The ethics (of  lat.  Ethicus,  and east of  gr.  Ἠθικός  ethikos;  the way  . F , of  . Lat  late  Ethica,  and east  . Gr ἠθική  ēthikḗ 1 ) is the branch of philosophy that studies right or wrong behavior human. 2 also has as focus the human actions and those aspects of them which relate to the good, virtue , the duty , the happiness and fulfilled life. The study of ethics goes back to the very origins of philosophy in ancient Greece , and its historical development has been wide and varied.

Ethics examines what is a moral act, how a moral system is rationally justified, and how it must then apply at the individual and social level . In everyday life it is a reflection on moral fact, that is, it seeks the reasons that justify the adoption of one moral system or another.

An ethical doctrine elaborates and verifies certain affirmations or judgments. An ethical judgment, moral judgment or normative statement is a statement that will contain terms such as “good”, “bad”, “correct”, “incorrect”, “obligatory”, “permitted”, etc., referring to an action, a A decision or even contain the intentions of who acts or decides something. When ethical judgments are used, people, situations, or actions are being valued morally. Moral judgments are made when, for example, it is said: “That man is evil,” “not to be killed,” etc. In these statements the terms “bad”, “not due”, etc., imply moral values.


Meaning and purpose 

The word ethics comes from the Latin Ethicus , and this of ancient Greek ἠθικός transliterated as ethikos . According to some authors, it is correct to distinguish ethos , meaning “character” of ethos , meaning ‘custom’ because “ethics” follows from that sense and this is not. 3

According to a “classical” trend, ethics has as its object the acts that the human being performs in a conscious and free way (that is, those acts over which he exercises some sort of rational control). It is not limited to seeing how these acts are performed, but rather seeks to issue a judgment on them, which allows us to determine whether an act has been ethically good or ethically bad.

Fernando Savater , in the first chapter of his book Ethics for Amador ( “What goes ethics”), defines ethics as “the art of living, good living, so the art of discerning what we need (what Good) and what does not suit us (bad).

This means establishing a distinction between what is good and what is ethically wrong, and whether ethical good and evil coincide or not with what would be good and evil in themselves.

Boundaries with adjacent disciplines 

Ethics related to anthropology , the right , with the Law , and empirical sciences that study human behavior, such as sociology and psychology .

An author defines ethics as follows: “Ethics (Greek Ethika , of ethos , ‘behavior’, ‘custom’), principles or standards of human behavior, often and improperly called moral (Latin mores , ‘custom ‘) “. 4

The word ethics comes from the Greek ethikos ( “character”). It is the study of morality and human action to promote desirable behaviors. An ethical sentence involves the elaboration of a moral judgment and a norm that indicates how the members of a society should act. By profession is an occupation that is developed in order to collaborate with the welfare of a society. In order to carry out this work, it is necessary for the professional (person who exercises the same) to act responsibly, following the requirements established by current law for the development of that activity.

Professional ethics aims to regulate the activities carried out within the framework of a profession. In this sense, it is a discipline that is included within the applied ethics because it refers to a specific part of reality.

It should be noted that ethics, on a general level, is not coercive (it does not impose legal or normative sanctions). However, professional ethics may be, to a certain extent, in the codes of ethics that regulate a professional activity. Deontology is part of what is known as normative ethics and presents a series of principles and rules of mandatory compliance.

Branches of ethics 


Meta-ethics is a branch of ethics whose center of interest is the analysis of moral language.

The is-ought problem

Teleological ethics is generally oriented towards the end, towards an ethical telos (Greek, ‘end or goal that perfects who reaches’).

Hume has raised the objection that the transition from “what is” to “what should be” is problematic, and in general illegitimate. The naturalistic fallacy of George Edward Moore raises issues closely related, but is not strictly the same.

As emphasized below, the positivists must be epistemologically between rates and destination tariffs, and are differentiated by their different relationship to the senses. The epistemological distinction between is and must is based on modern empirical science. Whoever does not accept this distinction, or must postulate a being that is not directly or indirectly detectable, or should be considered what should be perceivable.

Ethical norms are derived from supposed statements about beings, often overlooked by the use of the normative and empirical ambiguity of terms like “essence,” “nature,” “determination,” “function,” “end,” “meaning “Or” goal reached “. Thus, the word “objective” is even what a person actually seeks (His goal is to graduate). The word objective can also refer to what a man must pursue (for example, when one says of someone who has lost the goal or goal of his human existence).

The inadvertent empirical-normative ambiguity of certain terms leads to logical fallacies such as: “The essence of sexuality is procreation. Therefore, contraception is not allowed because it does not reflect the nature of sexuality. ”

Noting that this presupposes that it has been logically inferred that being is a justification of the rules not yet declared (Promulgated). Because, besides the normative declarations and the registers, there are wills. The expression of a person’s will: “I do not want to be disturbed in the next hour by anyone” includes the desire that the rule “No one should disturb me in the next hour” be able to be welcomed and respected by others. The central point will be whether the expression of that person’s will is or is not ethically correct, or simply an arbitrary act that does not require absolute respect on the part of others.

The naturalistic fallacy

George Edward Moore , in his Principia Ethica , accuses the naturalism of making a mistake when infers that something has a moral property from that something has this or that natural property. 5 For example, assuming that the pleasure is a natural property, a naturalist could argue that sexual relations are good because they are pleasant. 5 However, Moore said that to affirm this, you first need to show that everything pleasurable is good, 5 and this requires an argument that seems difficult to provide. Despite the name of the fallacy, it seems to be able to extend beyond naturalism. 5 Thus the challenge proposed by Moore seems to show how one can legitimately conclude that a non – moral property can be identified or have the same extension a moral property.

Ethics rules

The dilemma of the tram is a thought experiment that may serve to illustrate and test different ethical theories.

Theories of ethical or moral philosophy can be distinguished according to the criteria of their bases for the determination of moral good. The moral good can be determined by:

  • Consequences (teleological ethics) consequentialism;
  • Provisions of behavior, traits of character and virtues (virtue ethics);
  • The intention of the actor (ethical disposition);
  • Objectives towards moral facts, as the objective of moral evaluations on property or action (deontological ethics);
  • Optimization of interests or stakeholders (preferably), utilitarian ethics, happiness (eudaimonia), or welfare.


The teleological ethics (Del gr. Τέλος, fin) is a group of ethical theories that emanates moral duties or obligations that seek to achieve an ultimate end, which presumes good or desirable. It is also known as a consecutive ethic, since it is based on the judgment of acts in their consequences, and is opposed to deontological ethics (from Greek δέον, duty), which hold that the morality of an action is independent of good or evil Generated from it. 6

Consequentialism holds that the morality of an action depends only on its consequences (the end justifies the means). 7 8 Consequentialism does not apply only to actions, but these are the most prominent example. 7 Believing that morality is just to generate the greatest amount of happiness possible, or to increase freedom as possible, or to promote the survival of our species , it is to hold a consequentialist position, because although all these beliefs differ in The consequences that matter, agree that what matters is the consequences. Referring to Fig.

One way to classify different types of consecuencialismos is from the agents that must be taken into account when considering the consequences of actions. This results in three types of consequentialism: 9

Moral selfishness
An action is morally right if it produces positive consequences for the agent . 10
Moral altruism
A good deed is one that produces the good of others , regardless of the agent.
An action is morally right if predominantly favorable results on undesirable for all . Therefore, the best possible action is that which produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. eleven


Deontology is the normative theory according to which there are certain actions that must be performed, and others that should not be realized, beyond the positive or negative consequences that can bring. 12 That is, there are certain duties , or obligations that must be met beyond their consequences. 12

Virtue ethics 

Virtue ethics is a theory that dates back to Plato and, more articulately, Aristotle, according to which an action is ethically correct if you make out a person ‘s own virtuous . 13 14 For example, if for utilitarianism have to help the needy because that increases the general welfare, and ethics must be done because it is our duty, to the ethics of virtues, we must help those in need because doing so would be charitable And benevolent. 13

Applied Ethics

Applied ethics is the part of ethics that deals with studying concrete and controversial moral issues. 9 For example, some objects of study of applied ethics are induced abortion , the euthanasia and animal rights . 9 Some of these issues are grouped by similarities and are studied by subfields: 9

  • The bioethics studies the moral controversies that result from advances in biology and medicine . fifteen
  • The professional ethics addresses both find justification for moral values that should guide professionals, such as studying the values that actually guide the professionals . 16

In the first sense, professional deontology is a normative and philosophical discipline. It is rather a descriptive discipline in the second direction, and therefore scientific . 16 The professional ethics also has sub – disciplines such as medical ethics , the ethics of business and engineering ethics . 17

  • The environmental ethics deals with ethical relationship between human beings and the environment . 18

Perhaps the two fundamental questions of this discipline are: what duties of human beings towards the environment, and why? 18 In general, the answer to the first question is a consequence of the answer to the second. 18 Different approaches to answers or responses have led to different environmental ethics. 18

  • Military ethics is a set of practices and discourses that serve to guide the armed forces and its members to act according to certain values and certain standards, and to show the entire citizenry these reference values.
  • Economic ethics deals with the ethical relationships that should guide economic relations between human beings and the effect that such norms would have on the economy of our societies. In fact, much of the economists who developed the modern theory of economics started from ethical foundations. The closest example is the utilitarianism developed first as a moral doctrine and then used for the neoclassical theory of value. 19 20

History of ethics 

Ancient Greece 

From the beginning of the philosophical reflection has been present the consideration on the ethics. Plato confronts the ethical theme in different places and from different contexts. For example, in the Gorgias seeks to overcome the hedonism and pecking. In the Phaedo shows the importance of what exists after death to regulate their own behavior. In The Republic together it addresses the individual ethics (from the perspective of justice within the soul) and public ethics, with a complex theory of the state, which finds ons and different views in two other works, the Political and Law .

The Nicomachean Ethics , surely the most important treatise of ethics of Aristotle , is based on the premise that every human being seeks happiness (eudemónica ethics). For Aristotle all natural beings tend to fulfill the function that is their own and are oriented to fully realize their potentialities. The good, which is the same as the perfection of a being or the realization of abilities is to fulfill its own function, that which only he can perform. Human beings are also oriented to the full realization of the function that is their own. The problem that arises, then, is what is the proper function of man. And if there is more than one good of man, what is the highest and most perfect good that can reach the human being?

As in other works, Aristotle relays the opinions of his contemporaries in this respect and proves that all seem to agree that the supreme goal of man is to live well and be happy, although there are many disagreements as to what is happiness and The good life. For Aristotle the happy life (full) is the one that allows the upper activity (contemplation), with sufficient autonomy (material goods, health), and accompanied by a sufficient number of friends (cf. Nicomachean Ethics I).

It is only moral actions in which you can choose and decide what to do. On the other hand, the actions suffered, compulsive or forced are neither moral nor immoral. What is moral is action that depends on the will, if it is acted correctly. When is it done correctly? The correct way of acting depends on the scope of action (dianetic or intellectual, ethical or moral) and is partly based on the customs of the community to which it belongs (if the community is ethically healthy, something Aristotle means for the world Greek perhaps uncritically) and is learned through education. When you act according to these guidelines, you live well and you are virtuous.

Moreover, philosophers Stoics and Epicureans proposed moral theories based on opposing principles: the virtue and life with moderation (Stoicism), and the pursuit of pleasure (epicureísmo).

Middle Ages 

It is a time when ethics assumes elements of the classical doctrines of happiness (the end of human action is to obtain the good that makes us happy) and unites them to Christian doctrine (seen as Divine Revelation), especially according to Regulations that contain the commandments. The ultimate aim of human action is charity, which is achieved by living from the Gospel, and which allows man to access the vision of God (in heaven), where the human being reaches its maximum fullness and supreme good.

Several authors speak of ethics and according to different perspectives. It is appropriate to recall two great names, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas (especially in the second part of the Summa of theology , in which many elements of Aristotle’s ethics are collected). twenty-one

Later, in the footsteps of the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, it is developed in Catholic circles which soon will be known as the principle of double effect .

Modern Age 

Modern ethical philosophers work with their eyes on the ancient world (Stoics, Epicureans, Plato, Aristotle), though with some elements inherited from medieval Scholastics. Descartes has some elements of ethics in his famous Discourse on Method . In rationalism, it is Baruch Spinoza who drew wider and systematic ethical proposal. In the field of empiricism, David Hume worked at various times to understand the deep motives of human actions.

The large modern ethical revolution is done through Immanuel Kant , who rejects a foundation of ethics on anything other than moral imperative same (formally deontologism), as if the moral aims to seek happiness could not give any categorical rule Nor universal. Idealist philosophers developed the moral of the categorical imperative . They face and to utilitarianism , saying that the principle of utility is not the only criterion of correctness of the shares.

Contemporary Age 

Ethics twentieth century has seen important contributions by many authors: the vitalist and existentialist develop a sense of choice and responsibility, Max Scheler elaborated a phenomenology of values. Authors like Alain Badiou have tried to show that this major trend (in the opinions and institutions), the question of “ethics” in the twentieth century, is actually a “true nihilism ” and “a threatening denial of all thought” . 22

Recently, developing a thorough analysis of the origins and foundations of ethics, there have been several studies on the role of emotions in the development of an anti – foundationalist ethical thinking, as indicated Richard Rorty . In the last two decades, the Scottish philosopher MacIntyre sets new tools of different philosophical historical rival versions of ethical analysis.