Let me ask you a rhetorical question: Do you know right from wrong?
Most people are confident they can tell what is right and what is wrong. It typically doesn’t take much deliberation; it’s sometimes obvious; we know it instantaneous. Some people are so confident they are right and others are wrong that they are willing to die to defend their positions or kill others who disagree with their positions, or the positions of their group.
It seems easy enough. Adults tell kids what is right and wrong every day, but how do they know? If you are asserting your assessment of right/wrong how can you be certain that you are right? The basic question that Ethics deals with is how?
How do you know what is right and wrong?
Few people stop and think about that question. Fewer still have a good answer.
This question can be posed another way, Why should I listen and obey your assertion?
If someone asks you Why? Answering “Because I said so” is not sufficient.
“Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will follow it.” – Henry David Thoreau
In order to challenge those who claim moral authority, you have to have ethical understanding. You need to be able to make ethical claims based on knowable evidence, which can be broadly understood by others. You need to be able to deconstruct the arguments of those who claim moral authority and show them to be misguided, if not complete frauds.
EthicsDefined.org is a website devoted to providing greater understanding of ethics. This website is organize like the book it is based on. If you would prefer a physical copy, you can purchase Why and Because – The Art and Science of Moral and Ethical Understanding.