We usually think of ethics as a branch of philosophy and philosophy as a branch of the humanities. This presentation explores the idea that ethics might be better understood as a social science than as one of the humanities. As a branch of philosophy, ethics is often taken to be an exploration of theories of right and wrong action and the application of those theories to particular moral dilemmas. The construction of theories or the application of theory to dilemmas, however, do not seem to have much effect on how people actually behave. In order to move beyond knowing what is right to doing what is right we must explore a wide range of factors that go well beyond theories of right and wrong. These factors include the development of empathy, the exploration of motives, and the development of such character traits or virtues as courage, compassion, honesty, thoughtfulness, temperance, loyalty, and friendship. These factors also include overcoming such character traits or vices as anger, laziness, gluttony, envy, lust, greed, and pride—what we sometimes identify as the seven deadly sins—as well as cowardice, manipulation of others, and our response to loneliness. This approach to ethics might be identified with moral psychology in general. How scientific such an approach to ethics might be remains a problem.
|Keywords:||Virtues, Moral Psychology, Character, Science|
Professor of Philosophy and Religion, The College of Arts & Sciences, The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA