Chapter 15: The role of philosophy and ethics in social policy and research: a case study of Hong Kong and other Chinese societies
The relationship between philosophy and social policy and research is manifold. One of the main themes of philosophy of social sciences is about the philosophical justifications for different choices of social research method. This relationship will not be thoroughly discussed, however, because it is not the major concern of this handbook. As for ethics, there is a distinction between normative ethics and descriptive ethics. The judgement that capital punishment is wrong is a judgement in normative ethics. The claim that capital punishment is in general regarded as morally permissible in society is a claim in descriptive ethics. That people in general find capital punishment acceptable does not imply it is morally right to execute any criminals. Some philosophers maintain that there exists a fact and value distinction and philosophy should be concerned only with normative ethics (values) while the study of descriptive ethics (facts) is the job of social scientists. This outlook implies that there is no strong link between normative ethics, as a branch of philosophy, and social science. The only contribution may be to provide input in the development of ethical guidelines for social research. As for social policy, philosophers can serve as social critics of existing policies or participate in the policy-making process by providing ethical advice. The above outlook, though popular, is problematic.
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