Ethics UPSC | Branch of Ethics | Types of Ethics | Meta Ethics | Normative Ethics | Applied Ethics | Descriptive Ethics | Lawrence Kohlberg Theory | IAS TARGET IAS Target

Ethics and Its Branches

Ethics or moral philosophy is an offshoot of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns value matters and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology. Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human ethics and 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.

Branch or (types) of Ethics

  • Meta Ethics
  • Normative Ethics
  • Applied Ethics
  • Descriptive Ethics
  • Descriptive Ethics
    Descriptive Ethics, also called comparative ethics, is the study of people's beliefs about morality. It is contrary to the prescriptive or normative ethics, which is the analysis of ethical theories that specify how people ought to act, & with meta-ethics, which is the study of what ethical terms and theories actually refer to.
  • Lawrence Kohlberg: 
  • An illustration of descriptive ethics Lawrence Kohlberg is one example of a psychologist working on descriptive ethics. In one study, for example, Lawrence questioned a group of boys about what would be a right or wrong action for a man facing a moral conundrum: should he steal a drug to save his wife or desist from theft even so that would lead to his wife's death?
  • Normative Ethics
  • Applied Ethics: Applied ethics refers to the practical application of moral considerations. It is ethics concerning real-world actions and their moral considerations in private and public life, the professions, health, technology, law, and leadership. For example, the bioethics community is concerned with identifying the correct approach to moral issues in the life sciences, such as euthanasia, the allocation of scarce health resources, or human embryos in research. Environmental ethics is concerned with ecological issues such as the responsibility of government and corporations to clean up pollution. Business ethics includes questions regarding the duties or duty of 'whistleblowers' to the general public or their loyalty to their employers. Applied ethics has expanded the study of ethics beyond academic philosophical discourse.
  • The field of applied ethics, as it appears today, emerged from the debate surrounding rapid medical and technological advances in the early 1970s and is now established as a subdiscipline of moral philosophy. However, applied ethics is, by its very nature, a multi-professional subject because it requires a specialist understanding of the potential ethical issues in fields like medicine, business, or information technology. Nowadays, ethical codes of conduct exist in almost every profession. An applied ethics approach to examining moral dilemmas can take many different forms. Still, one of the most influential and most widely utilized approaches in bioethics and health care ethics is the four-principle approach developed by Tom Beauchamp and James Childress.
  • The four-principle approach, commonly termed principlism, entails the consideration and application of four prima facie ethical principles:
    • Autonomy
    • non-maleficence
    • beneficence
    • justice.
  • Meta Ethics
    Meta-ethics is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes, and judgments. Meta-ethics is one of the three branches of ethics generally studied by philosophers, the others being normative ethics and applied ethics. While normative addresses such questions as "What should I do?", evaluating specific practices and principles of action, meta-ethics addresses questions such as "What is goodness?" and "How can we tell what is good from what is bad?", seeking to understand the nature of ethical properties and evaluations. Some theorists argue that a metaphysical account of morality is necessary for the proper evaluation of actual moral theories and for making practical moral decisions; others reason from opposite premises and suggest that studying moral judgments about proper actions can guide us to a true account of the nature of morality.