Departmental Bulletin Paper How Applied Should Applied Ethics Be?

Davis, Michael

9pp.1 - 9 , 2017-09 , 北海道大学大学院文学研究科応用倫理研究教育センター(CAEP)
How applied should applied ethics be? I take up that question not because it belongs to the past of applied ethics (though it does), but because, given the present, it seems likely to be a part of the future of applied ethics as well. Consider, for example, a recent debate in the journal Bioethics: One of the four papers was titled, “Why Moral Philosophers Are Not and Should Not Be Moral Experts”; another, “Moral Philosophers Are Moral Experts!” In that debate, a “moral expert” was a philosopher who used his knowledge of philosophy to speak with authority on practical questions. In the course of answering my question, I make a number of distinctions: between ethics-as-practice and ethics-as-theory; between ethics-as-morality, ethics-as-afield-of-philosophy, and ethics-as-special standards; and so on. Having thereby narrowed my question to:what can ethics-as-a-field-of-philosophy properly contribute to moral practice? I answer that ethics-as-a-field-of-philosophy can contribute much to moral practice, but only by maintaining a certain distance from it. For example, experts in ethics-as-a-field-of-philosophy—or even experts in all of philosophy—should not on that basis alone undertake to advise on questions of ethics-as-morality or ethics-as-special-standards. Practical experience has something to teach that is not philosophy—sensitivity to context, know-how, judgment, or the like.

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