Philosophical Study of Ethics 1. Meta-ethics 2. Normative Ethics 3. Applied Ethics 2 B. Meta-ethics consists in the attempt to answer the fundamental philosophical questions about the nature of ethical theory itself. Examples: 1. Are ethical statements such as "lying is wrong", or "friendship is good" true or false?
Normative ethics, that branch of moral philosophy, or ethics, concerned with criteria of what is right and wrong. It includes the formulation of moral rules that have implications for what human actions, institutions, and ways of life should be like. It is usually contrasted with theoretical ethics and applied ethics.
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How is metaethics related to normative and Applied Ethics?
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Normative Ethics is focused on the creation of theories that provide general moral rules governing our behavior, such as Utilitarianism or Kantian Ethics. The normative ethicist, rather than being a football player, is more like a referee who sets up the rules governing how the game is played. Metaethics is the study of how we engage in ethics.
- Mark Dimmock, Andrew Fisher
Meta-ethics, Normative Ethics, and Applied Ethics . Metaethics talks about the nature of ethics and moral reasoning. Discussions about whether ethics is relative and whether we always act from self-interest are examples of meta-ethical discussions.
Applied ethics is one of the three divisions of the philosophy of ethics. Normative ethics attempts to develop a framework by which actions can be judged ethical or not. Metaethics is a discussion about ethics; it attempts to define terms, determine the authority of right and wrong, and investigate why people feel the inclination to be ethical.
- Applied Ethics as Distinct from Normative Ethics and Metaethics
- Business Ethics
- Moral Standing and Personhood
- Professional Ethics
- Social Ethics, Distributive Justice, and Environmental Ethics
- Theory and Application
- References and Further Reading
One way of categorizing the field of ethics (as a study of morality) is by distinguishing between its three branches, one of them being applied ethics. By contrasting applied ethics with the other branches, one can get a better understanding what exactly applied ethics is about. The three branches are metaethics, normative ethics (sometimes referred to as ethical theory), and applied ethics. Metaethics deals with whether morality exists. Normative ethics, usually assuming an affirmative answer to the existence question, deals with the reasoned construction of moral principles, and at its highest level, determines what the fundamental principle of morality is. Applied ethics, also usually assuming an affirmative answer to the existence question, addresses the moral permissibility of specific actions and practices. Although there are many avenues of research in metaethics, one main avenue starts with the question of whether or not moral judgments are truth-apt. The following will illu...
Some people might think that business ethics is an oxymoron. How can business, with all of its shady dealings, be ethical? This is a view that can be taken even by well educated people. But in the end, such a position is incorrect. Ethics is a study of morality, and business practices are fundamental to human existence, dating back at least to agrarian society, if not even to pre-agrarian existence. Business ethics then is a study of the moral issues that arise when human beings exchange goods and services, where such exchanges are fundamental to our daily existence. Not only is business ethics not something oxymoronical, it is important.
Bioethicsis a very exciting field of study, filled with issues concerning the most basic concerns of human beings and their close relatives. In some sense, the term bioethics is a bit ridiculous, as almost anything of ethical concern is biological, and certainly anything that is sentient is of ethical concern. (Note that with silicon based sentient beings, what I say is controversial, and perhaps false.) Bioethics, then, should be understood as a study of morality as it concerns issues dealing with the biological issues and facts concerning ourselves, and our close relatives, for examples, almost any non-human animal that is sentient. This part of the article will be divided into three sections: beginning of life issues, including abortion; end of life issues, for example euthanasia; and finally, ethical concerns doing medical research, as well as availability of medical care.
a. Theories of Moral Standing and Personhood
Take two beings, a rock and a human being. What is it about each such that it’s morally okay to destroy the rock in the process of procuring minerals but not okay to destroy a human being in the process of procuring an organ for transplantation? This question delves into the issue of moral standing. To give an answer to this question is to give a theory of moral standing/personhood. First, some technical things should be said. Any given entity/being has a moral status. Those beings that can’t...
b. The Moral Status of Non-Human Animals
In the literature, though, how are non-human animalsconsidered? Are they considered as having moral standing? Peter Singer is probably one of the first to advocate, in the academic literature, for animals as having moral standing. Very importantly, he documented how current agrarian practices treated animals, from chimps to cows to chickens (Singer, 1975). The findings were astonishing. Many people would find the conditions under which these animals are treated despicable and morally wrong. A...
a. What is a Profession?
Certain things like law, medicine, and engineering are considered to be professions. Other things like unskilled labor and art are not. There are various ways to try to understand what constitutes something as a profession. For the purposes of this article, there will be no discussion of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions proposed for something constituting a profession. With that said, some proposed general characteristics will be discussed. We will discuss these characteristics in...
b. Engineering Ethics
In this section, we will discuss engineering ethics for two purposes. One purpose is to use engineering ethics as a case study in professional ethics. More importantly, the second purpose is to give the reader some idea of some of the ethical issues involved in engineering as a practice. One way to approach engineering ethics is by first thinking of it as a profession, and then given its features as a profession, examine ethical issues according to those features. So, for example, given that...
This section is an oddity, but due to space limitations, is the best way to structure an article like this. First of all, take something like “social ethics”. In some sense, all ethics is social, as it deals with human beings and other social creatures. Nevertheless, some people think that certain moral issues apply only to our private lives while we are behind closed doors. For example, is masturbation morally wrong? Or, is homosexual sex morally wrong? One way such questions are viewed is that, in a sense, they are not simple private questions, but inherently social. For example with homosexual sex, since sex is also a public phenomenon in some way, and sense the expression of sexual orientation is certainly public, there is definitely a way of understanding even this issue as public and therefore social. Perhaps the main point that needs to be emphasized is that when I say social I mean those issues that need to be understood obviously in a public, social way, and which cannot be...
One might still worry about the status of applied ethics for the reason that it is not quite clear what the methodology/formula is for determining the permissibility of any given action/practice. Such a worry is justified, indeed. The reason for the justification of skepticism here is that there are multiple approaches to determining the permissibility of actions/practices. One such approach is very much top-down. The approach starts with a normative theory, where actions are determined by a single principle dictating the permissibility/impermissibility (rightness/wrongness) of actions/practices. The idea is that you start with something like utilitarianism (permissible just in case it maximizes overall goodness), Kantianism (permissible just in case it does not violate imperatives of rationality or respecting persons), or virtue theory (permissible just in case it abides with what the ideally virtuous person would do). From there, you get results of permissibility or impermissibili...Allhoff, Fritz, and Vaidya, Anand J. “Business in Ethical Focus”. (2008), Broadview.Andrews, Kristen. “The First Step in Case for Great Ape Equality: The Argument for Other Minds.” (1996), Etica and Animali.Beauchamp, Tom, and Bowie, Norman. “Ethical Theory and Business.” (1983), Prentice-Hall.Boylan, Michael. “A Just Society.” (2004), Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.