Normative Ethics

Normative Ethics is a branch of moral philosophy or ethics that concerns the criteria of what is morally correct and incorrect. This includes expressing different moral rules that directly impact the actions of any individual, any institute, and how their life should be.

‘Normative ethics’ is a vast field that concerns the articulation and the justification of all the fundamental principles which govern the issues like “how one should live his/her life” and also “what should we do so that it is morally correct”. The most concerning thing in this is “accounting of moral evaluation”, and even the articulation of the decision process so that the moral action can be rightly guided. 

The recent critical works have shown, mainly on the parts of the particularists and also the virtue ethicists that they have created more tension so that both of the aims can easily be separated.

  • The main purpose which the normative ethical theories have served is the articulation and advocation of an ethical code, which is ‘providing reliable and justifiable rules so that the identification of what is morally right, or wrong behavior can be easily recognized.’
  • Normative theories include the involvement of ‘reaching to the moral standards so that the regulation of the right and the wrong can be conducted’.
  • Golden Rule: It is a simple example of the normative theory which establishes a principle that is said to be against all the actions we judge. Another type of normative theory focuses on the set of basic (foundational) principles or even the set of good character traits.
  • Normative theories provide an action guide (the whole process) for the answering process of very basic question,” What do I ought to do?”
  • The main key that helps in the assumption of the moral theory is; there is an ultimate eligibility of moral conduct. It can either be one solo rule or it could be any group of principles.
  • The Normative Ethical Theories have been later grouped into three parts which are: Teleological, deontological, and virtue ethics theories.
  • these theories help in the differentiation of how the worth of morality of any action can be determined if the action is correct or incorrect from a moral perspective, impermissible or permissible.

What are Normative Ethics?

Normative Ethics is the main component of the inquiry in the field of philosophical ethics, the other two components are meta-ethics and applied ethics. Normative Ethics is also known as the Normative Theory can even be referred to as the moral theory which intends to find what actions are correct and what actions are incorrect, or recognizes what trait is good and bad.

The normative Ethics can either have moral principles as the standards of the right action or it can have the virtue of the standards of good character and what action should be taken finally.

There are four different normative theories:

  1. Utilitarianism: It is the basic utility just as the normal principle.
  2. Kantianism: It is with the categorical imperative just like the basic moral principle.
  3. Ethical Intuitionism: It is with the plurality of moral principles. (Methodological sense)
  4. Virtue Ethics: It is in the virtue of its focus.

Some differences are recorded between the emphases of the normative ethic: the actions on one hand and the virtue on the other hand. The Latter tries to get the answers to what character is morally good whereas the former tries to get the answers to what actions are right.

The name “Normative”

The word ‘Normative’ comes from the word ‘norm’ and it is an adjective. In the context of philosophy, the word norm is meant to be standard, or the rules, or the principles. For instance, the rules of the arithmetic operations are also normative in the sense of philosophy. The main reasoning can be done against these rules and can also be used to judge the correct and the incorrect.  If a person is to calculate the sum of 3+2 as 23 then we can say that they would have made a mistake in understanding the rule/norms of the arithmetics. If the mistake was ‘normal’ then the appraisal can hold everybody’s thinking about the rule that legislates the way they think and judge it if it was incorrect.  

It this very important to know that when doing any normative ethics can set an individual aside from the meta-ethical concerns about if there is moral truth and what the moral judgments have meant also assuming that if there is a difference between the right and the wrong, good or the bad.

The meta-ethical thoughts about the moral statements being objectively true and the normative ethics reasoning about what is correct or what is incorrect is quite independent. John Rawls meant the same thing when he said, “independence of the moral theory”.

Foci of the Normative Ethics: Action and character

Normative ethics have two main concepts, the right and the morally good. The Right is the concept of duty and the actions one is set to perform. whereas the concept of the morally good target the theory of the value or the axiology. Axiology comes from the Greek language where the word Axios means ‘worth’ and the word logos means ‘study of’. The virtuous characteristics of kindness, courage, and honesty are the few examples that state that the thought is morally good.  


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What is Normative ethics?

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Where is the name “Normative” derived from?

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What are the different Normative Theories?

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What are the action and the characters?

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