DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L132-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved August 19, 2019, from

3. Applied ethics

Philosophical ethics has always been to some degree applied to real life. Aristotle, for example, believed that there was no point in studying ethics unless it would have some beneficial effect on the way one lived one’s life. During the first half of the twentieth century, the bulk of philosophical work on ethics was at the metaethical level, examining in particular the nature of moral language. But, since the 1960s, there has been a renewed interest in detailed discussion of particular issues of contemporary practical concern (see Applied ethics).

One area in which ethics has always played an important role is medicine, in particular in issues involving life and death (see Bioethics; Bioethics, Jewish; Life and death; Medical ethics; Suicide, ethics of). Recently, partly as a result of advances in science and technology, new areas of enquiry have been explored (see Genetics and ethics; Reproduction and ethics). In addition, certain parts of medical practice which previously lacked their own distinctive ethics have begun to develop them (see Nursing ethics).

This development is part of a wider movement involving research into the ethical requirements on those with particular occupations. Some of this research is again related to scientific advance and its implications for public policy (see Information technology and ethics; Responsibilities of scientists and intellectuals; Risk; Technology and ethics). There has also been a remarkable growth of interest in the ethics of business, from abstract issues concerning the nature, roles and obligations of corporations to more concrete issues in the workplace, such as confidentiality or whistle-blowing (see Business ethics). Further, attention has also been given to occupations not in the past subjected to much philosophical ethical analysis (see Journalism, ethics of; Legal ethics; Professional ethics; Sport and ethics).

The planet, and those who live, will live, or might live on it, have in recent times become the focus of much political concern, and this has had its effect on philosophy (see Agricultural ethics; Animals and ethics; Development ethics; Ecological philosophy; Environmental ethics; Future generations, obligations to; Population and ethics; Sustainability). But just as the scope of ethical enquiry has broadened, so there has been renewed interest in the specific details of human relationships, whether personal or between society, state and individual (see Economics and ethics; Market, ethics of the; Family, ethics and the; Friendship; Paternalism; Political philosophy; Pornography; Sexuality, philosophy of).

Citing this article:
Crisp, Roger. Applied ethics. Ethics, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L132-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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