I'll preface the question with the fact that I don't mean to sound accusatory. I'm not widely studied in philosophy so for all I know this could be an area where philosophy is already having a profound impact.

That said, in the last 4-5 centuries the scientific method has come to prominence in terms of affecting our society, for better or worse. Modern science is laying down a pretty strong framework for making testable predictions about reality. This has led to implications in everything from technology, to advertising, to politics.

Problem being it doesn't seem like many people are talking about what we ought to be doing, or where we should be directing ourselves. Those are the types of questions that cannot be answered by modern science, and seem to be a fantastic as well as desperately needed avenue of relevance for the field of philosophy.

So I wonder if that's an area that philosophy... ought.. to grow?

  • 2
    This field of study exists in philosophy. We call it "deontology". As a philosophical endeavour it is, of course, abstract in nature. May 11, 2015 at 20:40
  • 1
    It doesn't seem like many people are talking about what we ought to be doing, or where we should be directing ourselves. It's an interesting statement, because a lot of what moderns politics is now about is precisely that - what we as a society ought to be doing, what the state ought to be doing (or not doing), etc. Do you mean specifically that philosophers/historians-of-philosophy don't provide enough guidance in this area? May 11, 2015 at 22:06
  • 1
    I went and added the ethics tag. It seems apt.
    – Neil Meyer
    May 12, 2015 at 11:49
  • I don't think it's called "deontology". This is what is called "normative ethics", and deontological theory is just one type of normative ethical theory.
    – Johannes
    May 13, 2015 at 0:28

2 Answers 2


I would say that ethical inquiry is one of the more prominent philosophical endeavors and the one field of philosophy that has the greatest impact on the man on the street.

The prominence of ethical views at the academy has a trickle down effect on a great many other fields of study. The views on Justice and ethics in the Law department of your better Universities has a great influence on the populace of a country.

You can also make the case that all politics boils down to is to set the mechanism in place that ensures the ethics or morality of a majority of the voting public of a country is enforced by the actions of the government.

So in closing I think that ethical inquiry even if not prominent enough in Philosophy departments still holds a great deal of prominence in the dealings we have as individuals and how we try and influence the world in which we live in.


Modern science does not make any part of philosophy redundant. Science builds on a certain set of assumptions and we need philosophy to understand that: take for example Hume who showed that the existence causality cannot be shown.

In fact, modern science needs non-ethical disciplines from philosophy to continue. Popper is widely taught in science study programmes.

So, I would say that science is a new discipline which needs philosophy, and that science and philosophy operate in different areas of the academical spectrum: they attempt to answer different questions. Where science tries to find knowledge, philosophy tries to find wisdom. The fields are relevant to each other: consider the philosophical question "What can we know?"

There may of course be some overlap between science and philosophy. However, at least with the current state of science, ethics is not an area in which this overlap exists.

With the current developments in areas as artificial intelligence, more and more people start to say, like you, that we should think about the direction where we are going. However, this is not something philosophy can solve. If philosophers think more about ethics, that is not necessarily going to change whether AI specialists work on speech recognition to help disabled people or on robot warfare. To solve that problem (if you are to call it a problem), study programmes in science should focus more on ethics.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .