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Warum und wie sich die philosophische Ethik im Verlauf der Neuzeit von der theologischen Ethik emanzipiert hat


Ferber, Rafael (2004). Warum und wie sich die philosophische Ethik im Verlauf der Neuzeit von der theologischen Ethik emanzipiert hat. Ethica, 12(4):246-263.

Abstract

It suggests that the philosophical ethics of today, which go back to Kant’s ethics, cannot be understood without knowledge of the historical types of ethics that were invented in the medieval ages and antiquity. This is why the paper deals firstly with ancient ethics (Aristotle, Cicero), especially with the idea of natural law; secondly with the ethics of Thomas Aquinas; and thirdly with Grotius, Rousseau and Immanuel Kant’s ethics of autonomy.

The first part of the paper shows how the concept of morality as obedience towards established conventional laws is abandoned: It is possible that a law can be a legal duty without being a moral one. Aristotle does not yet know the concept of an unjust law (lex iniusta), but he makes a distinction between universal law, which is natural justice, and particular law, which is positive law. Cicero, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas know the concept of an unjust law (lex iniusta); Seneca defends the Stoic concept of natural law, which was later merged with Paul’s Christian concept of legal autarchy (Romans 2.14-15).

In the second part of the paper, Thomas Aquinas’ concept of the interrelationship between divine prevision, natural law and positive law is explained: Positive law depends on natural law, which depends on divine prevision. In an ideal case, all three coincide.

The third part of the paper shows some of the decisive steps from ethics with a theological foundation to philosophical ethics, which is autonomous. Grotius saw that international law cannot work if natural law depends on theological assumptions that are not agreed upon by everyone. Therefore, natural law must be autonomous. Spinoza transfers this idea to positive law; morality and positive law must be distinguished. Rousseau and especially Kant perfect/complete this concept. Kant is the first to try to justify morality by mere human (not divine) rationality. The categorical imperative is the law of autonomy, which does not depend on God or religious assumptions.

It suggests that the philosophical ethics of today, which go back to Kant’s ethics, cannot be understood without knowledge of the historical types of ethics that were invented in the medieval ages and antiquity. This is why the paper deals firstly with ancient ethics (Aristotle, Cicero), especially with the idea of natural law; secondly with the ethics of Thomas Aquinas; and thirdly with Grotius, Rousseau and Immanuel Kant’s ethics of autonomy.

The first part of the paper shows how the concept of morality as obedience towards established conventional laws is abandoned: It is possible that a law can be a legal duty without being a moral one. Aristotle does not yet know the concept of an unjust law (lex iniusta), but he makes a distinction between universal law, which is natural justice, and particular law, which is positive law. Cicero, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas know the concept of an unjust law (lex iniusta); Seneca defends the Stoic concept of natural law, which was later merged with Paul’s Christian concept of legal autarchy (Romans 2.14-15).

In the second part of the paper, Thomas Aquinas’ concept of the interrelationship between divine prevision, natural law and positive law is explained: Positive law depends on natural law, which depends on divine prevision. In an ideal case, all three coincide.

The third part of the paper shows some of the decisive steps from ethics with a theological foundation to philosophical ethics, which is autonomous. Grotius saw that international law cannot work if natural law depends on theological assumptions that are not agreed upon by everyone. Therefore, natural law must be autonomous. Spinoza transfers this idea to positive law; morality and positive law must be distinguished. Rousseau and especially Kant perfect/complete this concept. Kant is the first to try to justify morality by mere human (not divine) rationality. The categorical imperative is the law of autonomy, which does not depend on God or religious assumptions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:German
Date:2004
Deposited On:13 Jan 2014 09:35
Last Modified:13 May 2016 08:22
Publisher:IGW - Resch-Verlag
ISSN:1021-8122
Related URLs:http://www.igw-resch-verlag.at/ethica/index.html?ethik/geschichte.html
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-88197

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