Descriptive ethics


Descriptive ethics

Descriptive ethics, also known as comparative ethics, is the study of people's beliefs about morality. It contrasts with prescriptive or normative ethics, which is the study of ethical theories that prescribe how people ought to act, and with meta-ethics, which is the study of what ethical terms and theories actually refer to. The following examples of questions that might be considered in each field illustrate the differences between the fields:

Descriptive ethics: What do people think is right?
Normative (prescriptive) ethics: How should people act?
Applied ethics: How do we take moral knowledge and put it into practice?
Meta-ethics: What does 'right' even mean?

Contents

What are descriptive ethics?

Descriptive ethics is a form of empirical research into the attitudes of individuals or groups of people. Those working on descriptive ethics aim to uncover people's beliefs about such things as values, which actions are right and wrong, and which characteristics of moral agents are virtuous. Research into descriptive ethics may also investigate people's ethical ideals or what actions societies condemn or punish in law or politics.what ought to be noted is that culture is generational and not static. therefore a new generation will come with its own set of morals and that qualifies to be their ethics. descriptive ethics will hence try to oversee whether ethics still holds its place in a new generation

Because descriptive ethics involves empirical investigation, it is a field that is usually investigated by those working in the fields of evolutionary biology, psychology, sociology or anthropology. Information that comes from descriptive ethics is, however, also used in philosophical arguments.

Value theory can be either normative or descriptive but is usually descriptive.

Lawrence Kohlberg: An example of descriptive ethics

Lawrence Kohlberg is one example of a psychologist working on descriptive ethics. In one study, for example, Kohlberg questioned a group of boys about what would be a right or wrong action for a man facing a moral dilemma: should he steal a drug to save his wife, or refrain from theft even though that would lead to his wife's death?[1] Kohlberg's concern was not which choice the boys made, but the moral reasoning that lay behind their decisions. After carrying out a number of related studies, Kohlberg devised a theory about the development of human moral reasoning that was intended to reflect the moral reasoning actually carried out by the participants in his research. Kohlberg's research can be classed as descriptive ethics to the extent that he describes human beings' actual moral development. If, in contrast, he had aimed to describe how humans ought to develop morally, his theory would have involved prescriptive ethics.

Descriptive ethics and relativism

Observations by descriptive ethics are often used as arguments for moral relativism (a meta-ethical theory about the nature of right and wrong). Some[citation needed] argue that ethical diversity[citation needed] between individuals and human cultures supports the theory that right and wrong are not absolute but relative. Morality is seen as relative to culture (an aspect of cultural relativism); sometimes it is seen as relative to each individual. This is taken to support the thesis that morality is a social construct, and thus relative to its users and their values, instead of being woven into the fabric of the Universe , a position championed by Moral Absolutism and Divine Command Theory.

References

  1. ^ Kohlberg, Lawrence, (1971). "Stages in Moral Development as a Basis for Moral Education." In C.M. Beck, B.S. Crittenden, and E.V. Sullivan, Eds. Moral Education: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Toronto: Toronto University Press.

See also


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • descriptive ethics — noun The study of peoples beliefs about morality, in contrast to normative ethics and metaethics …   Wiktionary

  • Ethics — For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). Philosophy …   Wikipedia

  • Ethics in religion — Most religions have an ethical component, often derived from purported supernatural revelation or guidance. For many people, ethics is not only tied up with religion, but is completely settled by it. Such people do not need to think too much… …   Wikipedia

  • ethics — /eth iks/, n.pl. 1. (used with a sing. or pl. v.) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture. 2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics;… …   Universalium

  • descriptive sports ethics — aprašomoji sporto etika statusas T sritis Kūno kultūra ir sportas apibrėžtis Sporto etikos dalis, nagrinėjanti ir nurodanti, kokia buvo ir yra tikroji sporto etika. atitikmenys: angl. descriptive sports ethics vok. beschreibende Sportethik, f rus …   Sporto terminų žodynas

  • Normative ethics — is the study of ethical action. It is the branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking. Normative ethics is distinct from meta ethics because it examines… …   Wikipedia

  • Meta-ethics — In philosophy, meta ethics is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes, and judgments. Meta ethics is one of the three branches of ethics generally recognized by philosophers, the… …   Wikipedia

  • Business ethics — For the episode from the American television series The Office, see Business Ethics (The Office). Business ethics (also corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical… …   Wikipedia

  • Outline of ethics — See also: Index of ethics articles The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ethics: Ethics – major branch of philosophy, encompassing right conduct and good life. It is significantly broader than the common… …   Wikipedia

  • Medical ethics — is a system of moral principles that apply values and judgments to the practice of medicine. As a scholarly discipline, medical ethics encompasses its practical application in clinical settings as well as work on its history, philosophy, theology …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.