The Interpretive Approach and Some Ethical Issues

The Interpretive Approach and Some Ethical Issues

Specific purpose: To pass information to my classmates regarding the interpretive approach, an ethical theory that seeks to establish a position between relativism and objectivism in ethics.


Attention Device: It is natural for all theories to be linked to some form of history that explains what led a philosopher to come up with the particular theory. This is not the case with the interpretivism concept as it lacks a clear history, and therefore a definite discourse. The interpretive approach does not have a classifiable definition and is characterized by examining specific features of positivism that it rejects and the alternatives that it proposes. According to William, the ethical theory is not able to offer us convincing reasons for choosing a single intuition over the other (p 99). However, the theorists also claim that the weakness of ethical thinking emerges from radical relativism. Researchers on this topic have used varied means to try and establish a pace for intelligent reasoned thinking that is culturally and historically based.

Topic revelation statement: As someone who has carried out sufficient research about the basic survival skill of ethics, I would like to inform you about the appealing interpretive approach in this task.

Significance statement: According to Walzer, the theory can be differentiated from other theories that preceded it since it does not fall within the metaphysical ideas of universal application but is rather based on interpretations of our shared understanding (1).

Transition/preview of main points: Allow me to twist this information on the interpretive approach and some ethical issues by evaluating different approaches on the matter by a variety of writers. Finally, I will conclude by giving the different views presented by the theorists.


Walzer’s Interpretive Approach

Walzer argued that his perception is simply particularistic and further claims that her has not achieved great distance from our social world. He suggests that one way of becoming a philosophical enterprise is to walk out of the cave, leave the city, and climb the mountain, form for yourself an objective and universal standpoint (1). What Walzer implies is that we should all come down from our high horses and pedestals of righteousness and judge the world from the perspective or viewpoint of a layman instead of the superior people.

Interpretive theorists are supporters of social meanings (Walzer 9), these include mutual comprehension of things and social goods (Walzer 7). For Walzer, justice is the construction of man and it can thus never be made in one way (p 5). Walzer argues that it is not possible for the entire society to be solely served by one particular universal rule of conduct. The approach of justice and ethics therefore seeks to interpret the social meanings for which goods are logical and sensible for a particular community in which they find their utilization. Walzer further alludes that the first step in the interpretive process is to learn that social meanings and implications are historical in character (p 9)

Transition to Rawls view of interpretivism: Now that I have given an explanation of Walzer’s argument on the Interpretive approach, let’s examine Rawls views of the same.

Rawls New Approach

John Rawl is one of the mainstream ethical theorists is considered the classical case of political philosopher as he offers his viewpoints from the mountain as opposed to the particularists like Walzer. Rawl in his new theory believes that philosophy has the instruments that can guide and inform the behaviors of mankind and alone, moral order cannot provide a feasible conception of justice within a democratic society (230). Unlike Walzer, Rawls believes that these shared convictions have no metaphysical privilege, instead he is convicted that they are the best means that we have to find some basic grounds or principles for political justice because they are widely shared and known.

Transition to Hackings recommendation of the historic turn in ethics: Now that I have shared with you about a Rawls new approach, I will go on to explain what Hackings recommends.

In his paper ‘Two kinds of New historicism of philosophers.’ Hackings explicitly recommends that the historic version of an interpretive approach is the best. He is of the opinion that it is necessary to retain the historical record of philosophical problems in the Anglo-American philosophy and the philosophical problems that he wants publicized are to do with moral philosophy. Hackings main works particularly focus on child abuse and he specifically says, ‘People do many of the same vile things to children, for sure, that they did a century ago. But we’ve been almost unwittingly changing the very definitions of abuse and revising our values and moral codes accordingly. (p 253)

Transition into interpretive business ethics: Now that I have told you about Hackings standpoint with regards to the interpretive approach, I will go on to enlighten you about the use of interpretive approach in commercial or business ethics.

Walzer states that the non-philosophers are permitted to engage critically in the interpretive approach with the ethics of business and any other field. According to the arguments of Beauchamp and Bowie ‘many people go through life with an understanding of morality largely given to them by their culture’ (p 3). One basic assumption of the interpretive theory is that the morality of a person is passed on to them through their culture. Beauchamp and Bowie further refer specifically to particular norms within the business industry which can be regarded as mutual comprehension within the business practice. According to Sorell and Hendry, consumers in the United States expected more from the business enterprises as compared to those consumers in the UK. Consumers in the United States are more ethical and therefore harbor the desire to be associated with businesses that are ethical -because this is an aspect of their culture. A business that was not socially and environmentally responsible would eventually lose out in competition in terms of both employees and customers (p 30). Such a culture is likely to influence businesses to become more ethical.

Transitioning To Application of Interpretive Method to Ethical Investment

From viewpoints of the above theorists’, one of the most important means of applying the interpretive approach is to assume that every reasoning takes place within the context of some conventional mode of thought. Therefore, when constituted by a continuous argument, the living tradition then is a historically extension, which may constitute the social embodiment of institutions – a university, firm, or a hospital- hence can be regarded as the bearer of a tradition of practice or practices, its common life will be part of the goods which are components of that tradition (MacIntyre 206-207).

Transition to a conclusion: Now that I have informed you concerning the diverse perspectives of the interpretive approach, I will briefly review what I have taught you.


While ethical investments may be a community in a narrow sense, ethical investments are made up from a tradition of practice (Maclntyre p 206). In concluding my account of Walzer’s theory, Walzer urges us to be attentive to the historical and social processes through which shared meanings and mutual understandings occur. I hereby recommend that sufficient attention be paid to the detailed social situations and historical nature of the shared comprehension of communities. Visibility and viability of ethical investment are enhanced or made richer when different entities come together as a community in pursuit of shared ethical preferences.

Lasting thought: If the community is to hold a mutual understanding and share ethical goals then all the entities have to work towards a particular goal and decide for themselves what is just and what is not taking into account that I have also explained that a single rule/law cannot be applied to all contexts.

Works Cited

Beauchamp, T. and Bowie, N. Ethical Theory and Business. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:                       Prentice Hall, 1983.Print

Hacking, I. The Making and Molding of Child Abuse. Critical Inquiry, 1991. Print

MacIntyre, A. After Virtue. (2nd Edition). London: Duckworth, 1984. Print.

Rawl, J. A theory of Justice. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1999. print

Sorell, T. and Hendry, J. Business Ethics. London: Butterworth Heinemann, 1994. Print

Walzer, M. Spheres of Justice: A Defence of Pluralism and Equality. New York: Basic Books.       1983. Print.

Walzer, M. Interpretation and Social Criticsm. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,         1987. Print

Williams, B. Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. London: Fontana, 1985. Print