The Ethics of Social Science Research
Journal of Applied Philosophy 1995; 12(1): 65-76
Ethical thinking about social science research is dominated by a biomedical model whose salient features are the assumption that only potential harms to subjects of research are relevant in the ethical evaluation of that research, and in the emphasis on securing informed consent in order to establish ethical proxy. A number of counter-examples are considered to the assumption, a number of defences against these counter-examples are examined, and an alternative model is proposed for the ethical evaluation of social science research: a model which can cope with the systemic harms (harms other than those to participants as participants) which have been identified. This model is based on John Rawls's idea of original position reasoning and treats social science research as an institutional feature of the basic structure of society.
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