History of Ethical Philosophies

Timeline created by nikkialveyra
In History
  • 490 BCE


    One of the earliest sophists, Protagoras, rejected the existence of absolute moral reality and defended a version of moral relativism, teaching the art of public speaking. He stressed the degree to which human inventions, collections of customs followed and maintained by unique cultures are moral codes.
  • 470 BCE

    Socrates 470 BCE-399 BCE

    Socrates 470 BCE-399 BCE
    Socrates was adamant that if a person is to lead a good and happy (eudaimon) life, possessing and practicing the virtues are absolutely crucial. The point of philosophical investigation into the virtues is that acting correctly requires knowledge of the human good to be possessed. The virtues of self-control, intelligence, and bravery, Socrates seems to have maintained, are nothing more than a specific form of knowledge.
  • 428 BCE

    Plato 428 BCE- 348 BCE

    Plato 428 BCE- 348 BCE
    In Plato's Theaetetus, he is said to have said that “whatever the city establishes as just, is just for that city as long as it judges so.”
    Callicles claims in Plato's Gorgias that conventional moral codes are the creations of a weak majority so that the dominant few can be subordinated. As this is the most they can do, weak men foster trust in the goodness of equality. It is a law of nature that more than the weak ought to possess the strong.
  • 384 BCE

    Aristotle 384 BCE- 322 BCE

    Aristotle 384 BCE- 322 BCE
    The fundamental thought of Aristotle is that happiness (eudaimonia), living well, depends on the perfecting of a creature's natural endowments. It follows that man's good life requires the accomplishment of goodness or perfection in reason. In general, his point is that the virtues of character and intelligence are ways of perfecting reason and, thus, important to the good life of man. He does not ignore, however, the value of friends, money, and social standing in a good life.
  • 354 BCE

    Church Fathers

    Church Fathers
    Saint Augustine believed that one could know and yet not know the good. To make sense of this possibility, Augustine creates an understanding of the will as an executive force that does not have to obey the decisions of the intellect. An individual may carry out an action that he considers to be entirely unjustified. The decisions of the intellect are often available to the will to reject them. The will is able to want to do something that is unpleasant for the intellectual judges.
  • 307 BCE


    Epicurus identifies the life of eudaimon with the life of pleasure, understands eudaimonia as a pleasure experience that is more or less constant, and therefore relief from pain and distress (ataraxia). But Epicurus does not recommend that any and every pleasure be sought. Instead, he proposes a strategy whereby pleasures are optimized in the long term. Some pleasures are not worth having because they lead to greater pains, and when they lead to greater pleasures, some pains are worthwhile.
  • 300 BCE


    A fundamental premise of Stoic philosophy is that the world itself is controlled and organized in the best possible way by the laws of reason. This philosophical theory is related to the ethical view that a healthy life is one that is lived in accordance with reason. Moral goodness and happiness are accomplished by mirroring in oneself the ideal logic of the universe and by discovering and living one's own assigned role in the cosmic order of things.
  • 1224

    Scholasticism: Aquinas (1224-1274)

    Scholasticism: Aquinas (1224-1274)
    Eudaimonia, conceived as union with Heaven, is transposed into perfect happiness (beatitude). For Aquinas, then, in the beatific vision, described as supernatural union with God in the afterlife, the objective of human life is completely attained. The ethical theory of Aquinas has been extremely influential, especially as it has influenced the Catholic Church's ethical teachings.
  • 1287

    Scholasticism: Scotus (1265-1308) and Ockham (1287-1347)

     Scholasticism: Scotus (1265-1308) and Ockham (1287-1347)
    John Duns Scotus, in comparison to Aquinas, and to a greater extent William of Ockham, was inclined to the second conception of natural law in which human law and morality are directly dependent on the ability of God as a lawgiver. Natural law, according to Ockham, is fundamentally rooted in the will of God. This term has become known as voluntarism in theology, a meta-ethical doctrine according to which
  • Modern Ethics

    Modern Ethics
    The right of individual humans to decide their own purposes is upheld by modern natural law. In mediating and translating the natural law ideas of the medieval era into an Enlightenment context, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) is a significant figure. He argued that natural law depends not on the presence of God, but on rational human nature, and that it is the duty of civil culture to safeguard human beings' natural rights.
  • David Hume

    David Hume
    Hume (1711-1776) argues that reason is motivationally inert: Reason is and should be the slave of passions, and can never pretend to represent and follow them in any other position. Hume stresses the compassion feeling, which is a reaction triggered by pain in another in one living organism. In the writings of Hume, who stresses the 'utility' of virtues, the roots of utilitarianism lie.
  • Immanuel Kant

    Immanuel Kant
    The 'good will' is the only unconditional good, that is, the only thing that is good under all situations, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argues. A good will is roughly a desire to do the right action because it's the right one. To be influenced in this way is to be driven by responsibility. Good will is good not because of what it makes, but because of its own concept of willingness.
  • G.W.F. Hegel

    G.W.F. Hegel
    G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) stated that since every maxim could be desired as a universal law, the categorical imperative was formal and null. He stresses the social component of moral life, the degree to which moral codes are derived from the family, civil society, and state ethical institutions.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche

    Friedrich Nietzsche
    The critique of traditional moral codes by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) centers around his notion of slave morality. Slave morality, which, with its emphasis on duty and self-sacrifice, relates closely to the Judeo-Christian moral code. Slave morality is the product of the coming of poor people to view the features of the naturally powerful as evil, and to turn their own indignation into present conceptions of morality that have greatly undermined human existence.
  • Analytic philosophy

    Analytic philosophy
    G.E Moore (1873-1958)-the one who set the agenda for meta-ethics. Principia Ethical-Moore argues against theories of naturalistic ethics that aim to recognize goodness for certain natural properties, such as being pleasurable or desired. A theory of linguistic sense, called the principles of verification, was adopted by logical positivists. It notes that a term is purely meaningful in the principles only if it communicates something that empirical observation can confirm or disconfirm.
  • Existentialist Ethics

    Existentialist Ethics
    existentialist ethics originate in the work of Kierkegaard, Heidegger and developed by Jean Paul Sartre. The ideology of radical human rights and transparency is the subject of existentialist ethics. Usually, from a presumption of radical equality to the conclusion that values are subjective rather than objective, the existentialist argued that they are essentially produced by free choice.
  • John Rawls and others

    John Rawls and others
    In particular, John Rawls' magisterial Justice Theory has ignited interest in the ethical and political thought of Kant. His theory is that the concepts of justice are founded on the premise of a hypothetical contract to which rational people will consent from a position in which there is no knowledge of substantive evidence about the good.