Ethical regulation of social research versus the cultivation of phrónēsis

Traianou, Anna. 2018. Ethical regulation of social research versus the cultivation of phrónēsis. In: Nathan Emmerich, ed. Virtue Ethics in the Conduct and Governance of Social Science Research. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 163-177. ISBN 9781787146082 [Book Section]

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This chapter argues that there is conflict between the requirements laid down by the regimes of ethical regulation that have been introduced in many countries over the past few decades and what is required if social research is to be done well, not least in ethical terms. The reasons for the rise of ethical regulation are outlined along with the criticisms that have been made of it by social scientists. One aspect of this criticism has been an emphasis on the necessarily situational character of ethical judgement, the potential conflicts amongst values, and the ways in which ethical considerations are entwined with methodological and prudential ones. These points have often been formulated via the concept of phrónēsis (wise judgement). The meaning of this is outlined, as well as how the need for such judgement conflicts with the assumptions built into the operation of ethical regulation. It is suggested that these assumptions, as embedded in many official statements, amount to a form of moralism that is counterproductive if good research that is ethically acceptable is to be encouraged. It is argued that ethics committees should not exercise control over what research is done but ought rather to serve as forums in which researchers are forced to justify the design of proposed research studies, and to address any ethical issues arising from research that they have already carried out.

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Book Section

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This is the third volume in a series about Research Ethics entitled: Advances on Research Ethics and Integrity, Series Editor: Ron Iphofen, Academy of Social Sciences.


Phrónēsis, virtue ethics, social research, research ethics

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Educational Studies


19 April 2018Published

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08 Dec 2016 17:47

Last Modified:

05 Mar 2021 15:22


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