Bioethics: Ancient Themes in Contemporary Issues

ISBN 13: 9780262611770
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Its subject consists of the fundamental issues of practical decision making , and its major concerns include the nature of ultimate value and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong. The terms ethics and morality are closely related.

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It is now common to refer to ethical judgments or to ethical principles where it once would have been more accurate to speak of moral judgments or moral principles. These applications are an extension of the meaning of ethics.

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In earlier usage, the term referred not to morality itself but to the field of study, or branch of inquiry, that has morality as its subject matter. In this sense, ethics is equivalent to moral philosophy.

Although ethics has always been viewed as a branch of philosophy, its all-embracing practical nature links it with many other areas of study, including anthropology , biology , economics , history , politics , sociology , and theology. Yet, ethics remains distinct from such disciplines because it is not a matter of factual knowledge in the way that the sciences and other branches of inquiry are. Rather, it has to do with determining the nature of normative theories and applying these sets of principles to practical moral problems. This article, then, will deal with ethics as a field of philosophy, especially as it has developed in the West.

For coverage of religious conceptions of ethics and the ethical systems associated with world religions, see Buddhism ; Christianity ; Confucianism ; Hinduism ; Jainism ; Judaism ; Sikhism.

Modern Morality and Ancient Ethics

When did ethics begin and how did it originate? If one has in mind ethics proper—i. This reflective stage emerged long after human societies had developed some kind of morality, usually in the form of customary standards of right and wrong conduct. The process of reflection tended to arise from such customs, even if in the end it may have found them wanting.

Accordingly, ethics began with the introduction of the first moral codes.


This book contributes a great deal to the philosophical foundations of bioethics by linking that modern field to classical traditions in philosophy. A must read for. Bioethics: Ancient Themes in Contemporary Issues encourages the reader to formulate prudent concepts of ethical issues and apply them in the public arena.

Virtually every human society has some form of myth to explain the origin of morality. In the Louvre in Paris there is a black Babylonian column with a relief showing the sun god Shamash presenting the code of laws to Hammurabi died c.

To make up for these deficiencies, Zeus gave humans a moral sense and the capacity for law and justice , so that they could live in larger communities and cooperate with one another. That morality should be invested with all the mystery and power of divine origin is not surprising. Nothing else could provide such strong reasons for accepting the moral law.

By attributing a divine origin to morality, the priesthood became its interpreter and guardian and thereby secured for itself a power that it would not readily relinquish. This link between morality and religion has been so firmly forged that it is still sometimes asserted that there can be no morality without religion.

Mythical accounts

According to this view, ethics is not an independent field of study but rather a branch of theology see moral theology. There is some difficulty, already known to Plato, with the view that morality was created by a divine power. Amazon Global Store US International products have separate terms, are sold from abroad and may differ from local products, including fit, age ratings, and language of product, labeling or instructions.

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Bioethics as a Governance Practice

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