Society has been distinguishing the concepts of good and evil since the ancient times. So, we can say that it had a specific morality - the system of moral relations, feelings, and consciousness. The morality is the central question of ethics, and still relevant to our society.
Among the ethical systems I have learned, there are virtue ethics, utilitarianism, social contract, deontology with goals (Hinduism and Buddhism), deontology with divine authority (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), relativism (individual and cultural), and deontology with a categorical imperative (Kant). So, I would like to say a few words about each of them.
Virtue ethics considers the concept of virtue (often in the sense of the best of human qualities) as a fundamental ethical categories. Virtue ethics primarily studies those traits of human nature that are important for a person’s well-being, rather than listing their duties. In some specified sense this approach is beyond the traditional dichotomy of deontological ethics and consequentialism. It agrees with consequentialism that the criterion of right or wrong act, when speaking about moral, is its relation to the results of the action that have their own value (Iep.utm.edu).
Utilitarianism is teleological moral theory which asserts that the correct action is a function of its consequences ("the greatest good for the greatest number") which can be predicted. The consequences of the good must be distributed as widely as possible; the person making moral choice should look not only for personal good or for whom they care about, but also for welfare. The choice made is provided by the rationale and logical argument and a person can use it on an individual basis. According to this ethical theory, the correctness of behavior is determined by its final use. The supporters of the theory say the utilitarian principle is the only moral criterion of human acts, and this principle is to ensure that we should always seek to maximize the predominance of good over evil (Iep.utm.edu; Kay (1997).
Social contract theory
The central idea of social contract theory is that the idea of natural law, civil society and people's sovereignty, according to which the source and the ultimate owner of all power is the people. The state, formed by the will of free and independent individuals, - is nothing more or less than the institute for protection of their natural rights (life, liberty and property), which is enforceable only in a civil state. Hugo Grotius (1587-1645) is considered to be the founder of the doctrine. The theory spread in the 18-19 centuries. Among its supporters - Hobbes, Diderot, Rousseau (Iep.utm.edu).
Buddhism and Hinduism
Buddhism and Hinduism have common roots. Both religions have arisen in India, and they are genetically similar.
Buddhism is a monotheistic religion, the philosophical doctrine of spiritual awakening, teaching of the Enlightened One. It originated in India, was formed in East Asia and is one of the world's major religions. Hinduism - the most ancient polytheistic Vedic religion, a set of traditions and schools of thought, which arose and became widespread in the Indian subcontinent (Iep.utm.edu).
There are some differences between Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddhism is monotheistic while Hinduism is polytheistic. The ultimate goal of Hinduism is to break the chain of reincarnations, to break out of samsara and to connect with the Absolute while those of Buddhism - Nirvana, the state of supreme grace. Hinduism is the national religion of the Indians, but Buddhism is the non-national religion. Hinduism believes in the caste, Buddhism – in the principle of equality (Iep.utm.edu).
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe in one single life, followed by heaven or hell. They agree that God stands against evil in the name of Satan, who tempts and destroys sinners, making them disobey God's law. All these religions are oriented to the prophets, and only in Christianity prophet becomes divine. Each of these religions consider themselves the only true religion and argues that judgment awaits the unbelievers. All three biblical religions are based on monotheism and dualism as well as on the belief that person is eternally separated from God, and their highest purpose is to reach paradise. Each of these religions believes that God has a special agreement (covenant) with His followers, although the terms are different. The faithful of all Abrahamic religions bury their dead in the ground in anticipation of the fact that one day the physical body will be resurrected on earth and arise from the grave on Judgment Day (Iep.utm.edu).
Relativism is a methodological principle that absolutizes relativity, conditionality and subjectivity of knowledge; it often leads to the denial of absolute ethics, skepticism and agnosticism. Relativism dates back to the teaching of ancient Greek Sophists (Protagoras’ work "Man is the measure of all things").
Cultural relativism is a concept that highlights historical uniqueness of each culture that can be estimated only on the basis of its own principles, not universal criteria. Ethical relativism is a position that denies the existence of moral absolutes, that is, what is acceptable to one person may be unacceptable to another (Yount 1-2).
Kant's categorical imperative
Kant's categorical imperative, which is a central concept of his ethical doctrine, is a refined (in terms of philosophy) "golden rule" which refers to a position in which you should treat people the way you want them to treat you. This position is the basis of interpersonal communication, called love. Thus a new formulation of "rules" was born - "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In other words, each person should treat another as themselves in the term of perfection - not as a means, but as a goal (Shakil).
The Impact of Ethical Systems
Prabhu Guptara emphasizes the significant influence of the different ethical systems on various spheres of life as well as on business. He states that in the USA there are several popular ethical systems, one of which belongs to the philosopher A.J. Ayer who tells us that moral judgements have no foundation beyond individual preference or cultural upbringing. That means, we may like or hate something without any reason (Onbeing.org).
Neo-trinitarianism is the second dominant position, according to Guptara. Money, knowledge/power and pleasure/comfort are represented by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (the Christian Trinity).
The above-mentioned concept of utilitarianism is also among the most wide-spread ethical systems in the U.S. (Onbeing.org).
Then Guptara provides two so-called essentialist systems: one is the non-God-based that says the belief in God is not so necessary because a person knows what is right and what is wrong. Another one is the God-based system comprising Jewish and Christian which can’t coexist with the authority-based system because they call in question the authority itself.
Among the most wide-spread world ethical systems there are Christianity, Islam and Atheists. But I agree with Prabhu Guptara’s opinion above and do think that the main ethical system of the present world is money, power and pleasure (Adherents.com).
My personal ethical system
If talking about my personal ethical system, I’ve been the adherent of Christianity since I was born. I didn’t try to believe in another ethical system not because I am a passionate believer in the one only religion, but because I’ve never wanted to change anything. My parents and relatives are all Cristians, and that was also the reason why I’ve never tried to change my religion. My grandma used to take me to the church on the religious holidays and telling me a lot of interesting stories about her religious past.
But it’s not important for me what religion one should follow. I also understand atheistic people and don’t think they’re worse than pietists. The more important and interesting for me is what ethical system a person uses in one’s own life. When talking to different people about ethical systems, I’ve noticed one curious thing: many people say they believe in God and live according to their God’s law, they can even know all the Rules by heart, but in fact, and it’s become obvious in some time, that these people do not follow this law in real life and sometimes do bad things that harm other people. So, are they real believers? Personally I don’t think so.
One cannot be a Christian and believe no universal maxims exist, what is a relativist position, but one can pretend to be a real believer in God, but in practice, in real life, such person doesn’t even try to follow God’s Rules and be a nice, kind and loyal person. These qualities and the simple humanity are still the most important ethical system, whatsoever people say.
Different philosophers have been trying to define what is good and evil, how a"good" person should live their live and what ethical system one should follow. Now we have a lot of material to study and think over in order to understand what is good for everyone and what ethical system is appropriate for each of us.
Act and Rule Utilitarianism (n.d.). In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
Buddha (c. 500s B.C.E.) (n.d.). In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
Charles D. Kay (1997). Notes on Utilitarianism. Retrieved from <sites.wofford.edu/kaycd/utilitarianism/>
Dr. David Yount, Individual And Cultural Relativism. 1-2. Retrieved from
Guptara, Prabhu (1998). Ethics Across Cultures. Retrieved from
Hindu Philosophy (n.d.). In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents. Retrieved from
Shakil, Ali, (n.d.). Kantian Duty Based (Deontological) Ethics. Retrieved from
Social Contract Theory (n.d.). In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
Virtue Ethics (n.d.). In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from