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Ethical Judgements Limit The Methods Available In The Production Of Knowledge In Both The Arts And The Natural Sciences. Discuss.

1662 words - 7 pages

Ethical judgements often add complex implications to the pursuit of knowledge, regardless of the area of knowledge. In the areas of the arts and natural sciences, ethics is concerning in diverging ways. For the arts, ethics often comes into question when determining whether or not it is worthwhile to sacrifice ethics for artistic choices and messages. For the natural sciences, in contrast, ethics surrounding the pursuit of new scientific knowledge is often debated when evaluating potential outcomes against consequences. There are many different criteria when it comes to the ethical justification of knowledge, based on diverse perspectives. How does the perception of ethics influence whether or not it has an explicit or retrospective impact in knowledge production? These judgements often determine if the impact of ethics is direct or only comes into play in hindsight.

Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory that suggests the goodness of an action is dependent on its consequences. When we consider the two areas of knowledge from a utilitarian perspective, ethical judgements would be made based on hypothesis by weighing prospective risk and reward. Viewed with reason, utilitarianism is a practical method of judging ethics because we are generally concerned with not only gaining knowledge but applying what we know. However, this theory can also be used to justify the undertaking of commonly perceived unethical measures based on presumed beneficial outcomes. But are results alone a well-founded basis to raise ethical limitations from? This is especially problematic in the sciences because it is often difficult to foresee the implications of scientific research; likewise, in the arts, it is seldom possible to anticipate what messages the audience will attain from a work. Furthermore, when unintended effects in either area arise, ethical considerations may often be re-evaluated. Adhering to utilitarianism, conflict exists between limiting knowledge production from the beginning or moving forward and risking repercussions. So perhaps it is not enough to consider only actions themselves, but necessary to also judge the reasons behind them.

Kantian ethics advocates for the goodness of an action being based on the principle from which the person acts; through this deontological standpoint, it is the actions rather than the consequences, which must be ethical. Therefore, while also based on reason, Kantian ethics stresses the importance of adhering to a set of moral duties that define universally right and wrong actions. This theory can become precarious when over-generalized moral duties contradict one another. For example, in chemistry class we discussed the process of drug testing, in which the preliminary step is animal testing. Examining the ethics of animal testing, two incongruous duties would be, "it is wrong to harm innocent organisms" and "it is right to test product safety before release". In deciding which duty should supersede the other,...

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