Michael De Dora, May 11, 2011
The history of Western moral philosophy includes numerous attempts to ground ethics in one rational principle, standard, or rule. This narrative stretches back 2,500 years to the Greeks, who were interested mainly in virtue ethics and the moral character of the person. The modern era has seen two major additions. In 1785, Immanuel Kant introduced the categorical imperative: act only under the assumption that what you do could be made into a universal law. And in 1789, Jeremy Bentham proposed utilitarianism: work toward the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people (the “utility” principle).
Note: this essay was originally published on the blog Rationally Speaking.