Normative and Descriptive Approaches

Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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Decision making can be very difficult when both choices are very appealing. We are faced with many decisions daily and have to make sure we choose the right one. Ethics play a major role in decision making. It allows moral philosophy to play its part. It gives you the freedom to choose right from wrong. In this paper you will be introduced to normal and descriptive ethics. You will be given a definition, a contrast, how the approaches may impact the criminal justice professional, how the approaches are similar and vary, and which approach you feel is best and why. Normative ethics is the branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when we think about the question “how ought one act, morally speaking? ” Normative ethics can be divided into the sub-disciplines of moral theory and applied ethics. In recent years the boundaries between these sub-disciplines have increasingly been dissolving as moral theorists become more interested in applied problems and applied ethics is becoming more profoundly philosophically informed.

Normative ethics is distinct from meta-ethics because it examines standards for the rightness and wrongness of actions, while meta-ethics studies the meaning of moral language and the metaphysics of moral facts. ” (Wikipedia. org) This approach is similar to how religious people view their God. They say that God gives the individual the choice to choose what’s right and wrong. Christians also believe that Adam and Eve utilized the power of what’s right and wrong. They were given the descriptive approach by God and they chose otherwise. For any act, there are three things that might be thought to be morally interesting: first, there is the agent, the person performing the act; second, there is the act itself; third, there are the consequences of the act. There are three types of normative ethical theory--virtue, deontological, and consequentiality, each emphasizing one of these elements. ”(moralphilosophy. info) “Descriptive ethics, also known as comparative ethics, is the study of people's beliefs about morality. Descriptive ethics is a form of empirical research into the attitudes of individuals or groups of people.

Those working on descriptive ethics aim to uncover people's beliefs about such things as values, which actions are right and wrong, and which characteristics of moral agents are virtuous. Research into descriptive ethics may also investigate people's ethical ideals or what actions societies condemn or punish in law or politics. Because descriptive ethics involves empirical investigation, it is a field that is usually investigated by those working in the fields of evolutionary biology, psychology, sociology or anthropology.

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Information that comes from descriptive ethics is, however, also used in philosophical arguments. Normative ethics is also distinct from descriptive ethics, as the latter is an empirical investigation of people’s moral beliefs. To put it another way, descriptive ethics would be concerned with determining what proportion of people believe that killing is always wrong, while normative ethics is concerned with whether it is correct to hold such a belief. Hence, normative ethics is sometimes said to be prescriptive, rather than descriptive.

However, on certain versions of the meta-ethical view called moral realism, moral facts are both descriptive and prescriptive at the same time. ” (Wikipedia. org) “Descriptive ethics deal with what the population actually believes to be right and wrong, and holds up as ideals or condemns or punishes in law or politics, as contrasted to normative ethics which deals with what the population should believe to be right and wrong, and such concepts as sin and evil.

Society is usually balancing the two in some way, and sociology and social psychology are often concerned with the balance, and more clinical assessments and instruments to determine ethical attitudes. ” (knowledgerush. com) A criminal justice professional has morals they must abide by to make the right decision. They must know what’s right and wrong, and know how to distinguish the two. Normative ethics impacts criminal justice professionals by allow them to show the criminal to see that what they have done is wrong.

It also allows the criminal justice professional to coach the criminal on the consequences of their actions and ways to prevent another offense. Descriptive ethics impacts criminal justice professionals by allowing them to do the norm against the population. They are trying to establish criminal justice when the population may see that all criminals should be punished. I feel that the normative approach to ethics is the best approach. This approach allows one to make his own decision and not follow what everyone is saying.

Everyone should be able to make his or her own decision whether it is right or wrong. If you make the right decision, then you reap good things, and if you make the wrong decisions, you reap bad things. The approaches are similar because they stress the value of what’s right and wrong. It shows that a decision have to be made whether it’s right or wrong. They vary because one allows the individual to make the decision of right and wrong, and the other allows the population to dictate what’s right or wrong not giving the individual to make the ethical decision.


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