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Understanding the Dimensions of Ethics

Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice,...

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Dimensions of Ethics


Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. As a field of intellectual inquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory. Source: Wikipedia

What is “ ethics ”?

Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology. Source: Wikipedia

ethic /ˈɛθɪk/
noun
plural noun: ethics
1. a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct.

The different branches of ethics that are studied are Meta Ethics, Normative or Prescriptive Ethics, Descriptive Ethics, and Applied Ethics.

Dimensions of Ethics

Ethics is divided into four main branches. They are:  

  1. Meta-Ethics (Ethics about Ethics)
  2. Prescriptive Ethics (Normative Ethics)
  3. Descriptive Ethics 
  4. Applied Ethics

Different dimensions of ethics

Infographic on different dimensions of ethics

Meta Ethics

Deals with the “after” or “beyond, and questions such as: “What is goodness?” and “How can we tell good from the bad?” It also questions the origin of ethical principles, whether they are human or divine in origin. It also deals with questions like: What are the meanings of ethical terms: right, wrong, love, compassion? It also questions whether moral judgments are universal or relative and if they are of one kind or many.

Prescriptive Ethics (Normative Ethics)

Normative Ethics is concerned with the criteria of what is right or wrong. IT includes the formulation of moral rules that have direct implications for what human actions, institutions and ways of life should be like. It deals with questions like: How should people act? What is the correct action?

The different branches are:

  • Virtue Ethics
  • Consequentialism
  • Deontological Ethics

Descriptive Ethics

Descriptive ethics studies people’s belief about morality. Describes and compares between objectives of different ethical theories. It deals with questions like What do people think is right? It is different from normative and applied ethics.

Applied Ethics

Applied ethics is a philosophical examination from a moral standpoint of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment. This uses the application of moral knowledge to practical problems and uses philosophical methods to identify the morally correct course of action in various fields of human life.

The different branches are:

  • Bio Ethics
  • Business Ethics
  • Military Ethics
  • Political Ethics
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Publication Ethics
Written by Payal Ghosh
Payal is an FRM and an XLRI Jamshedpur alumnus interested in things as diverse as Waste Management and photography. She has over 16 years of work experience and is passionate about writing, teaching and sustainable living. Helping students and seeing them succeed makes gives her motivation to push herself further. Profile

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