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From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are "good" (or right) and those that are "bad" (or wrong). The philosophy of morality is ethics. A Moral code is a system of morality (according to a particular philosophy, Religion, culture, etc.) and a Moral is any one practice or teaching within a Moral code. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness." Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. opposition to that which is good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any set of Moral standards or principles. An example of a Moral code is the Golden Rule which states that, "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself."

Morality and ethics

Ethics (also known as Moral philosophy) is that branch of philosophy which addresses questions about morality. The word 'ethics' is "commonly used interchangeably with 'morality' ... and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the Moral principles of a particular tradition, group, or individual." Likewise, certain types of ethical theories, especially deontological ethics, sometimes distinguish between 'ethics' and 'morals': "Although the morality of people and their ethics amounts to the same thing, there is a usage that restricts morality to systems such as that of Kant, based on notions such as duty, obligation, and principles of conduct, reserving ethics for the more Aristotelian approach to practical reasoning, based on the notion of a Virtue, and generally avoiding the separation of 'Moral' considerations from other practical considerations." Although the words are often used as synonyms, morals are beliefs based on practices or teachings regarding how people conduct themselves in personal relationships and in society, while ethics refers to a set or system of principles, or a philosophy or theory behind them. When comparing morality with ethics, the word ethics is often used to refer to a philosophical analysis of a particular morality, especially when the formal definition is applied.
Descriptive and normative


    In its descriptive sense, "morality" refers to personal or cultural values, codes of conduct or social mores. It does not connote objective claims of right or wrong, but only refers to that which is considered right or wrong. Descriptive ethics is the branch of philosophy which studies morality in this sense.
    In its normative sense, "morality" refers to whatever (if anything) is actually right or wrong, which may be independent of the values or mores held by any particular peoples or cultures. Normative ethics is the branch of philosophy which studies morality in this sense.

Realism and anti-realism

Philosophical theories on the nature and origins of morality (that is, theories of meta-ethics) are broadly divided into two classes:

    Moral realism is the class of theories which hold that there are true Moral statements that report objective Moral facts. For example, while they might concede that forces of social conformity significantly shape individuals' "Moral" decisions, they deny that those cultural norms and customs define morally right behavior. This may be the philosophical view propounded by ethical naturalists, however not all Moral realists accept that position (e.g. ethical non-naturalists).
    Moral anti-realism, on the other hand, holds that Moral statements either fail or do not even attempt to report objective Moral facts. Instead, they hold that Moral claims are derived either from an unsupported belief that there are objective Moral facts (error theory, a Form of Moral nihilism); the speakers' sentiments (emotivism, a Form of Moral relativism); or any one of the norms prevalent in society (ethical subjectivism, another Form of Moral relativism).

Theories which claim that morality is derived from reasoning about implied imperatives (universal prescriptivism), the edicts of a God (divine command theory), or the hypothetical decrees of a perfectly rational being (ideal observer theory), are considered anti-realist in the robust sense used here, but are considered realist in the sense synonymous with Moral Universalism.