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principles of ethical behaviour

Meta-ethics does not address how we ought to behave; rather, meta-ethics is related more to the study of ethical theory itself. Here the interest is in evaluating moral and ethical theories and systems. For example, moral relativism is a meta-ethical theory because it interprets discussions around ethics; a question asked within moral relativism is “is ethics culturally relative?” Evans and Macmillan (2014, p.27) define meta-ethics as “theories of ethics concerned with the moral concepts, theories, and the meaning of moral language. Pollock (2007, p.6) further defines meta-ethics as “a discipline that investigates the meaning of ethical systems and whether they are relative or are universal, and are self-constructed or are independent of human creation.”

For the purposes of this book, meta-ethics will relate to the way we look at and understand normative ethical theories. More concisely, meta-ethics concerns an interpretation and evaluation of the language used within normative ethical theories.

Applied ethics describes how we apply normative theories to specific issues, usually related to work or belonging to an organization; for example, policies and procedures of organizations or ethical codes of outlaw bikers versus ethical codes of police officers. Evans and Macmillan (2014, p.27) define applied ethics as “theories of ethics concerned with the application of normative ethics to particular ethical issues.” An example is knowing and practising the code of ethics for BC Corrections as an employee of BC Corrections or following the British Columbia Police Code of Ethics as a police officer.