The Source of Ethics

Quality selection articles

1. Introduction – Scope

Ethics is one of the most controversial subjects of philosophy, mainly because of its immediate relation to our everyday lives. You can hardly find a person who has not postulated on what is “good” or “bad”, on what is “right” or “wrong”, “ethical” or “immoral”. The goal of this paper is not to present a full analysis of moral theories or to give any advice. The purpose of this article is to present the basic principles of ethics philosophy, so as to show the reader what are the main possible explanations of why we want to be good (or bad)… Or in other words: to present a list of potential “sources of ethics”. At the end, the conclusions are more than astounding. What seems to be important is not the answer to the question “What is the source of ethics?” but ethics itself! And the answer to this question can only come from outside the realm in which the answer is born…

2. Definitions of Ethics

Ethics (Gr. ta ethika, <= ethos), also referred to as moral philosophy, is that study or discipline which concerns itself with judgments of approval and disapproval, judgments as to the rightness or wrongness, goodness or badness, virtue or vice, desirability or wisdom of actions, dispositions, ends, objects, or states of affairs. There are two main directions which this study may take. It may concern itself with a psychological or sociological analysis and explanation of our ethical judgments, showing what our approvals and disapprovals consist of and why we approve or disapprove what we do. Or it may concern itself with establishing or recommending certain courses of action, ends, or ways of life as to be taken or pursued, either as right or as good or as virtuous or as wise, as over against others which are wrong, bad, vicious, or foolish. Here the interest is more in action than in approval, and more in the guidance of action than in its explanation, the purpose being to find or set up some ideal or standard of conduct or character, some good or end or summum bonum, some ethical criterion or first principle. In many philosophers these two approaches are combined. The first is dominant or nearly so in the ethics of Hume, Schopenhauer, the evolutionists, Westermarck, and of M. Schlick and other recent positivists, while the latter is dominant in the ethics of most other moralists. [1]


3. The source of Ethics

Many philosophers tried to explain what “ethics” is and what is its source. However, as it is often the case with philosophers, an agreement was not reached. The notion of “good” or “ethical/ moral”seems to elude most thinking people of our day, even though it is such a “common” term. It seems that the most basic concepts – like the one of “morality” which is the foundation of all human civilizations – are the hardest to define. And maybe that is why they are so much important… The main theories are discussed below in summary, so as to give the reader the basis for his/ her own philosophical inquiries.

Selection of Ethics-related articles

3.1 Ethics as human nature

Some philosophers thought of “goodness” as something ‘natural’ to humans. From their perspective, doing good is what we naturally do if we are brought up properly by our parents. Of course “properly” has many interpretations – however it is true that most of us agree to some “universal” and “basic” concepts of morality, like the “do not kill other people” principle – no matter what our other beliefs are.

RELATED ARTICLE: FISH. BEACH. DEATH. (Inaction as a source of evil)

One of the greatest philosophers, Socrates, posited that people will naturally do what is good, if they know what is right. Evil or bad actions, are the result of ignorance. If a criminal were truly aware of the mental and spiritual consequences of his actions, he would neither commit nor even consider committing them. Any person who knows what is truly right will automatically do it, according to Socrates. While he correlated knowledge with virtue, he similarly equated virtue with happiness. The truly wise man will know what is right, do what is good and therefore be happy. [2]The tool towards that “good” was self-knowledge. Socrates insisted that every person must reach into himself and learn himself (the infamous “Know thyself” <= Greek “Γνώθι σ’ εαυτόν”). We must all turn our attention from the outside world to our inner “world” because this is the only way to know what is really “good” for us.


3.2 Ethics as “living good”

Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. But he rejects Plato’s idea that a training in the sciences and metaphysics is a necessary prerequisite for a full understanding of our good. What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons. Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We also must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion. [3]

The principal idea with which Aristotle begins is that there are differences of opinion about what is best for human beings, and that to profit from ethical inquiry we must resolve this disagreement.


He insists that ethics is not a theoretical discipline: we are asking what the good for human beings is not simply because we want to have knowledge, but because we will be better able to achieve our good if we develop a fuller understanding of what it is to flourish. In raising this question—what is the good?—Aristotle is not looking for a list of items that are good. He assumes that such a list can be compiled rather easily; most would agree, for example, that it is good to have friends, to experience pleasure, to be healthy, to be honored, and to have such virtues as courage at least to some degree. The difficult and controversial question arises when we ask whether certain of these goods are more desirable than other

The “highest good”

It is not difficult to find things that are “good”-to-have. For example having friends, having health or having courage are things that most people would agree that are “good”. However who cannot agree that being sick is also as good as being healthy sometimes? (see Harmonia Philosophica – English ).

Aristotle’s search for the good is a search for the highest good. The great philosopher assumes that the highest good, whatever it turns out to be, has three main characteristics: it is desirable for itself, it is not desirable for the sake of some other good, and all other goods are desirable for its sake.

The goal is Eudaimonia

Aristotle thinks everyone will agree that the terms “eudaimonia” [Gr.ευδαιμονία](“happiness”) and “eu zên” [Gr. ευ ζην](“living well”) designate such an end. The Greek term “eudaimon” is composed of two parts: “eu” means “well” and “daimon” means “divinity” or “spirit.” To be ‘eudaimon’ (Gr. ευδαίμων) is therefore to be living in a way that is well-favored by a god. But Aristotle never calls attention to this etymology, and it seems to have little influence on his thinking. He regards “eudaimon” as a mere substitute for ‘eu zên’ (“living well”). These terms play an evaluative role, and are not simply descriptions of someone’s state of mind.

No one tries to live well for the sake of some further goal; rather, being eudaimon is the highest end , and all subordinate goals—health, wealth, and other such resources—are sought because they promote well-being, not because they are what well-being consists in. But unless we can determine which good or goods happiness consists in, it is of little use to acknowledge that it is the highest end. The biological fact Aristotle makes use of is that human beings are the only species that has not only lower capacities but a rational soul as well. The good of a human being must have something to do with being human; and what sets humanity off from other species, giving us the potential to live a better life, is our capacity to guide ourselves by using reason. If we use reason well, we live well as human beings; or, to be more precise, using reason well over the course of a full life is what happiness consists in. Doing anything well requires virtue or excellence, and therefore living well consists in activities caused by the rational soul in accordance with virtue or excellence.

In summary, for Aristotle eudaimonia was all about practicing your virtues to the greatest possible extent. Everything for Aristotle has a telos (goal), so doing your best towards achieving this goal is your… goal!

Aristotle’s conclusion about the nature of happiness is in a sense uniquely his own. No other writer or thinker had said precisely what he says about what it is to live well.

But at the same time his view is not too distant from a common idea… [3]


Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace. Oscar Wilde

3.3 Ethics as an “a priori” truth

Some philosophers view ethics as an “a priori” truth, i.e. like something that we have embedded in us as “knowledge” prior to any physical or social experience (see “Religion and Science Unification” for more on “a priori” and “a posteriori” notions). That knowledge is what drives us into behaving good or bad during our life. Philosopher Kant played a major role in that part. In this case the inherent validity of an invisible but imperative moral law is what drives us into being good (or have guilt for being bad).

The “duty” of Kant

The 18 th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant is a case in point. Although emotional factors often do influence our conduct, he argued, we should nevertheless resist that kind of sway. Instead, true moral action is motivated only by reason when it is free from emotions and desires.


In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant’s method involves trying to convert our everyday, obvious, rational knowledge of morality into philosophical knowledge. His methods include the use of”practical reason”, which is based only upon things about which reason can tell us, without deriving any principles from experience, to reach conclusions which are able to be applied to the world of experience. Kant argued that there is a more fundamental principle of duty that encompasses our particular duties. Kant is known for his theory that there is a single, self-evident principle of reason that he calls the “Categorical Imperative”. [4] Categorical imperatives are principles that are intrinsically valid; they are good in and of themselves; they must be obeyed in all situations and circumstances if our behavior is to observe the moral law. It is from the Categorical Imperative that all other moral obligations are generated, and by which all moral obligations can be tested.He believed that the moral law is a principle of reason itself, and is not based on contingent facts about the world, such as what would make us happy, but to act upon the moral law which has no other motive than “worthiness of being happy”. Accordingly, he believed that moral obligation applies to all and only rational agents. [5]

A categorical imperative, he argued, is fundamentally different from hypothetical imperatives that hinge on some personal desire that we have, for example, “If you want to get a good job, then you ought to go to college.” By contrast, a categorical imperative simply mandates an action, irrespective of one’s personal desires, such as “You ought to do X” (for example: “you should always tell the truth”). Kant gives at least four versions of the categorical imperative, but one of them is especially direct:

Treat people as an end, and never as a means to an end. [4]

In summary, Kant believed that ethics is all about living according to rules which can be generalized. And for Kant, only rules based on ‘logos’ could achieve this generalization.

RELATED ARTICLE: Ethics, Robots, Free will…

Of course this view, as any other view which tries to find the source of ethics without referring to God, has a major problem: It does not answer anything about the Source of ethics, but it just pushes the problem back. Surely Logos is something wonderful to base ethics upon, but where is Logos itself based on? What happens when my logic is different than yours?


The Moral Law of God

Theistic philosophers have for a long time postulated the view that morality and ethics are intrinsic qualities of being human and that the very existence of such a “moral law” denotes the existence of a “law-maker”. Although I will not analyze the argument for the existence of a God here (this is out of scope for this article, please refer to other philosophy articles I have written for an analysis of these ideas and arguments), I will make a summary analysis of the “inherent ethics” theological claim.

READ ALSO:  Germans, Nazi, good, bad…


In particular, many claim that there is a massive unanimity of the ethics practical reason in man and that this indicates the inherent (a priori) nature of ethics in us. From the Babylonian Hymn to Samos, the laws of Manu, from the Book of the Dead to the Analects, from the Stoics to the Platonists, from Australian Aborigines to Redskins, one sees the same monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery and falsehood; the same injunctions of kindness to the aged, the young and the weak. In some unusual cultures the law takes on surprising trapping (e.g. witch burning) – yet when surveyed closely these apparent aberrations can be seen to arise from strongly held but misguided conclusions about who is good or evil. [6][7]

The critique of such a “theistic” approach is intense, especially in today’s (dogmatically) anti-religious era. If such an “a priori” knowledge of good exists, then what has set it to existence? Are we to do good simply because we are afraid of our “punishment” by a higher “judge”? This seems a bit shallow.

But again, the exact opposite could be more shallow…


Ethics NOT based on the judgement of a higher ‘judge’ is not ethics at all; it is just personal opinion. Some people do some things simply because they feel like doing them, others do not do the same things simply because they do not feel like doing them. This is what humans do, in the same way they select what they like to eat in the morning or what they want to wear.

Ethical laws which are not “laws” (i.e. set and imposed by something of ‘higher essence’) are not… laws at all. This is almost tautological in nature and should be self-evident, but for most people it is not. If we accept the atheistic opinion that no ethical laws are written by the hand of the God, then there are no no solid ethics whatsoever. In that case where a non-human lawmaker of morality does not exist, we just have human laws which simply change all the time based on the human will. Anything which is build on continuously shifting foundations is subject to collapse. As simple as that. In the old days, human laws stated that is was legal to have slaves, that it was legal to kill Jews, that it was legal to segregate between white and black people. Human laws seem to be arbitrarily selected truths, changing all the time as per our taste of good.

But can good and ethical be a matter of taste?

Moral Laws as absolute truth

The above-mentioned theistic ideas of the “eternal” nature of the true moral laws are based on the same notion of “objects” Plato proposed. For example Plato explained the eternal character of mathematics by stating that they are abstract entities that exist in a spirit-like realm. He noted that moral values also are absolute truths and thus are also abstract, spirit-like entities. In this sense, for Plato, moral values are spiritual objects. Medieval philosophers commonly grouped all moral principles together under the heading of “eternal law” which were also frequently seen as spirit-like objects. [4]


3.4 Ethics as selfish desires

One important area of moral psychology concerns the inherent selfishness of humans. 17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes held that many, if not all, of our actions are prompted by selfish desires. Even if an action seems selfless, such as donating to charity, there are still selfish causes for this, such as experiencing power over other people.


This view is called psychological egoism” and maintains that self-oriented interests ultimately motivate all human actions. Closely related to psychological egoism is a view called psychological hedonism which is the view that pleasure is the specific driving force behind all of our actions. 18th century British philosopher Joseph Butler agreed that instinctive selfishness and pleasure prompt much of our conduct. However, Butler argued that we also have an inherent psychological capacity to show benevolence to others. This view is called psychological altruism and maintains that at least some of our actions are motivated by instinctive benevolence. [4]

3.5 Ethics as a creation of society

Normative ethics involves arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. In a sense, it is a search for an ideal litmus test of proper behavior. The Golden Rule is a classic example of a normative principle: We should do to others what we would want others to do to us. Since I do not want my neighbor to steal my car, then it is wrong for me to steal her car. [4] Many people claim that being good is just a result of society calling you to behave in a certain way. No “a priori” truths, no “final causes” (eudaimonia), no inner human nature (see Socrates), just plain society pressure to be “proper”… [8]

There are many philosophers who postulated ideas about how society does formulate or should formulate ethics…

  • Locke spoke about how humans have some inherent rights, which they manage to cultivate and protect through a social contract, which in turns gives the state power to create laws to which we must abide.
  • Rousseau also spoke about this social contract, which makes us all come together under the umbrella of a society which then in turn defines what is ethical and what is not.
  • Kelsen spoke about the hierarchical nature of laws, which gives laws their… lawfulness. Hart attributed the validity of the highest law to the real event that some people where organized in a state.
  • Hobbes spoke about the Leviathan – the state – which is what keeps people safe from dying. The state which of course then defines ethics.
  • Hume as an empiricist, talked about how justice was in fact an artificial idea and that our logos is essentially bound to the pathi of our emotions. He thought we cannot deduce what is justice by reason alone. (so by denying this ability, he simply gave up the definition of what is just to the society)
  • Even many ancient Greeks adhered to the idea that justice is simply something decided and imposed by the powerful (Threaymachous, Gr. Θρασύμαχος).

Again, even though this type of solution to the problem seems logical, it leads to dead-ends as the atheistic opinion that no “lawmaker” of ethics exists (see above). What seems logically moral for a society, might seem totally immoral for another! Basing morality to the likes of society is like basing good taste to the likes of fashion…

At the end, it is up to the individual to decide whether he/ she accepts the rules of society or not. But besides the astounding philosophical shortcomings of such a proposal (which reduces everything to the subjectivity of a person and to the potential shallowness of a society), there are also many practical implications: Can a society founded on the rules it imposes on itself ever be stable? A valid question to which an equally valid answer may exist: Can any society based on rules it does not impose on itself ever be stable enough?

Models & Rules for deciding ethically

There are many “Ethical Decision-Making Models” which are based on the instructions of society for what is good and what is bad. These models help you decide the ethical thing to do when you are in the tight spot.

For example such a model could ask the following questions to help you decide the “ethical” decision:

Are you treating others as you would want to be treated? Would you be comfortable if your reasoning and decision were to be publicized? Would you be comfortable if your children were observing you? [9]

Others have postulated “rules” that could be applied in order to reach an ethical decision. One of these rules is the utility principle (also known as the “greatest happiness principle”) which favors actions that produce “the greatest good for the greatest number of people”. Ethical reasoning, consequently, consists of attempting to quantify happiness, and choosing actions that maximize it. [10]This rule is a result of social impulses that have been crystallized into a phrase that puts what society “wants” (as a unified set) above what a person might view as “ethical” or “good”. Another very well known society-based rule is the “do not do to others what you don’t want others do to you” rule.

Some of these models and rules are indeed useful guides. But one should remember that a simple model cannot tell you how to behave correctly in all situations. Human judgement and self-awareness is required. The more you attempt to analyze something the more you lose its meaning and significance as a whole. No matter how much you analyze hydrogen and oxygen, you will never understand the wetness of water…


3.6 Ethics without ethical code

The post-modern philosophers argue that there is no absolutes rights or wrongs and that all ethical decisions are relative. However if this is the truth and no ultimate truth exists, if there is no absolute right or wrong,then should we be discussing about ethics at all? According to Bauman, the essence of the postmodern approach to ethics lies not in the abandoning of characteristically modern moral concerns, but in the rejection of the typically modern ways of going about its moral problems (that is, responding to moral challenges with coercive normative regulation in political practice, and the philosophical search for absolutes, universals and foundations in theory). Postmodern ethics is thus, to use Bauman’s phrase, ‘morality without ethical code’.

RELATED ARTICLE: “The fallacy of education as a source of ethics” mentioned in Harmonia Philosophica papers.

Human reality is messy and ambiguous – and so moral decisions, unlike abstract ethical principles, are ambivalent. It is in this sort of world that we must live. Knowing that to be the truth is to be postmodern. Post-modernity, one may say, is modernity without illusions (the obverse of which is that modernity is post-modernity refusing to accept its own truth). The illusions in question boil down to the belief that the “messiness” of the human world is but a temporary and repairable state, sooner or later to be replaced by the orderly and systematic rule of reason. The truth in question is that the “messiness” will stay whatever we do or know, that the little orders and “systems” we carve out in the world are as arbitrary and in the end contingent as their alternatives. [11] Post-modernism surely gives a new perspective in ethics…

4. Conclusion

The conclusion is that from a philosophical point of view, unfortunately… there is no conclusion! Philosophers have not agreed on the source of ethics and neither have people. Even though the notions of good and bad are so close to us, they are still the hardest to define… And that is why perhaps the extensive analysis of the matter draws us more and more away from the source of ethics. There are many reasons for a person to do good to his fellow humans. But philosophy cannot help us substantiate or justify any of them. Only through self-knowledge can someone begin understanding why he might want to be good instead of evil. If someone wants to start dealing with ethics, philosophy is the best place to initialize his search, but not the place to end his quest. Ethics was and still is the most important subject for our everyday lives and one can only approach it via the irrationality of realms of knowledge beyond the inherent limitations of philosophy. The wisdom of doing the right thing passes through the dark alleys of knowledge available only to those who accept that they posses no knowledge. What is ethical is comprehensible only from those who believe in ethics (read again “The moral law of God” for some hints on where that believe might lead, or where it might stem from) without the need to (philosophically) understand ethics and justify their actions.

At the end the greatest men simply accepted their death.

Without giving any explanation for that.

Life is life. Ethics is ethics.

There is good and bad. Evil and kindness.

And living is the only way of knowing them.

The great philosophical questions of humankind can wait…

Or perhaps these are the greatest philosophical questions…

At the end, perhaps not all things are to be explained.

Perhaps logic and philosophy have their limits.

Not all things are to be analyzed and understood.

Love. Forgive. Smile. Cry.

Be a good person!

Does it matter why?


  1. Dictionary of Philosophy, Dagobert D. Runes, 1942, New York, USA
  2. Ethics [Wikipedia article]
  3. Aristotle’s Ethics [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
  4. Ethics [The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
  5. Kant [Wikipedia article]
  6. The language of God – A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Francis Collins, 2007, UK.
  7. Mere christianity, C.S.Lewis, 1943
  8. Ethics in Society at Large []
  9. Ethics Scoreboard Rule Book
  10. Knol – Ethics for IT Professionals: Part 1
  11. Ethics in the Postmodern World

Continue your reading!

  • Go to Navigate Harmonia page to see some how to find interesting posts!
  • Browse the Articles List to see a list of the main articles.
  • Go here to see the Facebook community of Harmonia Philosophica!

Comments (


  1. Is there a black elephant in the room?

    […] RELATED ARTICLE: The source of ethics […]

  2. How to easily beat an atheist in a debate… – Harmonia Philosophica

    […] The source of ethics: Are you a good person because God told you so, or because you just feel like it? […]

  3. Why do good people suffer? | Harmonia Philosophica

    […] The Source of Ethics […]

  4. Narayana Rao

    Interesting theme — Conclusion does not do justice to the theme.Section 3.5 requires better references. You mentioned at the starting that there is psychological analysis and sociological analysis. May be section 3.5 is sociological analysis. Of course my knowledge of this subject is very limited. I am learning the subject myself and in the process do collect materials.I gave this knol’s reference in two knols of mine.Ethics and morals Ethics interest in Environmental Ethics is that there was a discussion about the subject yesterday only in our curriculum committee meeting. All the information included in this knol comes from the reference that you gave in your knol. Thank you.

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks for the comments. I will certainly incorporate your suggestions to the next versions of the Knol. I too am in the process of learning the subject, so the content will also be improved in the near future. I already updated the references and the the interesting web places.

  5. Anonymous

    Untitled — Hi Spiros, βέβαιος Αυτό είναι ένα σκέτο knol. Γράψτε πιο σύντομα! Είμαι πιθανώς δίνοντας την ψήφο μου.

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Ευχαριστώ! Thanks!

  6. Norman Creaney

    Utilitarianism — You have covered a lot of ground here but I’m puzzled that there is no mention utilitarianism (J Bentham, JS Mill).I have a related knol – which is much narrower in scope than yours – where you can find a discussion of utilitarianism:

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks very much! The article is not complete and as I go on I will surely add more things. I will check out your Knol and maybe put a link of reference to it in future versions.Update [9/4/2009 – 16:03 Greece Time]: I have updated the article and I have used your Knol as a bibliographical reference for utilitarianism. Thanks again.

  7. Andreas Kemper

    Best Knol of the Month Competition – April 2009 — Hello Spiros KakosSomeone is voting for your Knol. The Competition ends April 30. can also make proposals or vote for your own or other Knols.BestAndreas Kemper

  8. Anonymous

    Volition — Ethics are a result in belief in Volition.In the East, with belief that there is NO VOLITION, Ethics are just part of the hypnotic drama. UNREAL. “Events Happen, Deeds Are Done, BUT There is NO Individual Doer Thereof” — Buddha in Lakavatara Sutra. When there is NO VOLITION (Non Doership), then there is no question of Ethics !!! Its all a Divine Drama 🙂

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks for the comment! So you believe that there is no volition? Could you expand on that?

  9. Andreas Kemper

    Best Knol of the Month Contest – May 2009 — Hello Spiros Kakos!Someone is voting for your Knol. The Contest ends May 31. can also make proposals or vote for your own or other Knols.BestAndreas Kemper

  10. Sajid Khan

    Know thyself or become thy true self? — A new source of ethics.As you have rightly pointed out according to tradition ethics can be defined as human nature, as an effort to live good, as an ‘a priori’ truth, as a creation of society etc. Ethics can also be described as that quality of human nature that is generated by the highest super mature emotional brain. Moral values can be based on the character traits of the super mature emotional brain. A premature brain is totally self centered, a immature brain is corrupt , a mature brain generates a trophy self image and a super mature brain generates a selfless human being. The qualities of a super mature brain are the same as those of a self master and a wise human being. A wise human being does not only know himself he is the very personification of moral values! He does not need to know what is good or bad his behavior is 24/7 ethical. In this context become thyself should be the goal of ethics education.Many a times even a premature brain knows good from bad yet it does not understand what is good behavior and its ignorance compels it to act in a bad manner. It is the quality of the brain that decides what is good or bad for the person. Your knol is 5 star!

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — The brain and emotions are two very difficult subjects to analyze. You have made good efforts so far to analyze both. Thanks for the comment and keep on knoling yourself!

  11. Andreas Kemper

    Best Knol of the Month May 2009 — Congratulation!Spiros, your Knol is the winner of the Contest Best Knol of the Month May 2009! This Knol gets 6 Votes and the first place!In the next days you get Knol Translation Points.You know how to write good Knols. So please nominate new candidates for the June-Contest and help to find the best Knols by voting.

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks! I will. Keep up the good work yourself!

  12. Klaus Rohde

    Compassion (Mitleid) — You mention Schopenhauer, but not a word about what he said: genuine morality is based on compassion. In this he agrees with Hinduism and Buddhism.See:

  13. Andreas Kemper

    Knol Translation Points — Hi Spiros KakosYou get 59.856 Knol Translation Points for The Best Knol of the Month May 2009.This Translations Points are part of a virtual exchange trading system.You can find your account on this site: you can use it here: nominate and vote Knols in the July-Contest:

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks!

  14. Zia Shah

    Nuremberg Trial — Andrew Conway Ivy (1893-1978) was appointed by the American Medical Association as its representative at the 1946 Nuremberg Medical Trial for Nazi doctors. He became vice president of the University of Illinois, responsible for the medicine, dentistry and pharmacy schools. From 1939 to 1941 he was president of the American Physiological Society. By 1945 he was probably ‘the most famous doctor in the country.’ He wrote in one of his articles:”Only in a moral world, a world of responsibility, can man be free and live as a human being should. Men are truly equal and free only as creatures of God, because only as the children of God and only in the sight of God and ultimate moral law are men truly equal. If God and the ultimate moral law are denied, there can be no absolute argument against slavery, against ‘might makes right’ and man’s greedy exploitation of man. If human beings have no absolute intrinsic value, no absolute intrinsic freedom of decision, no absolute liberty, no absolute duties, they possess only extrinsic value and may be used as chattels, slaves or serfs by those who have the intelligence and power. Rights given to man by God can be taken away only by God, but rights given to man by man or man-made institutions can be denied or taken away by man or man-made institutions. Unless inalienable rights come from the Ultimate, from the Creator, it is irrational to say that human beings have rights which no manmade institution may ignore or deny. Man has no absolute claim of intrinsic worth and dignity, no absolute duties and responsibilities, except as a creature of God.Is the brotherhood of man a concession of a man-made materialistic State, with expediency the only guide of individual and governmental conduct? Or is it derived from the Fatherhood of God? Which source will guarantee it the greatest permanency? Does freedom come from freedom of the spirit, from freedom of decision of the individual mind? Or is it a concession of a materialistic society?How can freedom of choice and liberty exist when a person is a creature of the State? In the absence of a belief in the intrinsic worth and dignity of the individual, moral enormities and atrocities occur, and are justified by the doctrine of ‘superior orders’ and the doctrine that the welfare of the State is the supreme good and end, and that the end justifies any means. This was the dilemma at Nuremberg. How could the Nazi leaders and doctors who were responsible for the atrocities be indicted and convicted when they were obeying Nazi law and orders? They could be indicted and convicted only under the Eternal Natural Law of God, called in condescension to the atheistic Russian representatives the Laws of Humanity. If man-made law is the sole source of basic human rights, why condemn the Nazi assault on Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and political enemies? Why condemn the assault on the Hungarian Patriots? Under Nazi laws Jews had no rights. Under Red Communist laws the Hungarian Patriots had no rights. Under the communist governments behind the ‘iron curtain’ no human being has inalienable rights. If inalienable rights exist, what made them inalienable? If man did not create the world, how can he delegate to himself the creation of his worth, dignity, rights, duties, freedom of choice, and liberty? You always get into a causal chain which leads to God unless you arbitrarily dismiss it from consideration before you arrive.We see too much evidence in contemporary American life indicating that the American form of democracy is being undermined. It is being slowly secularized and deprived of its religious and spiritual foundation. There are too many attempts in the Western World to preserve the inviolability of human rights after surrendering or denying their ultimate Divine source. The spiritual capital and the fruits of Christianity cannot survive if their roots are destroyed, or mutilated, or left uncultivated.”The article can be read online:

  15. Zia Shah

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Islam — With the election of a son of a Kenyan man to the highest office in USA we see gradual perfection of the vision expressed in the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” But at the same time, suicidal bombings by terrorist, the outrageous violations of human rights in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the indifference to the so called collateral damage in air bombings, have again rekindled the question as to what are the human rights and where do they come from. The events since September 11, 2001 have jolted every citizen of the planet earth with renewed quaking and put them on a quest to look for answers. Is life of an American more sacred than a non-American? What if he or she is a Muslim? Are all humans truly created equal? Where did the words, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;’ come from? To one exposed to Western propaganda only these words came from the pen of President Thomas Jefferson, as he authored United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. But a more cultured Westerner may know what Wikipedia mentions, under the heading all men are created equal, “Many of the ideas in the Declaration were borrowed from the English liberal political philosopher John Locke.” But that is where Western scholarship ends. Locke lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Such is the dissociation of the Western writers in terms of ignoring the beauties of Islam, that they can attribute all such liberal ideas with a straight face to Western philosophers, despite the fact the Muslim literature has been replete with mention of the Holy Prophet Muhammad saying to a crowd of more than a hundred thousand people, at the time of the final pilgrimage, an event that itself symbolizes human equality, “All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they may belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal. Allah has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided. An Arab has no preference over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one.” The whole of his sermon is recorded in history and has been more famous and cherished than the Gettysburg address in the Muslim world over the centuries. This is where human equality began, not only for the Muslims but for the whole of humanity! To read the rest of the story go to:

  16. Rudy Aunk

    You did not start your “Source of Ethics at the beginning. — The title of your knol “The Source of Ethics” leads one to expect a full discussion of Morality/ethics but it seems you make the same error made in most government, I mean public, schools in the West. You only address morality/ethics from the Western Worldview perspective, because you fail to start at the beginning of the discussion in recorded history. “…This article presents the basic principles of ethics philosophy in an understandable way for everyone to read. From Aristotle to Kant …” You should know that people studied and wrote about philosophy and ethics and had worked it out over thousands of years before the individuals you mentioned put their first pen to African paper. You did not mention any of the great lovers of wisdom from Classical African Civilization, Kemet (Ancient Egypt/Nubia), You did not mention , Ti huti’s work which, Aristotle’s is based on, or Imhotep, the three times great, or the great philosopher Hypatia daughter of Theon, or even the African head librarian at the library in Alexandria. You will recall that the biggest single library cost at Alexandria, was translation from the African language Metu Neter (Hieroglyphics). For more then 10,000 years the metu neter symbol of morality/ethics in the known civilized world was a feather, and written as Ma’at. I did a knol that I recommend you and your readers look into. It strikes me that thinking individuals would wish to compare 10, 000 years of thinking and writing against the 2,000 years, starting with novice students like Aristotle, that the West has spent on the subject. Serious study of any subject starts with having the full recorded history of inquiry into the subject matter at hand and working forward. No university for instance, would start a computer 101 class beginning the history of computers with the Iphone 4. If so, it would be said, that the students did not receive the richest learning experience possible. Here is a link tell me what you think. all learning must start at the beginning, is self-evident.

    1. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — Thanks for the comment and the interesting things you say. I am indeed member of the Western civilization and thus maybe somewhat biased, but I make good efforts not to be. However understand that the theory that philosophy started with the Greeks is not mine or the theory of a Western minority. It is the widely accepted theory in the philosophy circles worldwide. I understand that knowledge and wisdom exist everywhere, but not that Aristotle was a novice student. I understand that ancient Egypt had great people, but the first structured philosophical *systems* were formulated in Greece. I carefully read your Knol, it is interesting. I knew that ethical laws existed everywhere and anytime where humans were. But some commandments is not the same as a philosophy system which explains why people should or are ethical, which is the subject of this article. Would be eager to see some sources of such philosophical systems if they exist so that I can embed them in my Knol.

  17. Felsen Axt

    Morality as human instinct for interpersonal interactions … — I notice in the discussion of ethics that the notion that ethics evolved is rarely mentioned. It solves a number of questions. For instance most people note that animals seem to operate wholly, or nearly so, by instinct. This is a necessity for most nonhuman animals because they simply lack the brain power for reasoning. It is assumed that humans do not really on instinct so heavily. I wonder if this is so. Humans are social animals. Our large helpless infants and long childhood require it. As reasoning animals we do not require as many instincts involved with survival. However, handling the complex interpersonal interactions of human society would consume the majority of our mental resources. Such a framework is necessary; evolution does not work toward the good of an individual but toward the good of one’s progeny. Thus we are provided with a reason for self sacrifice for the good of the whole because with out the whole neither ourselves or our children would be unlikely to survive. Ethics, I believe, can best be defined as: the philosophical study of how man should respond to the modern world in order satisfactualy meet the aim of man’s innate instincts, as well as the instincts themselves.

    1. Felsen Axt

      Untitled — Well i based on what i see of the evidence i disagree. In any case I apreciate the civility your comment shows. Often you can’t even hit your space button without someone thowing insults at you.

    2. Anonymous

      Untitled — Never has solved any problem, the notion of innate evolved morality is unproven scientifically ,I am not ignoring any fact, because there is not.

    3. Felsen Axt

      Untitled — It does not create any problems. It solves every one of them. And even if it did you can’t ignore fact because it raises more questions.”nope, cant be. Atom are indivisible. if they aren’t then you have parts that m,ake them up, and parts for those parts and for those!!! nope, its just simpler to say that atoms cant be divided”

    4. Anonymous

      Untitled — Sorry, no morality has evolved, ever. The notion it does creates more problems than the one it solves and the whole idea will be dissmised sooner or later

    5. Felsen Axt

      Untitled — Simple, our ancestors rarely encountered people that they were not either kin to with or competing with. therefor, in todays society where the majority of people are NOT directly competing our instincts regester them as something akin to cousins.

    6. Spiros Kakos

      Untitled — But still some people sacrifice themselves for people they hardly know. How can this be explained?

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by ExactMetrics