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The Ethicist
A compendium of ethical questions to get you
thinking about morality.
Made by Mike Gershon –
[email protected]
Click a button…get a question
What is a moral question?
What is a moral judgement?
To what do we refer when we make
moral judgements?
What, if any, truth-value do moral
judgements possess?
Do moral judgements pertain to
truth of some sort?
Is ethics concerned with action
rather than knowledge?
Can we have knowledge of ethical
Are ethical judgements the
same as knowledge
Do values or ethical positions
refer to objects?
Is there a relationship between
logic and ethics?
Is there a relationship between
science and ethics?
What makes an action right or
Are there more moral states than
right and wrong?
Is right and wrong simply a matter
of custom?
Does it matter if morality derives
from customs?
Is self-knowledge an inherent
What is a good?
What does the word ‘good’
Does the use to which the word
good is put determine its meaning?
Are evil or bad actions the result
of ignorance?
If people know what is right, will
they then do what is good?
What is virtue?
Does virtue correlate with good?
Do virtue, good and happiness
have a specific relationship?
Must one be wise in order to be
Does a person have a ‘nature’
which they should act in
accordance with?
Is there a single, ultimate goal
towards which people should aim?
What does happiness mean?
Is happiness an appropriate
good toward which someone
should aim?
What is a ‘right reason’?
Is it sufficient to aim towards
maximizing pleasure and
minimizing pain in one’s life?
To what extent should time (past,
present, future) be considered
when making ethical judgements?
Is there a greatest good?
Are all goods reconcilable with one
Should the consequences of an
action form the basis for
judgement of that action?
How might one assess the
consequences of an action?
Can the consequences of an
action ever be satisfactorily
Is it right to assert that ‘the ends
justify the means’?
Under what terms or criteria should
an action be evaluated?
What sort of consequences count
as good consequences?
Who benefits from moral
How are consequences judged
and, who judges them?
How might we adjudicate
between conflicts or tensions
arising between different
What makes an act good?
Can an act be good regardless
of the consequences?
Should we strive to do good
Should our actions be guided by
rules or duties?
What rules or duties may direct
or compel our actions?
Can we be certain that rules or
duties will lead to good acts?
How could obedience to rules or
duties be justified?
What acts could be classed as
inherently good?
How do you relate morality,
immorality and amorality?
How ought we to live?
What is the good life?
To what does ‘morality’ refer?
Do ethical theories rest upon an
unacknowledged understanding of
what morality is taken to mean?
Does morality require
Does moral agency develop or
is a person born with it?
What is required in order to
describe something as having
moral agency?
Is it ever right to break society’s
code of conduct?
If we are simply born into it, why
should any of us subsequently
follow society’s code of
Should morality refer to simply
conduct, or to thought as well?
Is there a code of conduct which
would be put forward by all rational
If an irrational individual
commits a morally good act
should it be praised?
Could one use a ‘golden rule’
with which to guide themselves
in all situations?
Do certain figures – Jesus
Christ, Socrates, Gandhi,
Muhammad for example –
provide a moral example that
can or should be followed?
Does morality apply only within
a society?
Does morality refer to a code of
conduct within a society?
How do religion, etiquette, morality
and custom differ (if at all)?
Is it a necessity of a moral
judgement that the individual
who holds it would be prepared
to universalize it?
Is it a necessity of a moral
judgement that it overrides the
non-moral judgements of the
Is it better to avoid harming
others, or to try and prevent
harm coming to others?
Is morality based on the
commands of God?
A group of animals behave in a
way that is similar to the moral
behaviour of a group of humans.
Is the animals’ behaviour therefore
Should we accept authority?
If we are presented with two
conflicting moralities, how might
we judge them?
Is morality an informal system?
Does morality only govern
behaviour that affects others?
Are all moral precepts prohibitions?
Why should one be moral?
Are there any objective values?
If all values are accepted as
subjective, what are the
Are we obliged to reciprocate?
On what grounds should values be
Are certain values more
important than others?
How free is an individual when
ascribing importance to different
How free is an individual to
choose the values which they
view as important?
What claims regarding human
agency does morality make?
Would it be possible to have a
morality which did not make
claims about human agency?
Should we revalue existing
What claims regarding human
agency does your morality, or
the morality of the society to
which you belong, rely?
Do all moral norms favour some
group over others?
Do motives underpin actions?
Is it possible to know the
motives which lead an individual
(or yourself) to act?
Should we evaluate acts based
on their motives?
‘A person as they ought to be...’
How might we unpack this
Should humans revere
What motivates humans?
What role does happiness play
in human motivation?
‘Nature has placed mankind under
the governance of two sovereign
masters, pain and pleasure’
(Jeremy Bentham)
Do you agree?
Do individuals know their own
Is it prerequisite that an individual
knows their own interests in order
for them to act morally?
Is desire the only proof of
What do your ethical positions
assume about human motivation?
Ought we to have moral ideals?
Should actions be predicated on
the pursuit of moral ideals?
What constitutes a harm and
what constitutes a benefit?
Is it ever right to severely limit
another person’s goods?
Is benevolence an original feature
of human nature?
If an action leads to a morally good
outcome, yet was undertaken for
selfish reasons, is the action itself
morally good?
Ought morality to sometimes
require sacrifice?
What is a virtue?
What is a virtuous life?
Is a virtuous life also a good life?
On what grounds should we
attribute a virtue to someone?
Is wisdom required for the
attainment of virtue?
How should we resolve a case
where two of our moral norms
Should an adequate moral theory
allow for moral dilemmas?
Is it desirable that a moral theory
should attempt to preclude all
moral dilemmas?
How do role-related and general
obligations differ?
Should moral thinking be
subjugated to ‘concrete human
Is there some separate type of
thought which can be referred to as
‘moral reasoning’?
How similar to animals are
Does science have the capacity or
tools to make judgements
regarding morality?
Are any human activities
morally neutral?
What is sympathy?
Does sympathy underpin moral
Is pleasure the absence of
Do people have a right to ‘life,
liberty and property’?
Are destructive emotions,
leading to pain or suffering, the
result of errors of judgement?
Ought individuals to develop
What relationship do passions and
reasons have and how does this
relate to our motivations?
Is the removal of desire a
guarantor of a good life?
Is it right to judge others?
Can a person ever forfeit their
Does moral thought rely on
sense-data or experience?
Are there any moral precepts which
exist a priori?
Is there a difference between
‘good and bad’ and ‘good and
Do we have free will?
What are the implications
for ethics?
If one believes in God, how to then
explain the prevalence of evil in the
What ethical principles underpin
different religions?
Does religion provide the best
ethical guide to life?
Is there evidence for a natural law
which presupposes what is right
and wrong?
If one does not believe in God,
then what ultimate authority do
moral judgements have?
Can ethics exist independently
of religion?
Is religion the arbiter of what is right
and wrong?
Do human rights exist?
What are the implications of human
rights for morality?
Do future generations, or indeed
posterity, have rights?
Do the unborn have rights?
Does the environment have rights?
Is it ever right to treat another
individual as a means to an
Are all values relative?
Is all morality relative to
whichever group or individual it
comes from?
Under what terms should we
acquiesce to another’s moral
Who is capable of making moral
Should all opinions be given
equal weight in moral matters?
Is it acceptable to lie?
Should all people be treated the
What are the determinants of
Is language a determinant of
Is memory a determinant of
Is consciousness a determinant
of morality?
Are animals lives worth less than
human lives?
Can animals be included in the
concept of morality?
Should we eat animals?
Is it wrong to treat animals
Do animals have rights?