“The field of ethics, also known as moral philosophy, involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior”. In other words, ethics tries to establish the moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct from a rational and secular point of view. This may involve the virtues that we should acquire (virtue ethics),the rules and duties that we should follow (deontology), or the consequences of our actions (utilitarianism). The aim of these theories is to offer an overarching moral principle one could appeal to in resolving difficult moral decisions.
Two of the most important western thinkers on the ethical theories previously mentioned are Aristotle and Immanuel Kant. Aristotle was born in Stagira, acity of northern Greece in 384 BC – 322 BC. As a young man Aristotle went to Athens in 367 BC to study as a disciple of Plato at his Academy, founding later (335 BC) his own philosophical school, the Lyceum. Aristotle postulated an ethical system which relied on the importance of developing good habits of character. He claimed that “virtue is a state of character or a habit that makes a person good,that makes a person function well, and that lies in a mean (literally, a midpoint)”.
Aristotle believed that of the virtues learned in our youth, each has a respective excess and deficiency. “With courage, for example, if I do not have enough courage, I develop the disposition of cowardice, which is a vice. If I have too much courage I develop the disposition of rashness which is also a vice”.The virtue is the mean between the two vices. As we can see, it is not an easy task to find the perfect mean between extreme character traits. In fact, according to Aristotle, we need assistance from our reason to do this. In addition, Aristotle claimed that when you are capable of choosing the correct midpoint through a rational choice, you are able to achieve the highest good for human beings:eudemonia/happiness. “Self-realization, the awareness of one's nature, the development of one's talents and the cultivation of the traditional virtues is the surest path to happiness”. Happiness, Aristotle argued, is the supreme goal of human life.
In sharp contrast, Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 - 1804 in Königsberg, the capital of Prussia at that time. Kant’s moral philosophy argued that moralrequirements are based on a standard of rationality he called categorical imperative. “A categorical imperative is a principle that is intrinsically valid; it is good in and of itself. It must be obeyed in all, and by all, situations and circumstances if our behavior is to observe the moral law”.
The function of the categorical Imperative is to test whether any particular judgment or actionis morally right or not. Kant’s main formulations of the imperative are: 1) Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. 2) Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person at any other, always at the same time, as an end and never simply as means. Therefore, a person acts morally when they actas if their conduct was establishing a universal law governing others in similar circumstances.
Kant also, pointed out his concept of duty saying that what makes an action ethically worthwhile is that we do it just because it is the right thing to do. In order to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty. Moreover, Kant argued that it was not the consequences of actions that makethem right or wrong but the motives of the person who carries out the action. He said that the consequences of an act are not the source of its moral worth. The action is valuable in itself, not valuable for what it will produce. The ethical actions are intrinsically worthwhile because they fit the essential nature of those that perform them. In this way, Kant links the concept of duty to our...