Monday, February 27, 2006

Ethics - A Beginning...

Definitions of “Ethics” on the Web:

ethical motive: motivation based on ideas of right and wrong

the philosophical study of moral values and rules

Ethics is a general term for what is often described as the "science (study) of morality". In philosophy, ethical behavior is that which is "good" or "right." The Western tradition of ethics is sometimes called moral philosophy

a set of moral principles or values.

the study of fundamental principles that defines values and determines moral duty and obligation.

A system of moral principles, rules and standards of conduct.

study of right and wrong, good and bad, moral judgment, etc.

the branch of philosophy concerned with evaluating human action. Some distinguish ethics, what is right or wrong based on reason, from morals, what is considered right or wrong behavior based on social custom.

system or code of morals of a particular religion, group, or profession.

the principles of conduct governing an individual or group; concerns for what is right or wrong, good or bad.

The branch of philosophy that deals with issues of right and wrong in human affairs.

Personal code of conduct based on respect for one's self, others, and your surroundings.

A set of principles and values that govern behavior to accord with a notion of morality.

A set of principles or values based on religious and moral teachings. A standard of conduct by which the individual guides his own actions and judges that of others.

the principles or assumptions underpinning the way individuals or organisations ought to conduct themselves.

the study of morality

The process of determining right and wrong conduct.

The branch of philosophy that deals with moral issues. Key questions in ethics include: What is it right (or wrong) to do? Do the intentions behind an action determine its goodness or does the actual outcome of the action matter more? Are there any universal ethical rules?

The general and abstract concepts of right and wrong behavior culled from philosophy, theology, and professional societies.

Pronunciation: 'e-thikFunction: nounEtymology: Middle English ethik, from Middle French ethique, from Latin ethice, from Greek EthikE, from Ethikos1 plural but singular or plural in construction : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation2 a : a set of moral principles or values b : a theory or system of moral values <the present-day materialistic ethic> c plural but singular or plural in construction : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics> d : a guiding philosophy

Branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of ultimate value and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong.
The term is also applied to any system or theory of moral values or principles. Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics. Normative ethics seeks to establish norms or standards of conduct; a crucial question in this field is whether actions are to be judged right or wrong based on their consequences or based on their conformity to some moral rule, such as “Do not tell a lie.” Theories that adopt the former basis of judgment are called consequentialist (see consequentialism); those that adopt the latter are known as deontological (see deontological ethics).
Metaethics is concerned with the nature of ethical judgments and theories. Since the beginning of the 20th century, much work in metaethics has focused on the logical and semantic aspects of moral language. Some major metaethical theories are naturalism (see naturalistic fallacy), intuitionism, emotivism, and prescriptivism.
Applied ethics, as the name implies, consists of the application of normative ethical theories to practical moral problems (e.g., abortion). Among the major fields of applied ethics are bioethics, business ethics, legal ethics, and medical ethics.


Ethics of Reciprocity
"Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people's suffering. On these lines every religion had more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal." The Dalai Lama
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Religious groups differ greatly in their concepts of deity, other beliefs and practices. Non-theistic ethical and philosophic systems, like Humanism and Ethical Culture, also exhibit a wide range of beliefs. But there is near unanimity of opinion among almost all religions, ethical systems and philosophies that each person should treat others in a decent manner. Almost all of these groups have passages in their holy texts, or writings of their leaders, which promote this Ethic of Reciprocity. The most commonly known version in North America is the Golden Rule of Christianity. It is often expressed as "Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you."
One result of this Ethic is the concept that every person shares certain inherent human rights, simply because of their membership in the human race. People are individually very different; they come in two main genders; different sizes, colors, and shapes; many races; three sexual orientations; and different degrees of ability. They follow many religious and economic systems, speak many languages, and follow many different cultures. But there is a growing consensus that all humans are equal in importance. All should enjoy basic human rights. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one manifestation of this growing worldwide consensus. 1,2
In our opinion, the greatest failure of organized religion is its historical inability to convince their followers that the Ethic of Reciprocity applies to all humans, not merely to fellow believers. It is out belief that religions should stress that their membership should use Ethic when dealing with persons of other religions, the other gender, other races, other sexual orientations, etc. Only when this is accomplished will religiously-related oppression, mass murder and genocide cease.

Some "Ethic of Reciprocity" passages from the religious texts of various religions and secular beliefs:

Bahá'í World Faith:
"Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not." "Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself." Baha'u'llah

"And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself." Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

Brahmanism: "This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you". Mahabharata, 5:1517

Buddhism: "...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

"...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that were widely accepted among early Christians, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).

"Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you" Analects 15:23

"Tse-kung asked, 'Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?' Confucius replied, 'It is the word 'shu' -- reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.'" Doctrine of the Mean 13.3

"Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence." Mencius VII.A.4

Ancient Egyptian:
"Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do." The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, 109 - 110 Translated by R.B. Parkinson. The original dates to 1970 to 1640 BCE and may be the earliest version ever written. 3

"One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself." Mencius Vii.A.4

"This is the sum of the Dharma [duty]: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you." Mahabharata 5:1517

"(5) Humanists acknowledge human interdependence, the need for mutual respect and the kinship of all humanity."

"(11) Humanists affirm that individual and social problems can only be resolved by means of human reason, intelligent effort, critical thinking joined with compassion and a spirit of empathy for all living beings. " 4

"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 5

"Therefore, neither does he [a sage] cause violence to others nor does he make others do so." Acarangasutra 5.101-2.

"In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self." Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara

"A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated. "Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

"...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus 19:18

"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

"And what you hate, do not do to any one." Tobit 4:15 6

Native American Spirituality:
"Respect for all life is the foundation." The Great Law of Peace.

"All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." Black Elk

Roman Pagan Religion:
"The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves."

"The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form"

Compassion-mercy and religion are the support of the entire world". Japji Sahib

"Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone." Guru Arjan Devji 259

"No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend." Guru Arjan Dev : AG 1299

"The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven't the will to gladden someone's heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone's heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this." Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.

"Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien.

"The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful." Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 49

"We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent of all existence of which we are a part." Unitarian principles.

"An it harm no one, do what thou wilt" (i.e. do what ever you will, as long as it harms nobody, including yourself). One's will is to be carefully thought out in advance of action. This is called the Wiccan Rede

Yoruba: (Nigeria):
"One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts."

Zoroastrianism: "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself". Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5

"Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others." Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29

Some philosophers' statements are:
Epictetus: "What you would avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others." (circa 100 CE)
Plato: "May I do to others as I would that they should do unto me." (Greece; 4th century BCE)
Socrates: "Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you." (Greece; 5th century BCE)
Seneca: "Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors," Epistle 47:11 (Rome; 1st century CE)

Examples from moral/ethical systems are:
Humanism: "...critical intelligence, infused by a sense of human caring, is the best method that humanity has for resolving problems. Reason should be balanced with compassion and empathy and the whole person fulfilled." Humanist Manifesto II; Ethics section.
Scientology: "20: Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you." This is one of the 21 moral precepts that form the moral code explained in L. Ron Hubbard's booklet "The Way to Happiness."

Exceptions to the Ethic of Reciprocity:
A few religions, such as Satanism and The Creativity Movement have what might be called an Ethic of Non-Reciprocity.
There are some situations in which a strict application of the Ethic of Reciprocity is contraindicated because it can lead to harming others.
Within the Holy Books of many religions, there are passages which contradict their own Ethic of Reciprocity. This usually happens when non-believers are discussed.

References used:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
The English text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is at:
The text is available in other languages is at: has an encyclopedia reference that lists many Golden Rules, sorted chronologically at:
"Principles of Humanism," Humanist Association of Canada, at:
This is Number 13 of a collection of 43 sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that was compiled by the great Islamic scholar Yahya bin Sharaf Ul-Deen An-Nawawi. It is is now known as "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths" See:
The Book of Tobit is deuterocanonical, i.e. contained not in the Canon of Palestine but in that of Alexandria. It was accepted by some Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions as part of the official canon but not by others.

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