Ethics: An Introductory Work-Out

Here is a mild work-out to begin our new year.

  1. 1. Many people make the claim that Christianity possesses an ethical code superior to that of non Christians. Is there any evidence for this proposition?
  2. Whether or not this approach can be justified depends to some extent on the meaning of "Ethical code".
  3. Christians lean heavily on Scripture for their understanding of what an "Ethical code" might look like but the issue is complicated by the radical difference between the Old Testament (Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:1-21) and the New Testament (Matthew 5; 6; 7, Luke 6:17-42). 
  4. Rather than thinking in terms of an "Ethical code" it might be more helpful to think of a basic ethic and then to see what code might emerge, e.g. an Old Testament ethic of revenge might produce a different code from a New Testament ethic based on love: "An eye for an eye" as opposed to "Turn the other cheek".
  5. The problem with codes such as the Ten Commandments is that they do not define terms. A simple example is to define "steal" and a difficult one "kill".
  6. Some Christians claim that it is unethical to practice contraception, others disagree; what are the respective ethics behind these conclusions?
  7. Having started with some fundamentals, here are three sets of problems:
    1. What are the ethical bases for euthanasia and opposing it?
    2. What might we mean by a "Right to life"? (what does ethics say about the meaning of the concept of life?"
    3. Are there any fundamental ethical questions in the way consenting adults conduct their emotional and physical relationships?
  8. Compare the ethics of utilitarianism (the greatest good of the greatest number) with the ethics of altruism (voluntary good) and individualism (market forces)
  9. We might begin with the idea of a code of ethics based on love; what might that look like?
  10. Is it possible to settle differences between different ethics?

KC viii/07

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