This self-explanatory table presents a simple but instructive comparison of the defining features of thestereotypes of ancient ethics and modern morality (for a similar table see Bayertz 2005: 117).
|| Ancient Ethics
|| Modern Morality
|| Basic Question
|| What is the good life? What is happiness and human flourishing?
|| What should one/I do? The question of the good life plays, at best, a sub-ordinate role.
|| What is the Object of Concern?
|| Self-centred: The person’s own interests dominate.
|| Other-related: The interests of other people are most central.
|| What is most important?
|| Pursuit of Goals: Personal perfection, personal projects, and personal relationships.
|| Universal moral obligations & rules: Individuals should seek for impartiality (and hence they alienate themselves from their own personal projects).
|| What is examined?
|| Agent: Most important are the acting person and his/her character (agent-centred ethics).
|| Actions & Consequences: Most important is the correctness of the action & consequence (action & consequences centred ethics).
|| Central Notions
|| Virtues: aretaic notions for example good, excellence, virtue (aretaic language).
|| Norms: prescriptive notions concerning rules, duties, obligations for example must, should (deontic language).
|| Rationality is seen as?
|| Rationality is seen as a capacity of context-sensitive insight and decision-making.
|| Rationality is “mainly” seen as the capacity to (rationally) deduce inferences from abstract propositions.
|| The Goals of human actions
|| The goals of human actions are objective (notion of happiness: for example thinking, pleasure).
|| The goals of human actions are individually defined by the people (subjectivism). No God, no nature.
|| Scope of Morality
|| Adult male citizens with full citizenship.
|| Men, women, children, animals, environment.
|| Individual and Community
|| The individual is in unity with the community (harmony).
|| The individual and the community are rather disconnected from each other.