, to substantiate the necessity of morality and to give a new understanding of it. Ethics is the way in which morality is justified before the mind.
By birth, ethics refers to a philosophy, making up its normative and practical part. Ethics is essentially connected with metaphysics. In this first of all its philosophical character is expressed. Morality pretends to be absolute, to be the last value pillar of human existence. Therefore, the doctrine of morality is always interconnected with the doctrine of being; by the nature of the interpretation of the grounds of morality, all philosophical moral systems can be divided into heteronomous and autonomous (see Autonomy and heteronomy). The essential distinctiveness of ethics is that being a science of morality, it is at the same time, in a sense, part of the latter. Separating ethics as a practical philosophy from theoretical philosophy (physics, mathematics, the doctrine of the causes), Aristotle meant that it sets the ultimate target of human activity, determining what it ultimately aims at and what is its perfection (virtue, quality factor). Ethics is not studied to know what virtue (morality) is, but to become virtuous (moral). It deals with practice to the extent that this latter depends on the reasonably chosen choice of the person himself.
Ethics is re-examining (as it were, anew) all human life activity from conscious, individually responsible choice. This determines the conceptual apparatus of ethics, its ideally defined problem field. With all the doctrinal variety of ethical systems, they all deal in one way or another with the three main thematic complexes.
- What should I do (what norms to follow, what to strive for, what to prefer)? To answer this question, which is differentia spezifica of ethics, it is necessary to investigate what is the meaning of life, what is good and virtue in contrast to evil and vices, what actions are subject to ethical imputation, how is freedom of will possible.
- How can I connect a moral motive (the desire to follow a duty) with diverse interests, a natural desire for happiness? This question involves considering what happiness is, what life can be considered happy, which of the ways of life is preferable from this point of view, what are the specific duties of the individual about his various natural and socially determined goals, what qualities he should cultivate in himself.
- How can my good be connected with the good of others or how can the moral autonomy of the individual acquire the form of universally valid norms? With this statement of the question, ethics is directly connected with the philosophy of history, with ideas about the perfect social order. It develops some concepts (charity, justice, friendship, solidarity, etc.) that set the moral vector for social institutions and relationships. Every developed ethical system includes a more or less detailed program of behavior designed to realize a way of life that allows us to remove the contradictions that are torn apart by individuals and are recognized as morally worthy. The normative certainty of these programs is one of the important signs of their classification. By this criterion, it is possible to distinguish such varieties of ethics as the ethics of hedonism, eudemonism, inner fortitude, sentimentalism, contemplation, utilitarianism, skepticism, etc.
The question of the subject of ethics does not have a one-off, indisputable solution: as a philosophical science, ethics to a certain extent itself creates its subject – hence the diversity and individuality of ethical systems.