HEC Forum 29 (4):277-292 (2017)

This article is concerned with the role empirical research can play in normative practical ethics. There is no doubt that ethical research requires some kind of collaboration between normative disciplines and empirical sciences. But many researchers hold that empirical science is only assigned a subordinate role, due to the doctrine that normative conclusions cannot be justified by descriptive premises. Scientists working in the field of ethics commonly hold, however, that the empirical sciences should play a much bigger role in ethical research. The aim of this paper is to show that empirical sciences can play a substantive role in normative ethics, with no illicit inferences from is to ought. To achieve this aim, I explain Hume’s thesis. In the following sections, I am concerned with different uses of empirical data that do not imply an illicit inference from descriptive premises to a normative conclusion. The article demonstrates that there are many modes of ethical reasoning that allow for a substantive use of empirical data, and it also shows the importance of Hume’s thesis for clarifying ethical reasoning.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10730-016-9318-8
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,091
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Principia Ethica.G. E. Moore - 1903 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 13 (3):7-9.
Principia Ethica.Evander Bradley McGilvary - 1904 - Philosophical Review 13 (3):351.
How to Derive "Ought" From "Is".John R. Searle - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (1):43-58.

View all 45 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Ethical Decision-Making in Zoonotic Disease Control.Joost van Herten, Suzanne Buikstra, Bernice Bovenkerk & Elsbeth Stassen - 2020 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 33 (2):239-259.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Empirical Ethics, Context-Sensitivity, and Contextualism.Albert Musschenga - 2005 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 30 (5):467 – 490.
Empirical Research on Research Ethics.Joan E. Sieber - 2004 - Ethics and Behavior 14 (4):397 – 412.
Empirical Ethics.Carlo Leget & Pascal Borry - 2010 - Ethical Perspectives 17 (2):231-252.
The Relation Between Normative and Descriptive Ethics – A Consideration of Empirical Bioethics.Jon Hugaas - 2009 - Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 19 (1):21-26.
The Role of Empirical Research in Bioethics.Alexander A. Kon - 2009 - American Journal of Bioethics 9 (6-7):59-65.


Added to PP index

Total views
24 ( #473,383 of 2,506,100 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #277,380 of 2,506,100 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes