World History of Ethical Systems
[1] This introduction is neither an anecdotal description nor a simple
history. It is instead a proposal with philosophical intent,1 in which the
historical contents of “ethical systems” are analyzed following a historical
sequence that in some way, and always partially, conditions ethical ma-
terial and formal moral levels2 as well as ethical criticism (which in turn
has negative and positive aspects).3 Empirically, neither in the present, nor
in Europe, nor in the United States,4 is an absolutely postconventional
morality possible.
I will try only to “situate” the ethical problematic within a global hori-
zon, in order to remove it from the traditional interpretation that has been
merely Helleno- or Eurocentric, in order to open up the discussion beyond
contemporary Euro–North American philosophical ethics. The entire dis-
cussion is merely indicative—neither exhaustive nor even sufficient—in
order to show how we might expand our questioning toward broader pano-
ramas of “globalism.”5
The content of a cultural ethical life should not be confused with philo-
sophical formalism6 as such and insofar as it is taken as the method that
originated in Greece (although with acknowledged antecedents in Egypt
and with parallel processes in India and China). The contents of Greek
culture should not, therefore, be identified with philosophy formally or as
such. Mythical texts7 such as those of Homer or Hesiod can be studied as
philosophical examples, taking notice of their contents of ethical life, while
other narratives, such as that of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Semitic or
Hebrew texts, the Upanishads, or those by Lao Tzu, are discarded because
they are not formally philosophical (ignoring them as mere mythical, liter-
ary, religious, or artistic examples). It is not generally noted that the prop-
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