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    1. CONTACT US Wed Nov. 13, 2013

      CASS 中国社会科学网(中文) Fran?ais


      Applied ethics helps solve moral dilemma of technological development

      Author  :  DUAN DANJIE     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-12-31

      The field of ethics includes both theoretical and applied ethics. Applied ethics is committed to making the right decisions with their consequent actions for a better world. As our social practices have undergone tremendous change due to the rapid advancement of science and technology, we must deal with many ethical dilemmas while working towards economic development and convenience in life. 

      Qiu Renzong, a research fellow from the Institute of Philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that applied ethics aims to help people make appropriate decisions that benefit society as well as individuals, reduce social injustice, strengthen social cohesion and promote social stability.

      Lei Ruipeng, a professor of the Department of Philosophy at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, said that studying ethics from a practical perspective is not only inherently necessary but also desired by the people. Applied ethics helps people judge whether a decision meets ethical standards to achieve the goals of maximizing benefits, minimizing risk and respecting people. These factors carry the most fundamental practical significance for conducting ethical research from a practical perspective. 

      Social development provides a wealth of material for the study of applied ethics. In the 1950s and 1960s, some unprecedented ethical debates appeared in the field of medicine and medical practices, such as how to regard and deal with patients who are in vegetative states, test-tube babies, organ transplants and artificial abortions. Li Lun, head of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Dalian University of Technology, said that these challenges have stimulated the development of ethics research and promoted the boom of medical ethics and bioethics, the precursors of applied ethics.

      Since the reform and opening up, China’s applied ethics has made important progress in terms of academic achievements, discipline construction and the training of academic teams. Qiu’s Bioethics published in 1987 was a milestone monograph of China’s bioethics, and laid the theoretical foundation for bioethics research in China. China’s bioethics researchers have established among themselves a stable and dynamic academic community with fruitful results. Qiu added that the study of ethics needs to interact more with society. 

      The development of applied ethics should be based on social reality, and there are no general principles suitable for all problems. Instead, we should propose different ethical frameworks, principles and guidelines to respond to specific issues in different situations, Lei said.

      The study of ethics often involves empirical investigations or case studies, so it is of a descriptive nature to some degree. Qiu pointed out that this is not the whole of applied ethics, not even a substantial part. As a normative discipline, applied ethics should deal with ethical issues from the perspectives of “what should be done” and “how it should be done.” “What should be done” is based on a trade-off of values and thus involves axiology. Applied ethics should transform research results into action and make recommendations on policies, laws and regulations to administrative, legislative and judicial organs and other relevant government sectors. 

      The core of applied ethics is the return of human rationality to the real world, and its future development must center on the specific problems of the real world. Ma Yonghui, an associate professor from the School of Medicine at Xiamen University, said that applied ethics must keep pace with the times and grasp the laws and trends of social development to make the research more forward-looking. China’s applied ethics research should focus on common ethical issues in human societies to provide Chinese solutions and Chinese wisdom.

      In recent years, the ethics of big data, artificial intelligence and genetic technology has drawn wide attention amid the development of technology and society. Lei said that we should adopt an “ethics first” approach for emerging technologies such as gene editing, artificial intelligence and xenotransplantation. Due to the fact that emerging technologies may lead to outcomes of high uncertainty and complexity, the analysis of technological ethical dilemmas and the proposal of corresponding solutions can’t do without the research of applied ethics. 

      Li added that the moral dilemmas of social practices are the concern of every corner of the world, both at present and in the future. Under such an increasingly technological world, various value conflicts and other deep contradictions need to be addressed urgently, and global governance mechanisms also need to be improved. In this context, applied ethics should actively shoulder responsibility.



      (Edited by YANG LANLAN)

      Editor: Yu Hui

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