Ethics as Social Science?

By William L. Blizek.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

We usually think of ethics as a branch of philosophy and philosophy as a branch of the humanities. This presentation explores the idea that ethics might be better understood as a social science than as one of the humanities. As a branch of philosophy, ethics is often taken to be an exploration of theories of right and wrong action and the application of those theories to particular moral dilemmas. The construction of theories or the application of theory to dilemmas, however, do not seem to have much effect on how people actually behave. In order to move beyond knowing what is right to doing what is right we must explore a wide range of factors that go well beyond theories of right and wrong. These factors include the development of empathy, the exploration of motives, and the development of such character traits or virtues as courage, compassion, honesty, thoughtfulness, temperance, loyalty, and friendship. These factors also include overcoming such character traits or vices as anger, laziness, gluttony, envy, lust, greed, and pride—what we sometimes identify as the seven deadly sins—as well as cowardice, manipulation of others, and our response to loneliness. This approach to ethics might be identified with moral psychology in general. How scientific such an approach to ethics might be remains a problem.

Keywords: Virtues, Moral Psychology, Character, Science

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.1-9. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 268.220KB).

Dr. William L. Blizek

Professor of Philosophy and Religion, The College of Arts & Sciences, The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Dr. Blizek is Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Founding Editor of the Journal of Religion & Film at the University of Nebraska, where he has taught for forty years. Dr. Blizek teaches courses on religion and film, atheism, and ethics and has taught courses on human values in medicine, self-deception, and ethics and film. He is the editor of The Continuum Companion to Religion and Film, as well as Justice and Punishment, and The Humanities in Public Life. Dr. Blizek is the winner of the Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award for the University of Nebraska system, the Chancellor's Medal for service to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Outstanding Contributions to the Status of Women on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.