I am just beginning my study in research ethics as a mathematician. I have been asked to write a paper on the following:

Discuss 2-3 research ethical cases (real or hypothetical), where something can be obtained from the course literature, but at least 1 should be a separate example relevant to your topic. Explain both the internal and external aspects and how they relate to your cases. (Sorry for grammar, it’s translated from swedish).

Being a mathematician, I found it hard to find too many ethical cases in my field, but one interesting topic that came up was that on illegal numbers. I will also be using another ethics issue about altering children’s genomes, as I find this particularly interesting.

My question is, I really do not understand “internal and external” aspects to ethics, and when I google to try to read more, nothing comes up. Can someone please help point me in the right direction. I need to learn about these concepts and to see how to apply them to my particular cases.

I really appreciate the help!

  • Your title seems to be off... am I wrong?
    – virmaior
    Feb 26, 2018 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


I share your difficulty. It really isn't clear what the 'internal and external' aspects of an ethical issue are. What contrast is being drawn here ?

One possibility is that the internal aspects of an issue are the reasons why you are interested in it. There might be a standard mathematical technique that has not been applied to the issue and which you think could produce useful results. This aspect would be internal to mathematics and to your research interests.

Then the external reasons could be the ethical significance of the issue. Why it matters morally. What implications it holds for public policy or for an ethical theory or for other ethical issues. These would be aspects external to mathematics.

These suggestions may help. I hope they do. Ideally, seek clarification from whoever has set the task.

  • This helps a lot, thank you. You have made the concepts more clear for me! Feb 27, 2018 at 7:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.