Ethics was currently divided into two main groups with respect to the time frame in which the ethical concepts belongs or discussed. The first of this two is what we commonly called as “traditional ethics” or most commonly referred to as classical ethics. It ranges from the time of the ancient Greek up until the years of the 19th century. It was basically composed of three philosophic trends that include, Nicomachean Ethics, Deontological Ethics and Utilitarianism.
Nicomachean ethics talks about virtue as the guiding principle in which one would achieve “Eudaemonia” a Greek term that designates happiness.
In this context the individual can be morally right or wrong depending on his/her reasons for doing such actions. It is also believe in this theory that happiness is the end that humans should move forward to. Its main proponent is Aristotle.
Deontological Ethics, on the other hand, refers to the duty-bound concept of morality. It states that we have responsibilities for our actions and that a right or moral action is when we treat others as ends in themselves and not as means in achieving a certain end.
Kant had been the promoter of this idea. According to him, one should act so that his action can be applied universally.
The last part of the traditional Ethics was based on a counter Kantian ideals and an emphasis towards utility. It is a sort of reiteration and synthesis of the two first theories. Utilitarianism as it was so called, aims to promote “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people”, a principle that withholds the idea of morality as a form of utility.
The second group or category of ethics is “modern ethics”, a period in philosophy staring from the early 20th century; it can be summed up by the advent of Cultural Relativism and the promotion of Egoism and debates concerning altruism. Cultural Relativism discusses that morality is dependent on each and every culture. Egoism or Ethical Egoism to be more précised, talks about the human’s egoistical self or self-interest is the basis or source of all human actions.
Traditional ethics can be identified with the unifying trend of all human behavior. As can be seen at the above discussion, ethics either resulted from, virtue, duties or utility. On modern ethics, we are presented by the diversity of culture that presents a conflict on the universal notion of morality. This move towards relativism has in turn initiated the move towards subjectivism as can be found in the Ethical Egoistic Theory. Both ethical developments have probed the origin of morality as well as its role in the society.
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