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Theory Description: Normative Ethics

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Sanam Anwarali

Exercise 2.1 + 2.2

Normative Ethics

Theory Description: Normative Ethics

        According to Franksena (1976), normative ethics is concerned with the norms of human conduct. It is concerned with establishing how things should be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong. Normative ethics seeks relationships between moral values, non-moral values, and moral obligations. What are moral values? Moral values are associated with human emotions and experiences that motivate us in different ways. An example of moral value could be the unconditional love we feel for our family or the guilt we feel when we have done something we are not supposed to do. Moral values are associated with our internal state of beliefs that results in a particular external behavior. Normative ethical theories question the moral values and issues. What kinds of actions are right or wrong? When you attempt to answer this question, one would be making a moral claim.

Normative ethics has two central concepts that determine which actions are right and which states of character are morally good. The central question that normative ethics involves asking which actions we ought to perform and which actions it would be wrong to perform. This goes back to the basic question of what makes actions right or wrong? The second important question that this theory aims to ask is of what states of character are morally good? Moral values are also called virtues and can be summarized to be a morally desirable state of character, which could be as simple as kindness or honesty. This question is more directed not at what actions we ought to perform but what person one should be. What is an honest person like? What makes someone honest or not?

Normative ethics is also referred to as prescriptive ethics and normally is spilt into two categories: teleological and deontological. The two principles of normative ethics are deontological and teleological. Theories that are referred to as deontological study the act itself as opposed to teleological theories that study the consequences of the act. According to Sofroniou (2011), a deontological approach stresses the concepts of obligation ought, duty, and right and wrong while teleological theories are concerned with the good, the valuable, and the desirable.


Theory Application: Normative Ethics

        What ought the prosecuting attorney do? Morally, he should put the bad guy behind bars because the right thing to do is to protect society. His moral obligation is to do the right thing, which would be to put him behind bars. This guy who he will be protecting society from has done wrongful things such as sell drugs to children and took contracts to kill. If you look at normative ethics then it is as simple as concluding that the attorney’s moral obligation is to put him behind the bars. If we were looking at the law, then no it would not be okay to hide evidence because we aren’t looking at the morality of the situation. It is moral to lie, yes, but in this case it is acceptable because he is protecting society by keeping this man behind bars.


Theory Analysis: Normative Ethics

        I have always had a hard time really understanding ethics but I do believe that this theory is one that I would support because it is looking at the morality of the situation. I do believe that sometimes it is wrong to do some things but it really does depend on the intention of the person. For example, it is wrong to lie but if I am lying and my intention is purely good then it is right to do so. The other side of this theory is that we don’t really know the actual intention of the person. We can judge but we can’t really base a decision or say something is right or wrong based on our own judgment of someone else. Regarding the prosecuting case, it might be the case that the man inside has a chance to get out and is really a good person at heart. There is a lot of contradiction with this theory because arguments could be made about whether or not an act is moral or not based on the “character” of the person or if the intention to do something is moral or not. We all have all different reasons that determine whether something is good or bad or whether we are obligated or not to act a certain way.  



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