Ethics Terminology Sought
January 21, 2009 4:18 PM   Subscribe

What's the ethical concept which measures one's ability to apply one's ethical standards universally?

I'm trying to remember a word from the field of ethics that measures how even-handed one is in applying ethics to real-world situations. If I recall correctly, one could gauge this quality by asking ethical questions like: - If you saw two people drowning in a lake, one of your race/ethnicity and one of another race/ethnicity, who do you save first?
- Do you give charity to benefit organizations within your local communities, or those for international causes which may be needier?
- And so on.

Anybody know what this piece of jargon is that I'm searching for? I think it might start with an M, but I'm not really sure.
posted by AngerBoy to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Moral dilemma?
posted by zippy at 4:24 PM on January 21, 2009

Moral relativism?
posted by charmcityblues at 4:24 PM on January 21, 2009

Best answer: I believe the general term is moral parsimony. To what extent external attributes (distance, relationship, etc.) affect your morality's 'bias'.

If I'm remembering correctly, I'm pulling my reference from TPM's Morality Play.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 4:25 PM on January 21, 2009

posted by Afroblanco at 4:29 PM on January 21, 2009

You're probably remembering the term "normative ethics" as it is commonly used.
posted by Brian B. at 4:35 PM on January 21, 2009

In classical philosophy, this would be subsumed under the virtue of justice (out of the traditional tetrad of justice, courage, wisdom, and moderation).
posted by nasreddin at 4:35 PM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: Yes! Parsimony it is. I told you it started with an M. Heh.

WHEW. Now I can finally get some sleep. This was truly torturing me.

Thanks to @Phineas Rhyne, et. al.
posted by AngerBoy at 8:43 PM on January 21, 2009

Categorical Imperative?
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 8:43 PM on January 21, 2009

Categorical Imperative?
The categorical imperative is a similar relation between the particular and the universal but it really works the other way around.

Moral parsimony is about how a universal ethical imperative is applied in a particular case.
The Categorical imperative relates to the consequences if a particular decision was a universal one.
posted by atrazine at 11:57 PM on January 21, 2009

Who coined the phrase "moral parsimony" anyway? I did a search and only see original internet references.
posted by Brian B. at 6:29 PM on January 22, 2009

@ atrazine: thx, I think the last time I even used the term was in 1990, when I took Intro to Philosophy. I threw it out there, just in case....
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 7:22 AM on January 23, 2009

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