The Origin of Ethical Behavior

Ethics… A term we see widely used, yet find difficult to define.

On Philosophy

Philosophers often wonder why people act ethically. Because ethical behavior seems to be the norm we speculate that there must be some reason for it. Thus, partly motivated by a desire to explain the phenomenon, we form theories that demonstrate that ethical behavior is rational, or motivated by self-interest, or some intuitive grasp of universal goodness. Although many of these theories may agree with our intuitive sense of right and wrong, and may even make a reasonable code to live by, they fail to explain why we should be ethical, leaving us to wonder at the actual reasons that people are good more often than they are bad.

If we aren’t motivated by ethics itself we might suppose that we are motivated by the consequences of not being ethical instead, leading to a negative theory of ethical behavior, namely that people behave ethically because they are afraid of punishment, and…

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