Ancient Greece Ancient Greece was the birthplace of Western philosophical ethics.
A huge subject broken down into manageable chunks Random Quote of the Day: The explanations are necessarily simplistic and lacking in detail, though, and the links should be followed for more information.
Thales of Miletus is usually considered the first proper philosopher, although he was just as concerned with natural philosophy what we now call science as with philosophy as we know it.
Thales and most of the other Pre-Socratic philosophers i. They were Materialists they believed that all things are composed of material and nothing else and were mainly concerned with trying to establish the single underlying substance the world is made up of a kind of Monismwithout resorting to supernatural or mythological explanations.
For instance, Thales thought the whole universe was composed of different forms of water; Anaximenes concluded it was made of air; Heraclitus thought it was fire; and Anaximander some unexplainable substance usually translated as "the infinite" or "the boundless".
Another issue the Pre-Socratics wrestled with was the so-called problem of change, how things appear to change from one form to another. At the extremes, Heraclitus believed in an on-going process of perpetual change, a constant interplay of opposites; Parmenideson the other hand, using a complicated deductive argument, denied that there was any such thing as change at all, and argued that everything that exists is permanent, indestructible and unchanging.
Zeno of Elea was a student of Parmenidesand is best known for his famous paradoxes of motion the best known of which is that of the Achilles and the Harewhich helped to lay the foundations for the study of Logic.
Although these ideas might seem to us rather simplistic and unconvincing today, we should bear in mind that, at this time, there was really no scientific knowledge whatsoever, and even the commonest of phenomena e. Their attempts were therefore important first steps in the development of philosophical thought.
They also set the stage for two other important Pre-Socratic philosophers: Empedocleswho combined their ideas into the theory of the four classical elements earth, air, fire and waterwhich became the standard dogma for much of the next two thousand years; and Democrituswho developed the extremely influential idea of Atomism that all of reality is actually composed of tiny, indivisible and indestructible building blocks known as atoms, which form different combinations and shapes within the surrounding void.
Another early and very influential Greek philosopher was Pythagoraswho led a rather bizarre religious sect and essentially believed that all of reality was governed by numbers, and that its essence could be encountered through the study of mathematics. Unlike most of the Pre-Socratic philosophers before him, Socrates was more concerned with how people should behave, and so was perhaps the first major philosopher of Ethics.
He developed a system of critical reasoning in order to work out how to live properly and to tell the difference between right and wrong.
His system, sometimes referred to as the Socratic Method, was to break problems down into a series of questions, the answers to which would gradually distill a solution. Although he was careful to claim not to have all the answers himself, his constant questioning made him many enemies among the authorities of Athens who eventually had him put to death.
Socrates himself never wrote anything down, and what we know of his views comes from the "Dialogues" of his student Platoperhaps the best known, most widely studied and most influential philosopher of all time.
In his writings, Plato blended EthicsMetaphysicsPolitical Philosophy and Epistemology the theory of knowledge and how we can acquire it into an interconnected and systematic philosophy. He provided the first real opposition to the Materialism of the Pre-Socraticsand he developed doctrines such as Platonic RealismEssentialism and Idealismincluding his important and famous theory of Forms and universals he believed that the world we perceive around us is composed of mere representations or instances of the pure ideal Forms, which had their own existence elsewhere, an idea known as Platonic Realism.
Plato believed that virtue was a kind of knowledge the knowledge of good and evil that we need in order to reach the ultimate good, which is the aim of all human desires and actions a theory known as Eudaimonism. He created an even more comprehensive system of philosophy than Platoencompassing EthicsAestheticsPoliticsMetaphysicsLogic and science, and his work influenced almost all later philosophical thinking, particularly those of the Medieval period.
Unlike PlatoAristotle held that Form and Matter were inseparable, and cannot exist apart from each other.A whole movement developed in the wake of his work, and most of the subsequent history of philosophy can be seen as responses, in one way or another, to his ideas.
Kant showed that Empiricism and Rationalism could be combined and that statements were possible that were both synthetic (a posteriori knowledge from experience alone, as in .
It seems appropriate, therefore, to ask where the study of history and the humanities fits in the present world, a world that, I think we can all agree, has been radically changed by the events of 9/11, the rise of terrorism, and the persistence of genocide throughout many parts of the world today.
Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be "found in some form in almost every ethical tradition". Yet, one which reappears in the writings of almost every culture and religion throughout history, the one we know as the Golden Rule.
Moral directives do not need to be complex or obscure to be worthwhile, and in fact. Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century by Jonathan Glover Words 6 Pages As most people would agree, the 20th century contained some of the bloodiest and most gruesome events ever recorded in .
Hence, the humanity in oneself is the source of a duty to develop one’s talents or to “perfect” one’s humanity. When one makes one’s own humanity one’s end, one pursues its development, much as when one makes becoming a pianist one’s end, one pursues the development of piano playing.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF HISTORY OF ETHICS (Summarized from Short History of Ethics by Rogers, R.A.P., Mac Throughout 19th Century these ideas have been discussed very fiercely throughout Europe.
Then Comte, Darwin, and finally Spencer followed by Ethical ideas arise from Ethical ideas and.