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Empirical Incursions

Marcel Mertz


On the basis of the assumption that moral norms are central both to lived morality and professional ethical reflection, the present chapter, rooted in empirical bioethics, aims to identify empirical incursions into normative theory by showing how empirical information from social-scientific research in particular may influence various dimensions of the validity of moral norms. To this end, the author first provides a definition and analysis of the structure of a moral norm. He then establishes a number of dimensions of the validity of moral norms that correspond to specific elements of this structure (including philosophical or social justification and legitimacy, applicability to specific situations, social implementation, and the effects of norms), while also discussing how these dimensions may be influenced by empirical information. He concludes with a critical consideration of the significance of these dimensions of validity and the empirical influences on them for different ways of “doing ethics”.

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