Heteronomous Ethics

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Heteronomous Ethics


a system of normative ethics based not on one’s own moral principles but on tenets taken from a different sphere of social life.

The concept of heteronomous ethics was introduced by Kant, who did not share the French materialists’ belief that the basis of morality sprang from the natural instincts of “human nature,” such as interest and predilections. Kant proposed the concept of autonomous ethics, based on a self-evident moral law, independent of any natural or social laws and circumstances. While denying the possibility of creating autonomous ethics from a sociohistorical concept of the nature of morality, Marxist ethics repudiates heteronomous ethics, since it vulgarizes the nature of morality, reducing it to certain social phenomena (practical considerations in utilitarianism, the desire for pleasure in hedonism, the pursuit of personal happiness in eudaemonism, and obedience to an external authority in approbatory theories of morality). The critical appraisal of heteronomous ethics coincides in Marxist ethics with the problem of determining the specificity of morality.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Instead, he is presented as an autonomous human being, but one who wishes he could abide by a heteronomous ethics.
Don Manuel is a powerful synthetic character: he is a saint and a tragic hero, he performs "me's" associated with a heteronomous ethic and an autonomous one, he is an individual ethical subject unthinkable outside the world that he himself creates through a myth that he cannot believe but that, paradoxically, he needs for himself as well.