Branches of Philosophy
It is my understanding that there are three main branches of philosophy. These three branches include Metaphysics, Ethics and Epistemology. Metaphysics finds its focus through questions on reality. These questions include: What is real? What is mind and what is matter? What kind of reality do we have? Epistemology deals with truth versus opinion. Questions include what is truth, and what is its source? Is truth absolute or relative? Lastly, Ethics deals with right and wrong. It also deals with the interactions between people and their society. Students of Ethics might ask ‘What are our obligations to ourselves and society?’ and ‘Why should one be moral?’ I will attempt to answer this question.
I think it is important to define morality and ethics, as I understand them. Morals are a set of rules passed to us though our family, social, and religious experiences that serve to govern our independent actions. Our moral beliefs rest only on our sense of right and wrong. It is important to note that morals only apply to individual action and consequence. Ethics, however, apply to the actions of two or more people. Ethics are meaningless unless applied in a social context. Ethics serve to define the acceptable actions of the individual within the social structure. Ethics are established through the consensus of many people and with the guidance of human experience. With morality, ones behavior is held to an ideal code of conduct. Ethics, however, deals with an imperfect, but attainable set of practices. It is left to the individual to take a decision that is moral, regardless of its ethical standing.
Each of the Philosophers we have read about has held some view concerning morals and ethics. Socrates held that ‘To know the good is to do the good.’ By this, he meant that no man knowingly acts against his own interest. Socrates believed that no man could knowingly do wrong if that person truly knew the right course of action. Socrates defines moral as being the logical result of rational thought. Through reason, one will know morality. Plato, a student of Socrates, held a similar view. Plato taught that moral values are absolute truths and thus are abstract perfect entities. He called this the ‘Idea of the Good.’ The Idea of the Good is the supreme source of all values. Plato felt that this was the fulfillment of truth and reality. He also defines this good as unachievable. This good is something to be sought after, but never achieved.
Aristotle held that there were two kinds of virtue: moral and intellectual. He felt that morals are the tempering of man’s natural desires and appetites. Intellect, he says, is the development of acceptable habits through repetition. He believed that ‘We become just by doing just acts.’ Aristotle argues that most virtues fall at a mean between more extreme character traits. According to Aristotle, it is not an easy task to find the perfect mean between extreme character traits. In fact,...