Intro to Philosophy Descriptive Ethics

March 8, 2022
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Intro to Philosophy Descriptive Ethics

Intro to Philosophy Descriptive Ethics

Question Description
I’m stuck on a Philosophy question and need an explanation.

Answer the following discussion

Descriptive ethics refers to what people do and what people believe is morally acceptable. Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists study descriptive ethics. Normative ethics refers to what people should do. Moral philosophers study normative ethics.

Why is it important to distinguish between normative and descriptive ethics? What mistakes can occur for one who fails to grasp this distinction?

Descriptive ethics, also known as comparative ethics, is the study of people’s beliefs about morality.[1] 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:

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

What is descriptive ethics?
Descriptive ethics is a form of empirical research into the attitudes of individuals or groups of people. In other words, this is the division of philosophical or general ethics that involves the observation of the moral decision-making process with the goal of describing the phenomenon. 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 reward 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.

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.[2][3]

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

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