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1. the branch of philosophy that investigates both the content of moral judgments (i.e., what is right and what is wrong) and their nature (i.e., whether such judgments should be considered objective or subjective). The study of the first type of question is sometimes termed normative ethics and that of the second metaethics. Also called moral philosophy.

2. the principles of morally right conduct accepted by a person or a group or considered appropriate to a specific field. In psychological research, for example, proper ethics requires that participants be treated fairly and without harm and that investigators report results and findings honestly. See code of ethics; professional ethics; research ethics. —ethical adj.

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Psychology term of the day

February 26th 2024

Cartesian self

Cartesian self

in the system of René Descartes, the knowing subject or ego. The Cartesian self is capable of one fundamental certainty because, even if all else is subject to doubt, one cannot seriously doubt that one is thinking, as to doubt is to think. Thus, Descartes concludes, cogito ergo sum (“I am thinking, therefore I exist”). From this position, Descartes argues that all ideas intuited by the self with the same clarity and distinctness as the cogito must be equally true; this enables the intuition of further indubitable truths, such as the existence of God and the external world. However, since the ideas clearest to the self are the contents of the mind, the notion of the Cartesian self has led to a radical dualism between the inner life of the mind (subjectivity) and the outer world of things (objectivity). It has also led to the idea that knowledge is necessarily subjective and has opened the question as to how the outer world, including other human beings, can be known except as an idea. See Cartesian dualism; egocentric predicament; solipsism.