30 June 2014
28T10:43:17Z March 2019
The word “ethics” is commonly taken to be a synonym for morality. In more formal contexts it serves as the name for codified conduct that governs individuals by virtue of their voluntary membership of particular institutions or professions. Although both of these significances are encompassed within Hegel’s conception of ethics he intends a yet broader meaning for it. The German word Hegel uses is Sittlichkeit, a word that is sometimes translated into English as morality as well as ethics. The stem of Sittlichkeit is Sitte, meaning customs and suggesting practices that partly form ongoing ways of life. In Hegel’s philosophy the sphere of ethics concerns both the actions of the individual moral agent and the normative environment that gives those actions their moral value. Considerations of ethics in its moral philosophical and its political institutional contexts cannot therefore be adequately treated in isolation from each other. It is of crucial importance in understanding Hegel’s ethics that his claim about the inextricability of the moral agent from its ethical environment runs much deeper than the notion that the community simply furnishes the agent with sets of approved or disapproved options. It says that we are constitutively communal beings whose judgments about the preferability of one choice over another are already influenced by our communal situation.
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Baur, M. (ed.). G.W.F. Hegel (Key Concepts)
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