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16. Applied Ethics


Subject Ethics » Practical (Applied) Ethics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00021.x


In trying to understand what applied ethics is, and how it has developed within English-speaking philosophy over the last twenty to thirty years, it is useful to begin by making a threefold or three-level distinction, between M orality ( chapter 6 ), M oral theory (pp. 212–14) and M eta-ethics (pp. 225–7). The first of these consists of individual claims about what is of moral value, such as honesty and loyalty and about what ought to be done or avoided in general and on particular occasions: for instance, always help those in great need, or never inflict unnecessary pain. Sometimes claims of these sorts come in groups and constitute a moral outlook or system. When this is so it becomes possible to speak of a morality or an ethic —such as a Christian morality or an ecological ethic. A morality in this sense is a body of moral claims usually expressing a certain kind of concern or commitment. It is likely but not logically required, that a morality will be accompanied by one or more P rinciples (pp. 733–6) by reference to which particular claims are justified. This brings us to the second of the three levels, for the articulation of such principles within a systematic structure is what constitutes a moral theory. Here it is important to note two points: first, that one can make moral claims, and more generally possess a morality, without having a moral theory; and, second, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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