The foundations of ethics and philosophy
(This material is an overview from the authors book entitled “Business Ethics: Transcending Requirements through Moral Leadership,” 2005; authored by Frank J. Cavico and Bahaudin G. Mujtaba.)
When one initially encounters the field of ethics, one is confronted with some confusion due to a lack of an agreed-upon terminology and set of definitions. Yet, if one is going to understand how ethics works, there must be some agreement on, and some insight into, the structure within which ethics works. There is, therefore, a need for words, terms, and definitions with precise meaning. Definitions can function as the first ethical principles of moral reasoning. If one defines terms carefully at the start or knows the appropriate definitions and one applies them consistently, one can draw moral conclusions deductively from these incontrovertible first ethical principles. One, therefore, can use definitions and terms to decide what to do in particular cases.
Philosophy is the study and analysis of such deeply problematical and fundamental question, such as the nature of reality, conduct, and thought. The field of philosophy traditionally is divided into three parts: the metaphysical, the political and ethical, and the philosophy of knowledge. Metaphysics is philosophy in the “macro” sense. It is the attempt to understand and to explain the ultimate nature of the world in which human beings live. Political and ethical philosophy is philosophy in a more practical and “micro” sense. It is the study of human beings, their nature, place in the world, and their relations with others. It is an attempt to formulate systematic doctrines to determine the best way of living.