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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 44, 1998

Theoretical Ethics

Horst Seidl
Pages 215-222

On Foundation Problems of Normative and Educational Ethics
Some Actual Considerations Referring to Ancient Ethics

The controversies in our time between teleological and deontological ethics which come down to the problem "from being to ought," referring to human being or nature, can be resolved only by an adequate conception of human nature. Taking up the ancient tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Stoa) again, we can re-examine the teleological conception of human nature as primarily instinctive and selfish, and say that human nature is constituted also by reason and that the instinctive nature is predisposed to be guided by reason or intellect. The constitutive order of the human soul, with the subordination of the instinct under the intellect, involves already some natural goodness, of which the intellect is aware (in the natural moral conscience) and for which the will strives (in a natural inclination). This is the basis for the "moral law" and for normative ethics. Thus, human nature is not selfish in itself. Although moral goodness as humankind’s perfection is an ideal, it has in us already imperfect natural beginnings, a "natural morality." In a certain sense, the moral ought of actions comes from one’s being, from the natural moral goodness of which the intellect is aware in itself, and from its good intentions.

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