An ethical debate should focus on many different aspects of ethics. There are many types of ethics such as, Normative ethics, Meta-ethics and descriptive ethics. Ethics is concerned about what is right, about justice and how people should live. It studies the choices that people make and values and reasoning that lies behind them. All three types of ethics, normative, descriptive and meta ethics have different morals and belief; this essay will debate on them.
A normative ethic, (this can also be called evaluative and substantive) is the term that is used to describe moral behaviour is different ways. They can go by the rule in which is the way a person lives their life. A normative ethic might help to make a moral judgment. There are many types of normative ethics which show a person how they should live there life, e.g. Utilitarianism, Kantian, religious, situation, virtue ethics and natural law.
An example of a normative ethics is:
'It is always wrong to steal. '
'You should not eat at MacDonald's. '
Both these statements are not facts. They are the opinions of a person. There is no right or wrong to there statements. The statements are both immoral and amoral, either God forbids it or he hasn't got anything to do with it. Normative ethics tells us what we ought to do, e.g. everyone should be honest. There is no right or wrong to that comment it is based on someone's feelings and opinions, however a normative ethic it based on what society should believe is right or wrong. It distinguishes the difference between what is a sin and what is evil.
A descriptive ethic is the simplest form of an ethic. It's a description based on the way in which people live lives and the moral decisions they make. This ethic is what the population believe to be right or wrong. It holds up as morals or condemns or punishes in the law or politics. Descriptive ethics comes from nay different fields e.g. anthropology, psychology, sociology and history. This is part of understanding what people do or have believed about moral issues. A descriptive ethic can sometimes be explained as a comparative ethic as is compares so many different ethical systems e.g. comparing the ethics of one society to another's. descriptive ethics are not that for people to live there lives by them or to make moral decisions. An example of a descriptive ethic is:
'If you are religious, you are less likely to have a divorce. '
This statement is a generalisation therefore is not true or false. It is based on ones opinion. The statement can be checked to be through statistics to be classified as true. The statement does not make any moral judgement to whether divorce is a bad thing or whether people should be religious or not.
Meta-ethics is a way of looking beyond what a moral statement means. It analyses words and concepts used in the statement. The word 'Meta' comes from the word 'Metaphysics', this the division pf philosophy takes with the vital causes and messages behind things. Meta-ethics gives an outline and deeper meaning to the questions, what is ethics? The answer goes into further depth than normative or descriptive ethics would. A meta ethical statement would be:
'What does it mean to say that something is right or wrong? '
Where as a normative statement is very different:
'Capital punishment is wrong. '
The meta-ethic statement is firstly, a question and is not calming that anything is right or wrong or that something is true or false. The meta-ethic statement does not (in a sense) tell someone what to do. The meta-ethics statement is a question asking to go into depth of what right and wrong actually means. The normative statement is stating 'evidence' that is said to be what is right and wrong within society.
A question in meta-ethics like, 'In what sense can a moral statement be said to be either true or false?' It concentrates on the meaning of the statement not with the moral issues behind it. Meta-ethics seeks to get a clear understanding of the deeper ethical meaning. It gives a sense of clarity. Unlike a normative or descriptive ethic, meta-ethics does not give an ethical evaluation. It is concerned with the underlying meaning of a moral.
Meta-ethics have pros and cons to them. Firstly looking in to so much depth and beyond the meaning of a word is good for people, this will stop ignorance and make one more intelligent. Meta-ethics can also have its disadvantages, looking in to so much depth of the moral can cause physiological issues. One might get too caught up in the analysis of the aspects of meta-ethics.
To conclude this essay, a Normative ethic is the study or the moral norms and principles. It has the ideas of that what we think, say or do is right or wrong and part of the way we live our lives. A Descriptive ethic is the description of the way people live their lives and the choices they make. A Meta-ethic is when looking further into depth about a moral statement and why it might be right or wrong, for example.
I personally think that a descriptive ethic is the most logical ethic out of the three. This is because it says that people are free to believe what they want and this leaves no room for judgment or generalisation. Whereas normative says it's what people should believe due to society e.g. 'That abortion is wrong'. This how one feels due to the subject it should not be on what society tells you. Meta-ethics is also a very clear and good way of looking at ethics but it also can lead to more problems as one would look so in to depth about the moral that it may lead to other subjects and get confusing.