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21-04-2021 | Theoretical / Philosophical Paper

Ethos and Eidos as Field Level Concepts for the Sociology of Morality and the Anthropology of Ethics: Towards a Social Theory of Applied Ethics

Journal:
Human Studies
Author:
Nathan Emmerich
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Abstract

This article presents the notions of ethos and eidos as field level concepts for the sociology of morality and the anthropology of ethics. This is accomplished in the context of Bourdieuan social theory and, therefore, from the broad standpoint of practice theory. In the first instance these terms are used to refer to the normative structures of social fields and are conceived so as to represent the way in which such structures fall between two planes, that of the implicit and the explicit. Subsequently, they are used to further understand a distinction between morality—roughly, the implicit moral order of a social field—and ethics—the more explicit and often codified elements of a social field’s normative structure. When presented in relation to academic philosophical inquiries into the ethical issues in healthcare and the life sciences—meaning the disciplines of applied ethics in general and applied (bio)ethics in particular—the analytic perspective these terms facilitate enables us to represent the fundamental conditions required for academic enquiry; taken together the ethos and eidos of an intellectual field constitute the requisite background of its normative epistemic and methodological commitments, thereby providing the structures of disciplined intellectual practices. Seen in this light it not only becomes possible to grasp applied (bio)ethics as a socially structured practice but to understand it in terms that can also be used to frame our everyday moral practices. In this way applied (bio)ethics can be acknowledged as a relatively unique part of our contemporary moral culture.

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