Form: Integration, understood as deliberate attempts to bring the works of socio-humanist and natural scientist into more productive relationships, could be connected to calls for rethinking the established social contract. Integration appears as an attempt to repair a defect or deficiency of traditional ways of working, addressing a question of how the division of labor between scientific and political institutions also affects professional identities of scientist and socio-humanist researchers. In Charles Taylor’s analysis, one could say, western cultures lack reflexive awareness of the way classical epistemology have come to endorse or “model” the relationships between a range of societal practices, as laid out in the division of labor in the social contract.

In this framing, the promotion of interdisciplinarity could be seen as based on an assumption that a) some knowledge or enabling expertise is missing in the respective research practices but b) interdisciplinary work of improvement does not flow easily due to how disciplinary boundaries is maintained by the ideals of the social contract.  

In case of philosophy – notions like applied ethics or applied philosophy has functioned as umbrella terms for a philosophy that seek interdisciplinary collaboration in order to do better philosophy on the one hand that produce academic work that feed productively into other academic disciplines on the other hand.

Means: Applied philosophy seeks close interaction between philosophers and the research field (and would need to acquire interactional expertise).  The methodological challenges of philosophers are often  not discussed against an empirical background as the practitioners are not trained in empirical work as such.  Doing ‘field’ philosophy or ‘philosophy in practice’ (or similar terms), is rather contrasted to ‘armchair’ philosophy - indicating a need for philosophical analysis to better come to grips with the arguments, nuances and facts of the cases under discussion as the philosophers strive to provide the best account of how a given group of practitioners has chosen to perform their practices in a certain way.  Such an account would in turn represent an intervention as it would challenge the ethos of the practitioners’ practice and thereby provide means of ways to improve the practice from within. 

Ends: Seek integration in order to make philosophy in general or (professional) ethics in particular relevant or productive in the context of practice where philosophical or ethical issues arise, are formulated and discussed.

Nydal, R., Efstathiou, S., Lægreid, A. Crossover Research: Exploring a Collaborative Mode of Integration. I: Little by Little. Expansions of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies. IOS Press 2012

Charles Taylor (1984) "Philosophy and Its History". In Rorty, R., Schneewind, J. B. and Skinner, Q. (eds.) Philosophy in History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Steve Toulmin (1982) How medicine saved the life of ethics. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 25, s. 736–750.

(With thanks to Rune Nydal for this contribution)


Mike Gorman
05/19/2013 2:15pm

How does applied ethics relate to practical ethics?
I would describe what I do as practical ethics--I am like a 'field social psychologist' foraying into ethics by creating case studies for engineering students that illustrated how ethical issues emerge in the course of practice and how ethics can motivate designs. I am also doing nanotechnology ethics, which assumes there are unique ethical issues which arise on the emerging nanotechnology frontier.


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