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 standards for the rightness and wrongness of actions, while meta-ethics studies the meaning of moral language and the metaphysics of moral facts. Normative ethics is also distinct from descriptive ethics, as the latter is an empirical investigation of people’s moral beliefs. To put it another way, descriptive ethics would be concerned with determining what proportion of people believe that killing is always wrong, while normative ethics is concerned with whether it is correct to hold such a belief. Hence, normative ethics is sometimes called prescriptive, rather than descriptive. However, on certain versions of the meta-ethical view called moral realism, moral facts are both descriptive and prescriptive at the same time. Most traditional moral theories rest on principles that determine whether an action is right or wrong. Classical theories in this vein include utilitarianism, Kantianism, and some forms of contractarianism. These theories mainly offered the use of overarching moral principles to resolve difficult moral decisions.
1 Normative ethical theories 2 Binding force
2.1 Motivating morality
3 References 4 See also
Normative ethical theories
There are disagreements about what precisely gives an action, rule, or
disposition its ethical force. There are three competing views on how
moral questions should be answered, along with hybrid positions that
combine some elements of each.
Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative, which roots morality in
humanity's rational capacity and asserts certain inviolable moral
The contractualism of John Rawls, which holds that the moral acts are
those that we would all agree to if we were unbiased.
Utilitarianism, which holds that an action is right if it leads to the most happiness for the greatest number of people. (Historical Note: Prior to the coining of the term "consequentialism" by Anscombe in 1958 and the adoption of that term in the literature that followed, "utilitarianism" was the generic term for consequentialism, referring to all theories that promoted maximizing any form of utility, not just those that promoted maximizing happiness.) State consequentialism or Mohist consequentialism, which holds that an action is right if it leads to state welfare, through order, material wealth, and population growth. Egoism, the belief that the moral person is the self-interested person, holds that an action is right if it maximizes good for the self. Situation Ethics, which holds that the correct action is the one that creates the most loving result, and that love should always be our goal. Intellectualism, which dictates that the best action is the one that best fosters and promotes knowledge. Welfarism, which argues that the best action is the one that most increases economic well-being or welfare. Preference utilitarianism, which holds that the best action is the one that leads to the most overall preference satisfaction.
It can be unclear what it means to say that a person "ought to do X
because it is moral, whether they like it or not".
If he is an amoral man he may deny that he has any reason to trouble his head over this or any other moral demand. Of course, he may be mistaken, and his life as well as others' lives may be most sadly spoiled by his selfishness. But this is not what is urged by those who think they can close the matter by an emphatic use of 'ought'. My argument is that they are relying on an illusion, as if trying to give the moral 'ought' a magic force. “ ”
Foot says "People talk, for instance, about the 'binding force' of
morality, but it is not clear what this means if not that we feel
ourselves unable to escape." The idea is that, faced with an
opportunity to steal a book because we can get away with it, moral
obligation itself has no power to stop us unless we feel an
See also Causes of good behaviour
The categorical imperative perspective suggests that proper reason
always leads to particular moral behaviour. As mentioned above, Foot
instead believes that humans are actually motivated by desires. Proper
reason, on this view, allows humans to discover actions that get them
what they want (i.e., hypothetical imperatives)—not necessarily
actions that are moral.
Social structure and motivation can make morality binding in a sense,
but only because it makes moral norms feel inescapable, according to
John Stuart Mill
This firm foundation is that of the social feelings of mankind; the desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures, which is already a powerful principle in human nature, and happily one of those which tend to become stronger, even without express inculcation, from the influences of advancing civilisation.
Mill thus believes that it is important to appreciate that it is feelings that drive moral behavior, but also that they may not be present in some people (e.g. psychopaths). Mill goes on to describe factors that help ensure people develop a conscience and behave morally, and thinkers like Joseph Daleiden describe how societies can use science to figure out how to make people more likely to be good. References
^ Cavalier, Robert. "Meta-ethics, Normative Ethics, and Applied
Ethics". Online Guide to
v t e
Casuistry Consequentialism Deontology
Good and evil
Laozi Plato Aristotle Diogenes Valluvar Cicero Confucius Augustine of Hippo Mencius Mozi Xunzi Thomas Aquinas Baruch Spinoza David Hume Immanuel Kant Georg W. F. Hegel Arthur Schopenhauer Jeremy Bentham John Stuart Mill Søren Kierkegaard Henry Sidgwick Friedrich Nietzsche G. E. Moore Karl Barth Paul Tillich Dietrich Bonhoeffer Philippa Foot John Rawls John Dewey Bernard Williams J. L. Mackie G. E. M. Anscombe William Frankena Alasdair MacIntyre R. M. Hare Peter Singer Derek Parfit Thomas Nagel Robert Merrihew Adams Charles Taylor Joxe Azurmendi Christine Korsgaard Martha Nussbaum more...