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Universalism in ethics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L108-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved January 30, 2023, from

Article Summary

The claim that ethical standards or principles are universal is an ancient commonplace of many ethical traditions and of contemporary political life, particularly in appeals to universal human rights. Yet it remains controversial. There are many sources of controversy. Universalism in ethics may be identified with claims about the form, scope or content of ethical principles, or with the very idea that ethical judgment appeals to principles, rather than to particular cases. Or it may be identified with various claims to identify a single fundamental universal principle, from which all other ethical principles and judgments derive. These disagreements can be clarified, and perhaps in part resolved, by distinguishing a number of different conceptions of universalism in ethics.

Citing this article:
O'Neill, Onora. Universalism in ethics, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L108-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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