Descriptive vs Normative Statements

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Question 1
To explain the distinction between Descriptive and Normative Statements one first has to understand the difference between Descriptive and Normative Ethics. Descriptive ethics primarily describes people’s moral beliefs, claims and behaviors. This form of ethics is studied primarily by psychologist, sociologist and anthropologist. With Normative ethics we deal with the attempt to discover what actions are in fact right or wrong, good or bad and what it takes to be a moral or immoral person. This area of ethics is studied more by philosophers and theologist. To simplify, Descriptive statements are statements about what is; while Normative statements are statements about what ought to be. When we describe what people believe about right and wrong and good and evil, or how they actually behave when they have to make a moral decision, we are practicing descriptive ethics. That being said, the line between both forms of the previously mentioned types of ethics is easily blurred. Many use normative statements when trying to describe, or more often, persuade others into seeing their point of view on what they would do in a particular situation had they been the one calling the shots, ie “ cutting off someone’s hand for stealing is wrong ”. A claim of which, when you are far removed from the actual situation and that type of upbringing, you cannot actually make. With the use of normative statements it is easy to find oneself playing judge on whatever topic is being discussed and we have to be mindful in our choice of words and actions so that we do not offend or bring into question a cultures moral fiber before understanding the entirety of their background.

A helpful foundation when digging deeper into distinction between Descriptive and Normative statements is the subject of Moral and Cultural relativism. To start, we need to know what the common factor is in these two types’ theories, and that common factor is the word relativism. So what does...
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