Glossary

All

A posteriori
Used of a statement which is knowable after experience.

A priori
Used of a statement which is knowable without reference to any experience.

Abortion
The termination of a pregnancy by artificial means.

Absolute
A principle that is universally binding.

Absolutism
An objective moral rule or value that is always true in all situations and for everyone without exception.

Act Utilitarianism
A teleological theory that uses the outcome of an action to determine whether it is good or bad.

Active euthanasia
The intentional premature termination of another person’s life.

Agape
Christian love

Anthropocentric
An approach to the environment that places human interests above those of cany other species.

Antinomianism
Rejection of the moral law.

Apparent good
Something which seems to be good or the right thing to do but which does not fit the perfect human ideal.

Aretaic ethics
Another name for Virtue Ethics, from the Greek word arete, which simply means any kind of excellence or virtue.

Assisted dying/suicide
When a person takes their own life with the assistance of another person. When the other person is a doctor, it is called physician-assisted suicide.

Autonomous being
Someone who is free to make their own decisions.

Autonomous moral agent
Someone who can make a moral decision freely; someone who is totally responsible for their actions.

Autonomy
Self-directed freedom, arriving at moral judgement through reason.

Biocentric
An approach to the environment that considers the biological nature and diversity of the Earth to be of supreme importance.

Biodiversity
The variety of living things on Earth.

Blastocyst
A fertilised egg at about four to five days of development.

Brain death
When a person’s brain is judged to have ceased functioning.

Cardinal Virtues
Originated in Plato – prudence, justice, temperance, courage. Added to with three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Categorical imperative
A command to perform actions that are absolute moral obligations without reference to other ends.

Celibacy
Not having sexual relations with another person.

Cloning
A form of genetic engineering by which a plant, an animal or a human is created with the same genetic identity as another.

Compatibilism
The belief that it is possible to be both free and determined, as some aspects of our nature are determined, but not our ability to make moral decisions.

Consciousness
Awareness of self as an independent being, the ability to feel pain and pleasure.

Consequentialism
The belief that the rightness or wrongness of an act is determined by its consequences.

Consequentialist
Someone who decides whether an action is good or bad by its consequences.

Conservation ethics
The ethics of the use, allocation, protection and exploitation of the natural world.

Copernican Revolution
The discovery by Copernicus that the solar system revolves around the sun, not around the earth. Kant’s analysis is often referred to thus metaphorically, as its implications for us are just as vital.

Deduction
The process of deducing or deriving from some source.

Deep ecology
An approach to environmental ethics that sees all life forms as of value and human life as just one part of the biosphere. It rejects anthropocentrism.

Definition
The action of defining, or stating exactly what a thing is, or what a word means.

Deontological
The science of duty; that branch of knowledge which deals with moral obligations; ethics.

Deontological ethics
Ethical systems which consider that the moral act itself has moral value (e.g. telling the truth is always right, even when it may cause pain or harm).

Determinism
The view that every event has a cause and so, when applied to moral decisions, we do not have free will.

Developed economies
Economies of countries which are not part of the developing world.

Developing countries
Countries which are not part of the developed world.

Divine Law
The Bible – this reflects the Eternal Law.

Doctrine of double effect
An action where the main intention is to do good, but which may have a bad side-effect. The good intention makes the action right.

Dominion
The Judaeo-Christian idea that humans have a special place in the natural world and have responsibility for it.

Duty
A motive for acting in a certain way which shows moral quality.

Ecosophy
A word formed by contracting the phrase ‘ecological philosophy’. It refers to philosophies which have an ecocentric or biocentric perspective such as deep ecology.

Embryo
The developing bundle of cells in the womb up to eight weeks’ gestation.

Emerging economies
The economies of countries which are developing.

Ensoulment
The moment when the soul enters the body – in traditional Christian thought this was at forty days for boys and ninety days for girls. The Church now believes that life begins at conception.

Eternal Law
The principles by which God made and controls the universe which are only fully known by God.

Eudaimonia
The supreme good for humans.

Ex nihilo
Lit. out of nothing

Exclusivist
One who maintains the exclusive validity (of a theory).

Factual statement
A statement which repeats known facts.

Fall, the
When Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God’s commands.

Feminism
A way of thinking that seeks to emancipate women in society and give them equal opportunities.

Foetus
An organism in the womb from nine weeks until birth.

Gaia hypothesis
A theory of James Lovelock.

Gender
Cultural and psychological characteristics which determine whether a person is male or female.

Genetic engineering
The technology involved in cloning, gene therapy and gene manipulation.

Geocentric
An approach to the environment which considers the geological nature and diversity of the Earth to be most important.

Germ line engineering
Changes in the parent’s sperm or egg cells with the aim of passing on the changes to their offspring.

Golden Mean
The balance of extremes of virtues and vices. A balance between excess (having too much of something) and deficiency (having too little of something).

Good will
Making a moral choice expresses a good will.

Hard determinism
The belief that people do not have any free will and that all moral actions have prior causes. This means that nobody can be held morally responsible.

Harm principle
The belief that an act or consequence is morally permissible if no harm is done.

Hedonic calculus
Bentham’s method for measuring the good and bad effects of an action.

Hedonism
The view that pleasure is the chief ‘good’.

Hippocratic Oath
Written in the fifth century BCE, it became the basis for doctors’ ethics. Other promises now replace it, but it is specifically against abortion.

Holistic
Used of an approach to the environment that considers a range of factors, including the importance of balance within the ecosystem.

Human genome
A map of the human genes.

Hypothetical imperative
An action that achieves some goal or end.

Inclusivist
One who maintains the principles of inclusivism.

Incompatibilism
The belief that determinism is logically incompatible with free will. Thus some incompatibilists will say that determinism is a fact and so we are not free, but most take the opposite view that free will is a fact and so determinism is false.

Instrumental value
The view that something’s value lies in its usefulness for others.

Intellectual virtues
Characteristics of thought and reason – technical skill, scientific knowledge, prudence, intelligence and wisdom.

Intrinsic value
The concept that something’s value lies in itself.

Intrinsically good
Used of something which is good in itself, without reference to the consequences.

Involuntary euthanasia
This term is used when someone’s life is ended to prevent their suffering, without their consent, even though they are capable of consenting.

Just War
A war which is believed to be morally justified because it meets certain criteria.

Kingdom of Ends
A world in which people do not treat others as means but only as ends.

Law                                  
Objective principle, a maxim that can be universalised.

Legalism
A disposition to exalt the importance of law or formulated rule in any department of action.

Libertarianism
The belief that determinism is false and people are free to make moral choices and so are responsible for their actions.

Life support systems
Medical machinery that is used to keep people alive who would probably otherwise die.

Logic
The branch of philosophy that treats of the forms of thinking in general, and more especially of inference and of scientific method.

Macro-economics
Economics which looks at the large scale such as a country or state.

Maxim
A general rule in accordance with which we intend to act.

Micro-economics
Economics which looks at the small scale such as an individual company.

Moral virtues
Qualities of character such as courage, friendliness, truthfulness.

Natural Law
The theory that an eternal, absolute moral law can be discovered by reason.

Ordinary and extraordinary means
According to Natural Law moral duties apply in ordinary situations. A patient may refuse certain treatments on the grounds that they are ‘extraordinary’ (i.e. over and above the essential).

Original Sin
The sin introduced into the world by the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

‘Ought implies can’
The idea that someone cannot be blamed for what they could not do, but only for what they were capable of doing but did not do.

Passive euthanasia
Treatment is either withdrawn or not given to the patient in order to hasten death. This could include turning off a life support machine.

Personhood
Definition of a human being as a person – having consciousness, selfawareness, ability to reason and self-sufficiency.

Phronesis (practical wisdom)
According to Aristotle the virtue most needed for any other virtue to be developed. Balancing self-interest with that of others. Needs to be directed by the moral virtues.

Pluralist
One who holds the theory of pluralism.

Predestination
The belief that God has decided who will be saved and who will not.

Preference Utilitarianism
The idea that moral actions are right or wrong according to how they fit the preferences of those involved.

Primary precepts
The fundamental principles of Natural Moral Law.

Primitive streak
The first sign of new human life.

Principle of utility
The basic principle of Utilitarianism.

Purpose
The idea that the rightness or wrongness of an action can be discovered by looking at whether or not the action agrees with human purpose.

PVS (permanent vegetative state)
When a patient is in this condition, doctors may seek to end their life. The relatives have to agree and usually the patient must be brain-stem dead.

Qualitative
Looking at the quality of the pleasure.

Quality of life
The belief that human life is not valuable in itself; it depends on what kind of life it is.

Quantitative
Looking at the quantity of the happiness.

Queer theory
The idea that there can be no fixed rules about what is or is not a legitimate sexual relationship. Being queer is the freedom to define oneself according to one’s nature.

Real good
The right thing to do – it fits the human ideal.

Rule Utilitarianism
Establishing a general rule that follows Utilitarian principles.

Sanctity of life
The belief that human life is valuable in itself.

Secondary precepts
These are worked out from the primary precepts.

Sentience
The ability to feel pleasure and pain.

Sex
Biological characteristics that determine whether a person is male or female.

Shallow ecology
The concept that Earth is cared for to make conditions better for humans.

Situationism
Adherence to situation ethics.

Slippery slope
A concept used to suggest that when one moral law is broken others will also be gradually broken and there will be no moral absolutes.

Soft determination
The belief that determinism is true in many aspects, but we are still morally responsible for our actions.

Somatic cell engineering
Changes in somatic (body) cells to cure an otherwise fatal disease. These changes are not passed on to a person’s offspring.

Speciesism
Discrimination against or exploitation of certain animal species by human beings, based on an assumption of mankind's superiority.

Stem cell
A ‘master’ cell that can become any kind of material.

Stewardship
A way of interpreting the use of dominion, which sees humans as caretakers of the natural world.

Summum bonum
The supreme good that we pursue through moral acts.

Teleological
Used of moral actions considered to be right or wrong according to their outcome or telos (end).

Therapeutic cloning
A method of producing stem cells to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Universalisability
The belief that, if an act is right or wrong for one person in a situation, then it is right or wrong for anyone in that situation.

Utilitarianism
The belief that only pleasure and the absence of pain have utility or intrinsic value.

Viability
Where a foetus is considered capable of sustaining its own life, given the necessary care.

Vices
The direct opposite of virtues – habitual wrong action.

Virtue
Habitually doing what is right – being good requires the practice of a certain kind of behaviour.

Voluntary euthanasia
The intentional premature termination of another person’s life at their request.

Xenotransplantation
The transplantation of organs, tissues, or cells from one species to another.

Zygote
A ‘proto-embryo’ of the first two weeks after conception – a small collection of identical cells.

A

A posteriori
Used of a statement which is knowable after experience.

A priori
Used of a statement which is knowable without reference to any experience.

Abortion
The termination of a pregnancy by artificial means.

Absolute
A principle that is universally binding.

Absolutism
An objective moral rule or value that is always true in all situations and for everyone without exception.

Act Utilitarianism
A teleological theory that uses the outcome of an action to determine whether it is good or bad.

Active euthanasia
The intentional premature termination of another person’s life.

Agape
Christian love

Anthropocentric
An approach to the environment that places human interests above those of cany other species.

Antinomianism
Rejection of the moral law.

Apparent good
Something which seems to be good or the right thing to do but which does not fit the perfect human ideal.

Aretaic ethics
Another name for Virtue Ethics, from the Greek word arete, which simply means any kind of excellence or virtue.

Assisted dying/suicide
When a person takes their own life with the assistance of another person. When the other person is a doctor, it is called physician-assisted suicide.

Autonomous being
Someone who is free to make their own decisions.

Autonomous moral agent
Someone who can make a moral decision freely; someone who is totally responsible for their actions.

Autonomy
Self-directed freedom, arriving at moral judgement through reason.

B

Biocentric
An approach to the environment that considers the biological nature and diversity of the Earth to be of supreme importance.

Biodiversity
The variety of living things on Earth.

Blastocyst
A fertilised egg at about four to five days of development.

Brain death
When a person’s brain is judged to have ceased functioning.

C

Cardinal Virtues
Originated in Plato – prudence, justice, temperance, courage. Added to with three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Categorical imperative
A command to perform actions that are absolute moral obligations without reference to other ends.

Celibacy
Not having sexual relations with another person.

Cloning
A form of genetic engineering by which a plant, an animal or a human is created with the same genetic identity as another.

Compatibilism
The belief that it is possible to be both free and determined, as some aspects of our nature are determined, but not our ability to make moral decisions.

Consciousness
Awareness of self as an independent being, the ability to feel pain and pleasure.

Consequentialism
The belief that the rightness or wrongness of an act is determined by its consequences.

Consequentialist
Someone who decides whether an action is good or bad by its consequences.

Conservation ethics
The ethics of the use, allocation, protection and exploitation of the natural world.

Copernican Revolution
The discovery by Copernicus that the solar system revolves around the sun, not around the earth. Kant’s analysis is often referred to thus metaphorically, as its implications for us are just as vital.

D

Deduction
The process of deducing or deriving from some source.

Deep ecology
An approach to environmental ethics that sees all life forms as of value and human life as just one part of the biosphere. It rejects anthropocentrism.

Definition
The action of defining, or stating exactly what a thing is, or what a word means.

Deontological
The science of duty; that branch of knowledge which deals with moral obligations; ethics.

Deontological ethics
Ethical systems which consider that the moral act itself has moral value (e.g. telling the truth is always right, even when it may cause pain or harm).

Determinism
The view that every event has a cause and so, when applied to moral decisions, we do not have free will.

Developed economies
Economies of countries which are not part of the developing world.

Developing countries
Countries which are not part of the developed world.

Divine Law
The Bible – this reflects the Eternal Law.

Doctrine of double effect
An action where the main intention is to do good, but which may have a bad side-effect. The good intention makes the action right.

Dominion
The Judaeo-Christian idea that humans have a special place in the natural world and have responsibility for it.

Duty
A motive for acting in a certain way which shows moral quality.

E

Ecosophy
A word formed by contracting the phrase ‘ecological philosophy’. It refers to philosophies which have an ecocentric or biocentric perspective such as deep ecology.

Embryo
The developing bundle of cells in the womb up to eight weeks’ gestation.

Emerging economies
The economies of countries which are developing.

Ensoulment
The moment when the soul enters the body – in traditional Christian thought this was at forty days for boys and ninety days for girls. The Church now believes that life begins at conception.

Eternal Law
The principles by which God made and controls the universe which are only fully known by God.

Eudaimonia
The supreme good for humans.

Ex nihilo
Lit. out of nothing

Exclusivist
One who maintains the exclusive validity (of a theory).

F

Factual statement
A statement which repeats known facts.

Fall, the
When Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God’s commands.

Feminism
A way of thinking that seeks to emancipate women in society and give them equal opportunities.

Foetus
An organism in the womb from nine weeks until birth.

G

Gaia hypothesis
A theory of James Lovelock.

Gender
Cultural and psychological characteristics which determine whether a person is male or female.

Genetic engineering
The technology involved in cloning, gene therapy and gene manipulation.

Geocentric
An approach to the environment which considers the geological nature and diversity of the Earth to be most important.

Germ line engineering
Changes in the parent’s sperm or egg cells with the aim of passing on the changes to their offspring.

Golden Mean
The balance of extremes of virtues and vices. A balance between excess (having too much of something) and deficiency (having too little of something).

Good will
Making a moral choice expresses a good will.

H

Hard determinism
The belief that people do not have any free will and that all moral actions have prior causes. This means that nobody can be held morally responsible.

Harm principle
The belief that an act or consequence is morally permissible if no harm is done.

Hedonic calculus
Bentham’s method for measuring the good and bad effects of an action.

Hedonism
The view that pleasure is the chief ‘good’.

Hippocratic Oath
Written in the fifth century BCE, it became the basis for doctors’ ethics. Other promises now replace it, but it is specifically against abortion.

Holistic
Used of an approach to the environment that considers a range of factors, including the importance of balance within the ecosystem.

Human genome
A map of the human genes.

Hypothetical imperative
An action that achieves some goal or end.

I

Inclusivist
One who maintains the principles of inclusivism.

Incompatibilism
The belief that determinism is logically incompatible with free will. Thus some incompatibilists will say that determinism is a fact and so we are not free, but most take the opposite view that free will is a fact and so determinism is false.

Instrumental value
The view that something’s value lies in its usefulness for others.

Intellectual virtues
Characteristics of thought and reason – technical skill, scientific knowledge, prudence, intelligence and wisdom.

Intrinsic value
The concept that something’s value lies in itself.

Intrinsically good
Used of something which is good in itself, without reference to the consequences.

Involuntary euthanasia
This term is used when someone’s life is ended to prevent their suffering, without their consent, even though they are capable of consenting.

J

Just War
A war which is believed to be morally justified because it meets certain criteria.

K

Kingdom of Ends
A world in which people do not treat others as means but only as ends.

L

Law                                  
Objective principle, a maxim that can be universalised.

Legalism
A disposition to exalt the importance of law or formulated rule in any department of action.

Libertarianism
The belief that determinism is false and people are free to make moral choices and so are responsible for their actions.

Life support systems
Medical machinery that is used to keep people alive who would probably otherwise die.

Logic
The branch of philosophy that treats of the forms of thinking in general, and more especially of inference and of scientific method.

M

Law                                  
Objective principle, a maxim that can be universalised.

Legalism
A disposition to exalt the importance of law or formulated rule in any department of action.

Libertarianism
The belief that determinism is false and people are free to make moral choices and so are responsible for their actions.

Life support systems
Medical machinery that is used to keep people alive who would probably otherwise die.

Logic
The branch of philosophy that treats of the forms of thinking in general, and more especially of inference and of scientific method.

N

Natural Law
The theory that an eternal, absolute moral law can be discovered by reason.

O

Ordinary and extraordinary means
According to Natural Law moral duties apply in ordinary situations. A patient may refuse certain treatments on the grounds that they are ‘extraordinary’ (i.e. over and above the essential).

Original Sin
The sin introduced into the world by the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

‘Ought implies can’
The idea that someone cannot be blamed for what they could not do, but only for what they were capable of doing but did not do.

P

Passive euthanasia
Treatment is either withdrawn or not given to the patient in order to hasten death. This could include turning off a life support machine.

Personhood
Definition of a human being as a person – having consciousness, selfawareness, ability to reason and self-sufficiency.

Phronesis (practical wisdom)
According to Aristotle the virtue most needed for any other virtue to be developed. Balancing self-interest with that of others. Needs to be directed by the moral virtues.

Pluralist
One who holds the theory of pluralism.

Predestination
The belief that God has decided who will be saved and who will not.

Preference Utilitarianism
The idea that moral actions are right or wrong according to how they fit the preferences of those involved.

Primary precepts
The fundamental principles of Natural Moral Law.

Primitive streak
The first sign of new human life.

Principle of utility
The basic principle of Utilitarianism.

Purpose
The idea that the rightness or wrongness of an action can be discovered by looking at whether or not the action agrees with human purpose.

PVS (permanent vegetative state)
When a patient is in this condition, doctors may seek to end their life. The relatives have to agree and usually the patient must be brain-stem dead.

Q

Qualitative
Looking at the quality of the pleasure.

Quality of life
The belief that human life is not valuable in itself; it depends on what kind of life it is.

Quantitative
Looking at the quantity of the happiness.

Queer theory
The idea that there can be no fixed rules about what is or is not a legitimate sexual relationship. Being queer is the freedom to define oneself according to one’s nature.

R

Real good
The right thing to do – it fits the human ideal.

Rule Utilitarianism
Establishing a general rule that follows Utilitarian principles.

S

Sanctity of life
The belief that human life is valuable in itself.

Secondary precepts
These are worked out from the primary precepts.

Sentience
The ability to feel pleasure and pain.

Sex
Biological characteristics that determine whether a person is male or female.

Shallow ecology
The concept that Earth is cared for to make conditions better for humans.

Situationism
Adherence to situation ethics.

Slippery slope
A concept used to suggest that when one moral law is broken others will also be gradually broken and there will be no moral absolutes.

Soft determination
The belief that determinism is true in many aspects, but we are still morally responsible for our actions.

Somatic cell engineering
Changes in somatic (body) cells to cure an otherwise fatal disease. These changes are not passed on to a person’s offspring.

Speciesism
Discrimination against or exploitation of certain animal species by human beings, based on an assumption of mankind's superiority.

Stem cell
A ‘master’ cell that can become any kind of material.

Stewardship
A way of interpreting the use of dominion, which sees humans as caretakers of the natural world.

Summum bonum
The supreme good that we pursue through moral acts.

T

Teleological
Used of moral actions considered to be right or wrong according to their outcome or telos (end).

Therapeutic cloning
A method of producing stem cells to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

U

Universalisability
The belief that, if an act is right or wrong for one person in a situation, then it is right or wrong for anyone in that situation.

Utilitarianism
The belief that only pleasure and the absence of pain have utility or intrinsic value.

V

Viability
Where a foetus is considered capable of sustaining its own life, given the necessary care.

Vices
The direct opposite of virtues – habitual wrong action.

Virtue
Habitually doing what is right – being good requires the practice of a certain kind of behaviour.

Voluntary euthanasia
The intentional premature termination of another person’s life at their request.

X

Xenotransplantation
The transplantation of organs, tissues, or cells from one species to another.

Z

Zygote
A ‘proto-embryo’ of the first two weeks after conception – a small collection of identical cells.