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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2014

3 - Ethical foundations

Summary

One of the resources we shall use in this book will be arguments drawn from normative ethics. In the first half of this chapter, we shall set the project of applied normative ethics in the context of how we think generally about ethics and morals. What are we doing when we say something is good or bad, right or wrong? How much significance should we attribute to the prevailing “morality” of society, as compared to our own feelings, judgments or beliefs, or the prescriptions of normative ethics? And how can these prescriptions be related to the practical demands of everyday decision-making? In the second half of the chapter, we shall introduce the varieties of normative ethics on which we shall draw in the body of the book.

Ethics and moral practice

Normative ethics is concerned with how we ought to live and behave. It aims to develop rules, principles and guidelines, grounded in rational argument, to help us distinguish good from bad and right from wrong. Applied ethics seeks to apply these rules, principles and guidelines to specific practical problems.

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