Ethical Principles and Practice

Ethical Principles and Practice

Ethical Principles and Practice

Ethical Principles and Practice

Synopsis

The second volume in applied ethics based on the distinguished Wayne Leys Memorial Lectureship Series.

With guidelines from legal reasoning, Michael D. Bayles examines "Moral Theory and Application." Abraham Edel questions "Ethics Applied Or Conduct Enlightened?" The late Warner A. Wick shows in "The Good Person and the Good Society: Some Ideals Foolish and Otherwise" that devotion to ideals need not be either fanaticism or foolishness. John Lachs contends that many public gains are purchased at the cost of individuals being manipulated in "Public Benefit, Private Costs." James E. Childress in "Gift of Life…" considers ethical issues in obtaining and distributing human organs. Carl Wellman in "Terrorism and Moral Rights" argues that there can be no "rights-based justification" for anti-abortion terrorism.

Excerpt

Michael D. Bayles

For many observers applied ethics as it has emerged in the last decade or so has not lived up to its original promise. Some have challenged not so much the need for ethics as the content of the ethical views that are developing. However, a more fundamental (and therefore more bothersome) criticism has come from those outside the field who have questioned whether there is any need for applied ethics, whether applied ethics can do anything useful. Regardless of the reason for this criticism, be it disillusionment or something else altogether, it is legitimate to ask what applied ethics can reasonably be expected to do. Unfortunately, the field has never given a perspicuous and perspicacious answer to this question.

A second criticism has come from within the field. This internal criticism pertains to the methodology allegedly used by many applied ethicists. The thrust of the criticism is that much of applied ethics has been too abstract, rigid, and divorced from the concrete problems faced by practitioners in fields considered by applied ethics, such as population, biomedicine, and other professions. A different methodology seeking solutions to problems in particular contexts is advocated. This criticism is not unrelated to the first; indeed, it may be a refinement of it. The external criticism claims that applied ethics does not contribute to the resolution of problems faced by people in concrete situations, and the internal criticism claims that this has resulted from the employment of an inappropriate methodology.

To consider these criticisms, it is necessary to investigate in detail the

Reprinted with permission from Social Theory and Practice 10 , no. 1 (Spring 1984): 97-120. Copyright © 1984 by Social Theory and Practice.

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