Working from Both Ends: The Dual Role of Philosophy in Research Ethics

  • Allyn Fives
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)


If ethical principles can come into conflict, for example, in the debates about research ethics, in what way can philosophical analysis help resolve such conflicts? Through an examination of the work of Beauchamp and Childress, John Rawls, and Bernard Williams, Fives identifies a dual role for philosophy in research ethics. Through abstract and general theoretical reflection, which requires a significant degree of disengagement, we can examine such issues as whether moral conflicts arise in our ethical evaluation of research protocols. Through practical reasoning, which requires ongoing, direct involvement, we can pursue agreement on public matters, including cases where we are faced with moral dilemmas. This chapter combines theoretical analysis with a close examination of the moral dilemmas arising in one case study.


Moral Dilemma Moral Duty Moral Consideration Public Reason Ethical Evaluation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. I would also like to thank Keith Breen, in particular, for his critical insights. I have written on this topic elsewhere, including a number of joint-authored papers with colleagues in the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. I would also like to acknowledge the importance, for my own understanding of this field, of the work of colleagues on the NUI Galway Research Ethics Committee, including Heike Schmidt-Felzmann, Brian McGuire, and Saoirse Nic Gabhainn. Finally, I would like to thank Joseph Mahon for starting my formal education in this area.


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allyn Fives
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Political Science and Sociology and the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, at the National University of IrelandGalwayRepublic of Ireland

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