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Ethics (from an Ancient Greek word for custom) is one of the major branches of modern philosophy. It concerns the nature and origin of moral behavior, and concepts such as "right" and "wrong", goodness and justice, etc.

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The word ethical essentially means good or morally acceptable. Some non-religious people prefer to use the word ethical instead of moral because of the religious overtones implicit (to a significant segment of the population, anyway) in the former term. (See also You can't be moral without God.)

Meta-ethics and the basis of ethical judgment[edit]

Meta-ethics concerns the concept of ethics itself, including:

  1. the meaning of the terms good, right, moral, and ethical;
  2. whether moral/ethical judgments are absolute or subjective in nature; and
  3. how moral/ethical judgments can be supported or defended.[1]

Major ethical theories[edit]

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Moral realism 
holds that values exist independently of humans and may be known either intuitively or empirically.
Ethical subjectivism 
holds there are no absolute values and that values are therefore inherently subjective and/or determined by a privileged observer or entity (God, society, the individual).
  • Moral relativism is a special type of ethical subjectivist stance in which society is seen as the ultimate arbiter of ethical values.
  • Interestingly, the idea that morality comes from God, which is proposed by many religious detractors of moral relativism, is also an ethical subjectivist viewpoint.

v · d Philosophy
History of philosophy   Ancient Greek philosophy · Rationalism · Post Modernism · Utilitarianism · Existentialism · Objectivism · Metaphysics of quality · Humanism · Transhumanism
Famous philosophers   Ned Block · Daniel Dennett · René Descartes · Paul Draper · Epicurus · David Hume · Immanuel Kant · Karl Marx · Thomas Nagel · Friedrich Nietzsche · Bertrand Russell · John Searle · Baruch Spinoza · W.V.O. Quine
Existence   Reality · Mind-body dualism · Purpose of existence · Value of life · Solipsism
Morality and ethics   Ethics of Aristotle · Relative morality · Objective morality · Golden rule
Epistemology   Belief · Truth · Justification · A priori · A posteriori · Observation · Analysis · Synthesis · Absolute certainty · Information theory · Plato's Apology of Socrates · Atheists cannot know anything