Facts and Values: Studies in Ethical Analysis

Facts and Values: Studies in Ethical Analysis

Facts and Values: Studies in Ethical Analysis

Facts and Values: Studies in Ethical Analysis

Excerpt

The present volume deals with various problems that arise in deciding what is good or bad, or what ought or ought not to be done -- problems that are familiar in everyday discussions, and which range from idle bits of gossip about this or that man's character to prolonged and serious discussions of international politics. It has far less to say about the summum bonum of the philosophers than about the judgments of the ordinary man as he finishes reading the morning's newspaper. But the volume is nevertheless concerned with issues that belong to traditional ethics, and issues that in recent years have been considered central to ethics. So to make clear its philosophical status, and to point out its deliberately limited scope, I want to "place" the volume within ethics as a whole -- as I can best do by mentioning the three branches into which the subject is commonly divided.

First there is "descriptive" ethics, which studies the moral practices and convictions that have been current among these or those peoples, and thus studies what has been implicitly or explicitly considered good, obligatory, etc. At the present time this part of ethics is developed less by philosophers (though philosophers must of course study it) than by social scientists.

Second, there is "normative" ethics, which seeks to reach conclusions about the justice of this or that law, for instance, or the value of this or that type of conduct, and which often (though not always) attempts to systematize these conclusions under general . . .

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