A Practical Collection of Technical Terms for the Study of Ethics

For other sources, look also at the Glossarist web-site.

Absolutism a style of moral judgment that begins with the belief that rules are rigid and always hold; for example: Don't lie, no matter what!  Most ethical views derived from religion are absolutist.
Agent the person doing the action.  Rational people are moral agents. But, there are many others deserving of moral protections who are not agents, such as young children, people with disabilities that cause us to be suspicious of their rationality, those who are asleep, and so on.  Some of the current debate centers on how close animals are, for example, to moral agency.  This is also related to criminal justice. Where is the borderline between rational agency and criminal insanity?
Applied Ethics the application of an ethical theory or system to real-life issues.  The kind of thing we want to do in our class.
Autonomous Morality Moral decisions come from you yourself and your very own decision-making and reasoning. [Compare "Heteronomous Morality" below.]
Crossword Puzzle Approach in Software Engineering This error occurs in software engineering when students have been trained to solve problems without seeing the ambient issues. A programmer was asked to design a system that would move an x-ray machine by way of software commands from the technician's terminal. The software, thus, was designed to move into all possible positions, including a rest position atop the table. The technician told the patient to get off the table; the patient didn't hear the technician; the technician put the machine into the rest position and thereby crushed the patient to death. A software designer who might have become more aware of ambient circumstances would have been able to avoid such an outcome. Blaming the event on computer error and considering it an accident is one way for the software engineer to diffuse responsibility. [See Donald Gotterbarn's "Informatics and Professional Responsibility." (2001)]
Cognitive Dissonance This psychological condition is the result of a tension between our specific attitudes and a more general rule. For example, when a horse in a race breaks a leg, someone might feel deep compassion for that poor horse while seeing the event, say, on the TV screen in a fine restaurant. Moments later, the person who felt deep compassion for the horse's plight will turn back to munching his/her filet mignon. If I own and love a dog but eat meat of similarly intelligent animals, I will probably experience cognitive dissonance as soon as I permit myself to let the problem become real in my mind. Cognitive dissonance may well be behind other calamities. The veteran sharp-shooter who suddenly turns on a group of civilians may have experienced a kind of cognitive dissonance that s/he is unable to handle. 
Consequentialism deciding the moral worth of an action based on an analysis of outcomes.  For some variations, we select rules for which the consequences are likely to be desirable without analyzing each discrete act.
Corporate Responsibility

[from Rüdiger Hahn's "Corporate Citizenship in Developing Countries" in African Journal of Business Ethics available from: http://www.ajobe.org/text.asp?2012/6/1/30/104700]--Read the original; I do not claim infallibility for my summary or my added examples.]

Denier The corporation ignores the responsibilities it may have toward people under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. My (not Hahn's) example would be the Shell Corporation's active approval of the hanging of the Ogoni Nine, including poet Ken Saro-Wiwa, in 1995. Several other examples include various forms of ignoring human-rights violations among suppliers. Nike ignored such violations in the supply chain as did several other corporations such as Walmart, Kik, and other discounters. In fact, this corporate behavior may go as far as to not abide by local laws. The Bhopal incident may be an example for Union Carbide, including the US protection of Warren Anderson, the CEO, from extradition to Indian courts.
Denier/Ignorer "In those countries where local laws do not define, for example, a specific threshold for minimum wages, the identification of a denying position is much more difficult. When simply taking local laws as yardsticks, corporations complying with such laws do not actively seek to improve or undercut human rights. They could be characterized as ignorers, and thus as passive corporate citizens" (Hahn). The case of Shell's passivity in the case against the Ogoni Nine might fit here if there had not been some evidence that Shell actively encouraged the action on the part of the Nigerian government. The denier/ignorer is the corporation that realizes local law as not in compliance with the UDHR but merely follows local law.
Ignorer/Provider This category of corporation is very close to the previous one with mere nuances of distinction between the two. The ignorer/provider may adhere to local rules without being as consistent about these values as the corporation might be in the country of origin of the corporation. We can see ample examples of corporations that moved south of the border in the US. I believe that Smithfield moved to La Gloria, Mexico, probably because local standards in Virginia might have been too taxing. In relation to the swine flu, for example, a boy in La Gloria showed the first symptoms of that disease.
Provider The corporation is exemplary in its adherence to the basic requirements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The articles of the UDHR include, for example, fair working conditions, fair wages, right to work, etc. "Today, Nike (along with other companies in the textile industry) has implemented a strict code of conduct that includes aspects of worker safety and remuneration. The company conducts frequent audits to ensure that that code is followed. Those measures are neither mandatory under local laws nor subject to the UDHR, so they serve to define the company as a provider of human rights if they indeed lead to a strengthening of those rights beyond the minimum legal requirements. In sum, some companies in the textile industry offer interesting examples of a providing behaviour, despite occasional publicised incidents of poor working conditions or paltry wages" (Hahn).
Deontology the set of moral theories that justify questionable actions by pointing to the agent's role-related responsibilities, often without regard to the consequences of a specific act.  For example: It is not right that teachers flunk deserving students because it is the teacher's duty to give students the grades they earn.  This kind of ethical theory suggests that people know moral action from intuition more than from reasoning and analysis.  Immanuel Kant's view is that ethics comes from innate conditions of the human mind.
Descriptive Ethics a kind of ethics that talks about how people DO behave in regards to one another, rather than how they SHOULD behave.  This is also referred to as anthropology or sociology or psychology; this kind of activity sees itself as akin to the empiric sciences.
Distributive Justice The way goods and resources are divided in a society falls under principles of distributive justice.  Do we feel that fairness requires equal access to goods, resources, and services?  Do we feel that some polarity of wealthy and poor are acceptable?  We would address questions such as these under notions of "distributive justice."
Duty the special responsibility associated with a particular profession or occupation or societal role.  Physicians, journalists, students, or parents all have special duties.  The duty of an individual or group includes descriptions about how the duty makes the group different from other groups in the society.  This is also a key term in Kantian ethics: We have a duty to abide by the moral law built into our minds.  Compromises and little white lies are not permissible. 
Duty-Based Ethics see Deontology
Encouraged ways that we want people to act, but don't think they should be punished if they fail to act this way.  Example: giving to charity.  Acting in a morally encouraged way is praiseworthy; but not doing so is not entirely blameworthy.
Ethicist a word made up by news media to label a certain kind of thinking person, not necessarily a philosopher.
Ethics the discipline that looks at how people do and should act in regard to subjects of moral worth.  From the Greek 'ethike' (custom).  Essentially, there is no difference between this and "morality" from the Latin "mos, moris" usually referred to in the plural "mores."  
Ethics of Interests Peter Singer's form of consequentialism considers the interests of beings in the formulation of rights and responsibilities. "Equality is a moral idea, not an assertion of fact. There is no logically compelling reason for assuming that a factual difference in ability between two people justifies any difference in the amount of consideration we give to their needs and interests" (Singer, Peter. Writings on an Ethical Life. New York: Harper Collins, 2000; page 31--ISBN 978-0-06-000744-7). The principle, thus, also includes the interests of non-human sentient beings.
Exceptionism a style of moral judgment that is universal, but not absolute.  Exceptionists believe that there are justified exceptions to universal moral rules.
False Dilemma the presentation of alternatives in a dichotomous way. For example: "either print this story or don't" is a false dilemma.  There are many other choices: print later, print some, print differently, etc.  If you have had a course in logic, you may have seen this form of reasoning under the name of the either-or fallacy or excluded middle.
Grammar a meta-language system that provides a good analogy for the descriptive and normative role of an adequate moral system.  That is, some grammatical rules are hypotheses that attempt to describe language; others may be used to prescribe proper language behavior in a particular dialect, usually the prestige dialect of a culture. Note that a person may be said to have grammatical competence in producing language.  In that sense, a five-year-old usually has grammatical competence.  But you'd have to be a linguist or a well educated university-student to have grammatical competence in terms of doing meta-linguistic analysis.  This observation about grammar suggests some remarkably close analogies about moral competence.
Harm what all rational people want to avoid for themselves or for those close to them, unless they have a reason for wanting it.  The harms include death, pain, disability, being deprived of freedom or pleasure.  The connection with morality is this: What is irrational to want for oneself is immoral to cause.  "Harm" does not necessarily have to be some physical damage.
Heteronomous Morality Moral rules and moral reasoning comes from some source outside of you. A religious morality, for example, is typically heteronomous because the often absolute rules do not permit your interpretation or re-interpretation. Laws are typically heteronomous because you are not at liberty to state the laws of your social environment or your nation.
Ideal how we would like people to act, but don't think that they have to act: people are praiseworthy if they act in accordance with the moral ideal (green-light ethics); an ideal action is one that is morally encouraged, not morally required.  For some people who allow abortion, for example, bearing the fetus to term is ideal but terminating the pregnancy for a variety of reasons is not necessarily blameworthy.
Idealism the perhaps somewhat romantic assumption that desirable outcomes can be obtained without causing harms.  The belief that we can help all nations of the world to achieve the same level of wealth and conveniences as the US without causing anyone to give up anything whatsoever is idealistic--and probably very naive.   Be sure to distinguish "idealism" in this context from the epistemological "idealism," which refers to the fact that we all hold our world in our heads and that there may or may not be a corresponding external reality.
Impartial a person is acting impartially when he or she is acting like an umpire at a baseball game.  The person tries to make similar judgments in similar circumstances using rules that are known to all involved.
Inequity aversion Psychological phenomenon among human and various non-human animals that has individuals object to the unfair distribution of food [Hauser, Marc. "The Mind."  Scientific American of September '09, pp. 47 to 50].
Informational Enrichment Example: Copyright has become informationally enriched. Piano rolls for player pianos were originally turned down for copyright protection because they were not human-readable. Meanwhile computer programs, which are arguably not human-readable in their compiled form, are being copyrighted. That is, "copyright" is not what it used to be; it has become informationally enriched. Similar processes characterize money, which has moved from gold to gold certificate to plain paper; warfare, which began with bashing someone over the head to data-based confrontations; privacy, which required people to stay out of one's house and has now moved to staying out of one's data files. [See James H. Moor's "Reason, Relativity, and Responsibility" (1998).]
Intentionality making moral judgments on the basis of the state of mind of the agent.  That is, the intention of the agent is considered in the analysis of the moral action.  Kant's reflections about the "good will" of the morally acting person might be seen as focusing on intentionality. [In the Critique of Practical Reason on the other hand, Kant has also described the "good will" as a motive force that follows the unaltered conditions imposed by the three formulations of the categorical imperative. That conceptualization moves closer to a machine or computing metaphor than a free-will metaphor. In fact, an intentional good will might almost require a second morality that is ancillary to the categorical imperative, a view that Kant does not advocate anywhere.]
Irrationality the key to a system of morality.  It is irrational to want harm without reason.  It is immoral to cause what is irrational to want.
Judgment a proposition that states what is morally required, prohibited, permitted, or encouraged.  
Justification how one explains or excuses questionable behavior.  A questionable act--lying, for example--is strongly justified if all rational, impartial persons could advocate lying in situations of that kind; that is, if it would not be irrational to advocate such an act. A questionable act is not justified if no rational, impartial persons could advocate lying in situations that have the same morally relevant features.  It is weakly justified if a rational, impartial person could go either way.  The justification will vary with ethical theory.  No lying, for example, is justified under Kantian duty-ethics in its purest form. [On the other hand, Kant does point out in the Critique of Practical Reason that, while he knows that no human being can be of different intrinsic value from another, he nonetheless will bow to an aristocrat as a matter of social form. One may think of that act as a kind of socially required lie, which Kant sees exceptionistically [Vd. exceptionism above] justified. Surely then, such exceptionism can introduce also other justified "lies" into the Kantian system. While all minds are equipped with the conditions of the categorical imperative, the individual can still manage some selective repressions or manipulations of this mental condition. Modern critics may be attempting to be more Kantian than Kant here.]
Law a system of rules different from ethics: The scope of law includes what is enforceable; the scope of morality excludes the causing of unnecessary harms.  Something can be legal but not ethical--lying to one's employer, for example--as well as ethical but not legal--refusing to obey laws that discriminate against minorities, for example.  The most easily justified actions are those that are ethical and legal.  Note that one cannot justify a moral rule by suggesting that it's not illegal; however, one can challenge a legal rule by analyzing it as immoral.  Morality is the bedrock on which we build legalities.
Life Systems that self-assemble against nature's tendency toward disorder or entropy (Physicist Erwin Schrödinger). Self-sustaining chemical systems capable of Darwinian evolution (Chemist Gerald Joyce and NASA). Network of feedback mechanisms (Bernard Korzeniewski). [Vd. Ricardo, Alonso and Jack W. Szostak. "Life on Earth." Scientific American of September '09, p. 56.]
Likely to Lead [to the suffering of unjustifiable harms.]  Some behaviors are morally prohibited because they are likely to lead to the suffering of unjustifiable harms.  These actions include deceiving, cheating, breaking promises, breaking the law, and failing to meet one's role-related responsibilities.  This is a consequentialist consideration.
Many/Any Fallacy

Many customs exist, so any customs may exist. Thus, we cannot debate any customs at all.

Many alternatives exist, so any alternatives are all right. [See James H. Moor's "Reason, Relativity, and Responsibility" (1998).]

Masochistic Egalitarianism This concept comes from an essay by Mark Reiff entitled "The Politics of Masochism."  The essay appeared in "Inquiry," 46, pp. 29 to 63.  If a well-to-do person objects to, say, a tax return because s/he desires that the poorer segments of society benefit from this money, s/he is practicing masochistic egalitarianism. That is, the person is willing to accept some disadvantage to him-/herself for the sake of greater equality among segments of society.
Masochistic Inegalitarianism This concept comes from an essay by Mark Reiff entitled "The Politics of Masochism."  The essay appeared in "Inquiry," 46, pp. 29 to 63. If a poor person accepts his or her poverty and feels that some well-to-do people rightly own more of the share of a society's resources than the poor person does, then the poor person is thinking in terms of masochistic inegalitarianism.  Such an adopting of inequality as propriety may be the result of a variety of beliefs such as a belief that the person may someday end up in the privileged slot, that the wealthy person has worked more for the wealth and is thus entitled, that equality doctrines--communism or socialism--are unpatriotic, or that polarities of wealth are divinely instituted.  Note that for masochistic egalitarianism to be successful, there must be an equal measure of "sadistic" egoism among the well-to-do.
Moral Development a set of theories that describe moral maturity or sophistication, and the steps that one follows in reaching moral maturity or sophistication.  Typically, fear of punishment and hope for reward as moral motivator ranks much lower than the wish to do right for its own sake.
Moral Indoctrination We indoctrinate people in a particular morality if we persuade them and then test them in the success of the persuasion. Moral indoctrination is an imposition of ethics from outside. The result is a heteronomous morality, not an autonomous ethical view.
Moral Sphere the area of problems that require moral reflection
Moral System the structure that both describes and prescribes how people should act in regards to one another.  An adequate moral system will clearly differentiate among behaviors that are morally prohibited, those that are morally permitted, those that are morally required, and those that are morally encouraged.
Morality see ethics--from the Latin 'mos' [genitive: 'moris'; plural: 'mores'] which means 'custom' or 'habit.'
Normalize & Normalization That's a phenomenon by which we get used to and thus accept even the most egregious wrong without sensing the acts as egregiously wrong. For example, slavery was at one time the way to run an affluent society. Aristotle felt that slavery was acceptable: Some people were born to be slaves. One might say that Aristotle was normalized into that kind of acceptance of slavery. Some people argue that the onus of proof rests on the atheist to disprove the existence of a god or gods. They do so because they confuse the onus of proof on the claimant with the onus of proof on the person resistant to what seems normalized. US-American society is normalized to eating meat. The society may be normalized to opposing some forms of sexuality. The society is normalized to accepting a great deal of exploitation of labor. The society is normalized to building dynasties of wealth by inheritance legislation. And so on . . . .  Normalization in and of itself is not a morally compelling argumentation.
Normative Ethics how people SHOULD behave, as differentiated from how they DO behave--for most ethical theories, this involves behavior toward others.  See also Descriptive Ethics.
Objective having reality or truth-value that relies on criteria that are external to the judgment of particular persons.   "The sun is shining" is true iff the sun really is shining.  Objective statement in morality, at best, are statements where there is remarkable universal agreement. For example, it is wrong to do physical harm to innocent children is generally agreed to being a true moral rule; on the other hand, it is not entirely objectively true because "physical harm to children" becomes "tolerable collateral damage" in other circumstances.
Ownership Locke's labor theory of ownership: When one mixes one's labor with freely available resources, one creates property. One should assume that free availability of property to be the case for others also.
Hegel's personality theory of ownership: Property is what I create by way of my self-expression and originality.
Utilitarian theory of ownership: Property rights should promote and maximize pleasure while minimizing pain. All humanity, thus, has a stake in the distribution of wealth.
Social-contract theory of ownership: Property is part of a complex system of social agreements and web of laws. In a way, this theory is also a kind of utilitarian theory.
Permitted behavior that is within the bounds of the moral system.  It is morally permitted to act in ways that do not cause others unjustified harms.
Persons (Identifiable and Statistical) Identifiable persons are people we know and can see as individuals. For example, if an identifiable person suffers great pain, we are most moved to compassion and a willingness to act for that person. Someone suffering disconnected electricity during cold weather while being an identifiable person is most likely to command our help. In impromptu acts of compassion, readers of a newspaper story about such a mishap are likely to donate great sums of money to help out in a case like that. People react similarly to a person stranded in one country and wanting to go home but not having the travel money or a person suffering a serious illness and not having the money for an operation.
Statistical persons are people with the same problems, but we don't really know them face to face or even in some personal-calamity story from the newspaper. We know, for example, that about 70 million people have been without health insurance. These are statistical persons and generally do not command our deep compassion. People in far away countries who suffer floods, earthquakes, or social upheaval are generally statistical persons to us. They do not command the same level of compassionate intensity in us as a person that we can identify as individual. For that reason, we are less inclined to creating systemic changes that would alter the fate of these statistical persons. Often news media will move someone from "statistical person" to "identifiable persons"; for example, Al-Jazeera had a presentation about farmers in Pakistan after the devastating flood that washed away the fertile soil from the top of the fields. The statistics don't grip the compassion as much as the one tearful farmer taking up a handful of soil; holding it to the camera, he wondered what he could possibly do to feed his family. He moved from statistical person to identifiable person with that gesture and the help of the camera. Many charities use that effect in their posters.
A significant error of reasoning can be identified with this status of persons. During the health-care debate, the term "death panels" came up. That accusation pivoted actually on an equivocation on "statistical and identifiable personhood." When we have limited medical resources, we must deny some people medical care. Where people have uneven access, money makes such decisions. If one can pay for the services, one receives those services; if one cannot pay, one does not. Homeless people, for example, have a life expectancy of a mere 47 years. The "death panel" debate came from the apportionment of limited services when one has health care generally available for all. In that case, money is not the deciding factor, so something else must be. Typically, one considers a calculation of life expectancy and probability of success to apportion the resources. When I then twist this statistical considerations into a consideration of identifiable persons as in "They want to have a panel to decide whether to kill Grandma," I have committed the death-panel fallacy.
Practical Ethics using a moral system, knowledge of conventions, role-related responsibilities and individuals' needs to an analysis of a particular profession.  Agreement in this area relies on tacit adherences to common moral theories, a condition that is more common than not among most people.
Prohibited behavior that is not within the bounds of the moral sphere.  It is morally prohibited to act in ways that cause others to suffer unjustified harms or to act in ways that are likely to lead others to suffer unjustified harms.  Different moral theories may deliver different justifications.
Rationality 1. the reverse of irrationality; 2. the ability to know that oneself and others can be harmed, the ability to recognize harms as such, and the ability to understand that questionable action requires justification.
Reason an appeal to benefit for oneself or others.  If one has REASON for doing something, it is because the agent believes that someone will benefit.
Rectificatory Justice When we have distributed resources and wealth in the society and when we then notice that the distribution seems not entirely fair, we may adopt measures of redistribution to approximate fairness.  Taxation, for example, is a form of rectificatory justice.  By taking money from the wealthy and redistributing it by way of welfare systems or unemployment benefits or retirement benefits, we are attempting to revise errors in the system of distributive justice.  (Vd. above: "distributive justice.")
Reductio ad Hitlerum whimsical Latin coined by Leo Strauss, who since his death has come to be regarded as a leading intellectual source of neoconservatism in the United States, according to Wikkipedia. "The fallacious nature of this argument is best illustrated by identifying X as something that Adolf Hitler or his supporters did promote but which is not considered evil — for example, X = "promoting expressways", X = "wearing khakis", X = "painting watercolors", or X = "eating food". It is important to understand that those policies advocated by Hitler and his party that are generally considered evil, are all condemned by themselves, not because Hitler supported them. In other words: they are not evil because Hitler advocated them, but rather Hitler was evil because he advocated them" (Wikkipedia). See also Godwin's Law and a related article in Harper's Magazine.
Relativism the belief that there are no universal moral rules and that, thus, each individual or group has a right to set its own standards.  Note that if a group has the right to set standards, then either the definition of the group will have to be obvious and without exceptions, or the group-standard proves to be really an individual standard with a few accidental agreements of several individuals.  
Required behavior that an agent MUST do.  In the most commonsensical moral theories, people are morally required to meet their role-related responsibilities, to avoid causing unjustifiable harm to others, and to avoid acting in ways that are likely to cause people to suffer unjustifiable harm.
Responsibility [These concepts come from David Miller's "Who's Responsible?" Philosopher's Magazine, 2006.] Outcome Responsibility The outcome responsibility goes to the person who has most immediately caused an action or whom one generally considers most directly responsible for the outcome. For example, if you hit another car from behind in circle traffic, ordinarily one holds you responsible for the outcome; in some cases perhaps, you might be held responsible for a broken fender or bumper. Certainly, you'll get the ticket.
Moral Responsibility In defense of your traffic-related faux pas, you may point out that a traffic circle is about the dumbest thing any traffic engineer might come up with for accident-avoiding traffic design. You might be right even. Perhaps countless accidents at the very same place will indicate clearly that the engineer was not really on top of the design. However, the engineer will not share directly in the outcome responsibility.
Remedial Responsibility This responsibility goes to the person who must do something. For example, you will probably have remedial responsibility for repairing the other person's bumper or fender. The traffic engineer may have some remedial responsibility to make changes in the traffic design. You may find these concepts useful when you think, for example, about the recent food riots. To the degree to which we pour food stuff into our gas tanks as ethanol, we may have some moral responsibility for price rises of food stuff. Would we also have outcome responsibility? How about remedial responsibility? Is it enough for one to be wealthy to have remedial responsibility?
Rights what follows from being a subject of moral worth.  Subjects of moral worth have a RIGHT to not be at the receiving end of unjustified harms.
Rule how we expect people to act unless they have a good reason for doing otherwise; people are blameworthy if they violate a moral rule.
Speciesism Peter Singer's term for reflections that prefer the interests of one species--usually one's own--to the interests of any other species. The animal-human distinction is often speciesist. For that reason, Singer has used most consistently the term "non-human animal" as opposed to "human animal." Dividing lines between the two come from culture-based habituation and much less from a thorough analysis of the differences.
Subjective having a reality or truth-value only in regard to the speaker him-/herself.  My believing that something is wrong does not necessarily entail that something is REALLY and objectively wrong; I might merely think that way.
Subjects of Moral Worth something that is deserving of moral protections; includes ordinarily all human beings between birth and death; in addition, the following are also subjects of moral worth in a way more limited than human beings between birth and death: human corpses, human fetuses, some animals in some contexts, the environment, art, culture.  Variations are possible here.  For example, if intelligence be made the dividing line between subjects of moral worth and subjects of pure instrumental value, then chimpanzees might be included while babies born brainless might not be.
Supererogatory Someone acts in a supererogatory manner if s/he goes beyond what is reasonably expected from most people in similar situations. We may call such people "moral heroes."
Teleology the set of moral theories that justify questionable actions by appeal to an ultimate outcome: the ultimate outcome could be anticipated as good consequences or some for of self-actualization.
Theory the foundations of the reasoning that supports a moral system.  Moral theory is comparable to grammar, which is a system that you use intuitively to create language expressions, a system that tells you how language works when you do language analysis, and--for learners--how language (prestige dialect) ought to work.
Unintentional Power Suppose I design a software for a toy airplane. I have a certain responsibility for the design. But if someone installs this software in a lethal drone, the software may be involved in all kinds of consequences that I would have had no way of knowing. The Therac-25 Radiation Machine is one such example. When a sequence of commands had caused problems in the dosage requirement, the machine would display "malfunction 54," an unclear response from the software that was actually to signal that the machine was set to an overdose of output. The "malfunction 54" signal came up so often that hospital technicians simply ignored it. The next patient, thus, became dangerously irradiated. [Read more in Chuck Huff's "Unintentional Power in the Design of Computing Systems" (1995).]
Universal applies to everyone in similar circumstances.  Universal views are different from absolutist views in that universality is the likely result of the similarity of the human condition everywhere.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] This document contains several articles that define what rights a human being should have. It does not have the power of law, but many nations have incorporated its terms into their laws. Visit the web-site of the United Nations Organization to find more about the UDHR: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
Utilitarianism moral theories that justify exceptions to people following rules by appeal to the greatest good for the greatest number and the least harm to for the smallest number.
Values those things that express what people desire or want to avoid.  Primary values are highly likely to be universally shared: For example, people want to avoid death--unless they are terrorists on a self-sacrifice mission; pain--unless they are masochists or act under psychological compulsions; disabilities--unless they want to be dismissed from active duty in the trenches; deprivations of freedoms or pleasures--unless they have some other reason or psychological compulsion.  But, rankings of values differ among people.  There are also aesthetic and religious values that have no necessary connection with ethics.
Intrinsic Value [ends] Something is of intrinsic value if it is good or desirable in and of itself. The moral community, for example, has intrinsic value. From a Kantian perspective, no human being whether in our own person or the person of another should be used instrumentally. People, including ourselves, have intrinsic value. Some ethicists expand that circle of beings to include other non-human intelligent beings or other non-human sentient beings. 
Instrumental Value [means] Something is of instrumental value if we can do something with it that we value. For example, money is of instrumental value to most of us. We value what we can buy with money; ordinarily, we don't value money in and of itself. Meat-eaters, for example, will include non-human intelligent or sentient beings as having instrumental value. Remember again that a collection of concepts facilitates our dialog about ethics; such a conceptual scheme does not dictate a particular belief.
Virtue Ethics the set of moral theories that justify exceptions to people following rules by appeal to what one's moral hero might do.  One might ask, for example: What would an extremely competent journalist who has great integrity do in this situation?  You may also have seen the bumpersticker "WWJD."  Since here Jesus is the moral hero, this is also an example of "virtue ethics."
Wide Reflective Equilibrium "James Griffin observes about this method in his article 'How We Do Ethics Now' that 'the best procedure for ethics . . . . is the going back and forth between intuitions about fairly specific situations on the one side and the fairly general principles that we formulate to make sense of our moral practice on the other, adjusting either, until eventually we bring them all into coherence. This is, I think, the dominant view about method in ethics nowadays'" [Griffin in Ethics, ed. A. Phillips Griffiths, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993; p. 165--as quoted in Jeroen van den Haven. "Computer Ethics and Moral Methodology" in Cyberethics, ed. Robert M. Beard et al. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2000; p. 88.].

This glossary is based on the work of Ethicist Dr. Deni Elliott, who relied much on Dr. Bernard Gert's Morality, A New Justification for the Moral Rules. New York: Oxford, 1988.  Some contributions are my own or appear with references.

Reinhold Schlieper

Department of Humanities

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Daytona Beach FL  32114

July 3, 2003; last update: October 14, 2010