Furthermore, many impoverished and desperate young women are sold against their will into prostitution. How we describe the situation may determine our moral evaluation of it. The relationship between the personal and the political is an issue that Virginia Held confronts in her article about feminist responses to ethical theory. The personal realm has often been aligned with the feminine while the political has often been aligned with the masculine. Women are thought of as participating in the life of the home (the personal) while men have been thought to lead the life of the state (political). Held examines assumptions about the role of women in society and the ways that women are working in the ethical tradition to provide a feminine voice in a world that is dominated by the masculine. As we have seen, some activities that were once illegal have become legal, or at least "decriminalized," presumably due to society's changing standards. Perhaps this means, as the saying goes, that "you cannot legislate morality," meaning that the state simply is not good at legislating ethical choices. However, we legislate morality all the time. A society legislates against murder on the assumption that it is wrong. No one responds to the fact that people continue to murder each other by recommending that we get rid of laws that make murder illegal. Ethics provides some guidance but offers no clear-cut set of rules to determine an answer on which everyone will agree. Ethics can clarify how we determine the relationship between the individual citizen and their society. Is it a laissez-faire society? Or is it a society that exerts its power to ensure that all its members are treated fairly and given equal access to opportunity? How we answer that question plays an important role in how we look at a society's laws, rules, and informal policies. That answer will in turn help us evaluate the morality of the various activities in which people and communities engage. 6.5 Summary and Resources Chapter Highlights
Philosophers have developed substantial and complex approaches to solving ethical issues, including utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Other ethical views, known as metaethics, raise significant questions about how the discipline of ethics should be understood. Applying ethical theory to specific problems reveals that a more rigorous understanding of those theories can help clarify those problems though not necessarily offer solutions. Philosopher Vignette: John Stuart Mill Photo: John Stuart Mill. Photos.com/© Getty Images/Thinkstock John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill was born in a London suburb in 1806. His father, James Mill, undertook his education, and John began study of Greek at the age of 3 and Latin at the age of 8. By the time he was getting ready for what most would call the freshman year of high school, Mill had read most of the ancient classics and intensely studied history, mathematics, and economics. At the age of 20, Mill suffered from serious depression that he attributed to his rigorously analytical education. Mill connected to his emotions through the poetry of William
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