abortion. Any medical procedure that terminates the life of the human fetus prior to birth. Abortion loomed as one of the central ethical issues in the church and *society in the final four decades of the twentieth century. Connected to the question of abortion are such considerations as the *rights and welfare of the birth mother; the nature of *procreation and sexual activity; the value of unborn human life; and the interests of other parties, such as the father and other *family members. Some ethicists hold to one or the other of the two absolutist positions: "abortion on demand" or no abortion under any circumstances. Yet most of the ethical debate has centered on the question of the circumstances under which abortion might be deemed either morally permissible or the lesser of two evils (e.g., when the mother's life is endangered or in the case of rape). See also fetal research; life, right to.
absolute, absolutism. An ethical *principle or rule deemed universally obligatory, that is, binding on all persons and under all circumstances without exception. Ethical absolutism, in turn, is the theory that one or more ethical absolutes exist and can be discovered. Proponents of ethical absolutism differ among themselves regarding the source of such absolutes. Some suggest that they are rooted in the character of God and are given to humans by divine revelation. Others declare that moral absolutes are rooted in universal *human nature and are accessible through reason. See also nonconflicting absolutism; norm; universal moral judgments.
abstinence. As a general concept, abstinence denotes the act of refraining from a particular activity because of moral, religious or health convictions. As an ethical concept, it is most often used to denote the choice of an unmarried person to refrain from sexual activity, especially sexual intercourse. The validity of abstinence as the best stance for adolescent minors is widely debated today, as is abstinence-focused sex education in the public schools. See also sexuality, sexual ethics.
addiction. The condition of being given to habitual dependency. This dependency can manifest itself in various forms, such as substance addiction (*drugs, alcohol and stimulants), sexual addiction or activity addiction (shopping, spending, *gambling, Internet, television, etc.). Although many addictions are considered debilitating and even potentially harmful to the addict and to *society, discussions abound as to whether addiction is a medical/ psychological or a moral category. That is, are addictions to be viewed as diseases or sins?
adultery. The act of sexual intercourse between a person who is married and someone who is not one's *marriage partner. The Old Testament expressly forbids adultery. The injunction against this practice is one of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:14). Jesus not only repeated the commandment in his conversation with the rich young ruler (e.g., Mt 19:18), but in the *Sermon on the Mount applied it to the *lust of the heart (Mt 5:27-28). Contemporary discussions have raised the question as to whether the commandment against adultery extends to any physical contact of an explicitly sexual nature between two people who are not married. See also chastity.
advertising ethics. The study of the *standards of conduct that govern the process of informing the public about products and services. The ethical dimension of advertising arises from the fact that the practice is generally designed today to increase the demand for the products and services about which the public is being informed, thereby enhancing their perceived economic value and, in effect, creating or enhancing the desire for them. Advertising also raises the somewhat related ethical questions regarding the role of consumption in *society.
agape. A transliteration of a Greek word commonly translated into English as "*love." Agape, as an ethical concern, reflects its Hebrew cognate, hesed, in that it represents the self-denying value of lovingkindness, as reflected in God's love for creation. Agape is sometimes distinguished from the related Greek terms *eros and phileo, which are also often translated into English as "love," but do not carry the idea of self-giving entailed in agapē. Many Christians have articulated what is often termed an agapeic ethic, that is, an approach to the ethical life that elevates love as the chief consideration. See also charity.
altruism. The selfless concern for the well-being of others. Some philosophical ethicists argue that altruistic concerns are present in every moral code and therefore that altruism belongs to the realm of naturalistic ethics (see also naturalism, ethical). Contemporary sociobiology offers a different kind of naturalistic understanding, claiming that altruism is connected to interest in the propagation of one's genes. Altruism as a motivation for conduct appears at the heart of Jesus' command to "*love your neighbor as yourself" (Lk 10:27). See also compassion.
analytical ethics. Derived from the term analyze, which means "to take things apart," analytical ethics is the branch of philosophical or *general ethics that explores the nature of *morality itself. Analytical ethicists attempt to develop a theory as to what *value judgments mean and how they can be justified. Sometimes the term is used synonymously with *metaethics.
animal rights. The set of moral *obligations that nonhuman animals can demand from humans or that humans owe to animals, especially the *principle that animals have legitimate claims to humane, equitable treatment. Animal rights proponents generally presuppose one of two foundational views: that animals, as part of the created order, are entitled to merciful and compassionate treatment from humans, or that humans are simply another species in the animal kingdom and as such have no moral primacy over the rest of the animal kingdom. The concept of animal *rights is a relatively new development. Stephen Clark, Mary Midgely, Tom Regan and Peter Singer are among the contemporary voices calling for a concern for the rights of animals.
anti-Semitism. The condition of being characterized by prejudicial attitudes and actions against the Jewish people in general or individual Jews merely on the basis of their ethnicity. Anti-Semitism emerges as a special problem for Christian theology and *Christian ethics due to the unique historical and theological relationship between Christianity and the Jewish faith. See also discrimination; prejudice; racism.
antinomianism. Literally, "against or in opposition to, the *law." Antinomianism as a Christian theological term asserts that grace through *faith has abolished the law (Gal 3:11; Eph 2:8-9), and that therefore the Christian is no longer subject to the law in any sense. Taken to an extreme, antinomianism leads to licentious if not ethically questionable conduct. That it was a problem in the early church is evident by the repeated warnings against it found in several New Testament writings.
anxiety, ethical. A feeling of despair brought on by the necessity to make ethical or moral decisions. Ethical anxiety is a necessary attribute in the formation of moral *character in the ethical *society. Søren *Kierkegaard asserted that anxiety was one of the markers of true *freedom of choice.
apartheid. A term initially arising from South Africa that literally means "apartness." It is usually understood in the context of racial segregation, and more particularly to the racial policies of the South African government from 1950 through 1991. As an ethical term, apartheid may be used to refer to any perceived immoral separation of elements to the point that one element is excluded for the sake of the benefit of the other. Hence, in human social relations, it denotes the separation of one group from another for the sake of enhancing the status of members of the one group, possibly at the expense of the others in *society. See also discrimination; racism.
Aquinas, Thomas. See Thomas Aquinas.
Aristotle. An ancient Greek philosopher credited with being the first thinker in Western civilization to offer a systematic treatise on *ethics, his Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle (384-323 b.c.) was a student of *Plato, became the tutor of Alexander the Great and later founded his own school, the Lyceum. Aristotle's view of metaphysics is foundational to moral reflection. Ethics begins with the search for the highest human *good, which is *happiness, understood as well-being rather than as a psychological state. This happiness is tied to human functioning and as such consists of a life of virtuous activity lived in accordance to reason. Moral *virtues are acquired through the rational control of desires and involve a deliberate concern to fulfill our "end" or highest good. Aristotelian ethics, in turn, are framed by the human pursuit of the final cause appropriate to human life, which is the highest human good. See also golden mean.
armaments. The military equipment and personnel of a nation, group or individual. Although armaments include the personnel that carry out the tactical and strategic military aims of a nation, the term is generally used in a narrower sense to refer to the equipment available for use in warfare or a combat situation. This equipment may range from simple hand-held weapons, such as knives, to complex nuclear explosives and their delivery mechanisms. The ethical questions regarding armaments are connected to the *morality of the use of physical *force in general and warfare in particular to resolve problems. See also disarmament; nuclear warfare.
artificial insemination. The designation of a variety of commonly used means to assist the reproductive process in which a concentrated amount of semen is introduced into the female ovum in a clinical environment. Among married couples, artificial insemination is usually pursued when an abnormality greatly reduces the possibility of conception by sexual intercourse. Artificial insemination by the husband (AIH) is the least controversial variety of this method of artificial conception. Artificial insemination by a donor (AID), often pursued when the husband does not have viable sperm or is a carrier of a possible genetic disorder, is more controversial, in that the child produced by this method will have no genetic link to the husband of the mother. Artificial insemination by donor is frequently criticized in religious circles as an attack on God's sovereignty over creation or on God's intention for *marriage. AID is also deemed suspect in that it facilitates a single woman's producing a child. See also genetics, genetic engineering; procreation; reproductive technologies.
asylum. As a political term, the protection granted by one country to *refugees from another country, usually in response to political, ethnic or religious *persecution. Ethical issues connected with asylum include such matters as asylum as a right, the conditions under which the granting of asylum is a moral *duty, the link between *justice (including *distributive justice) and the practice of asylum, and humane treatment of asylum seekers. In medical parlance, an asylum is an institution dedicated to the treatment of the mentally ill. Today ethical questions are being raised regarding the proper treatment of mental patients, including whether placing persons in asylums can be justified morally.
Augustine (A.D. 354-430). A North African convert to Christianity hailed as one of the greatest theologians in the history of the church. At the heart of Augustine's thought was his appropriation of a Neo-Platonic ontology (see Neo-Platonism) that viewed being as forming a kind of hierarchy, at the apex of which was the "One," the fullness of being. The One was also an ethical concept in that it. was held to be the perfect *good. Augustine linked the Neo-Platonic One to the Christian God, who is also the highest good. Therefore, Augustine asserted that the human *summum bonum is God, or better, the enjoyment of God. On this foundation, Augustine constructed his understanding of the Christian ethic, which he viewed as an ethic based on God's *love for us, which moves our *will and thereby evokes in us love for God.
autonomy. Literally, "self *law" or "self rule," and hence the independent exercise of an individual or community's *will leading to moral claims that are seen to be determined by the individual. In general, autonomy—which is often viewed as the opposite of *heteronomy and is sometimes contrasted to *theonomy—entails the rejection of all moral claims deemed to arise from a source that is external to the individual or *community or to which the individual or community does not have direct access. See also freedom; individualism; moral autonomy.
avarice. A synonym for *greed. Avarice is a preoccupation with the accumulation of material *wealth, especially wealth in abundance that is hoarded for the sake of one's own benefit. Avarice is often associated with immoral behaviors (e.g., embezzlement, fraud and simple theft) connected to this preoccupation. But the ethical questions it raises move beyond particular immoral conduct to include issues of *justice—at what point is the accumulation of *wealth, even by ethical means, immoral?—and the nature of the *good life.