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An ethicist is one whose judgment on ethics and ethical codes has come to be trusted by a specific community, and (importantly) is expressed in some way that makes it possible for others to mimic or approximate that judgment. Following the advice of ethicists is one means of acquiring knowledge (see argument, argument from authority).[1][2]

The term jurist describes an ethicist whose judgment on law becomes part of a legal code, or otherwise has force of law. This may be due to formal (de jure) state sanction.

Some jurists have less formal (de facto) backing by an ethical community, e.g. a religious community. In Islamic Law, for instance, such a community following (taqlid) a specific jurisprudence (fiqh) of shariah mimics judgment of a prior jurist.[3] Catholic Canon Law has a similar structure. Such a jurist may be a theologian or simply a prominent teacher. To those outside this tradition, the jurist is simply an ethicist who they may more freely disagree with, and whose input on any issue is advisory. However, they may find it hard to avoid a fatwa or excommunication or other such shunning by the religious community, so it may be hard advice to ignore.

Other meanings[edit]

"Ethicist" may also mean a person who subscribes to ethicism, which can be defined either as a philosophy based on ethics[4] or "the view that a work of art's moral point of view affects the work's overall aesthetic evaluation".[5][6] "Ethicist" may also mean a person with a tendency to moralize.[4]

See also[edit]

  • List of ethicists, demonstrates the extreme range of people who claim to have made, or contributed to, ethical debates.


  1. ^ Tjeltveit, Alan C. (1999) Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy Routledge, London, pages 37-39, ISBN 0-415-15663-7
  2. ^ Michels, Robert (1991) "Psychiatry: Where medicine, psychology, and ethics meet" in Browning, Don S. and Evison, Ian S. (eds.) (1991) Does Psychiatry Need a Public Philosophy? Nelson-Hall, Chicago, pp. 61-73, page 70, ISBN 0-8304-1244-1
  3. ^ Ismael, J. S. and Ismael, T. Y. (1980) "Social Change in Islamic Society: The Political Thought of Ayatollah Khomeini" Social Problems 27(5): pp. 601-619, page 614
  4. ^ a b "ethicism - definition of ethicism by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  5. ^ Halwani, Raja (February 2009). "Ethicism, Interpretation, and Munich". Journal of Applied Philosophy. 26 (1): 71–87. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5930.2009.00432.x.
  6. ^ Gracyk, Theodore (11 April 2011). "Gaut on Ethicism and  Artistic Value -- Outline". Retrieved 21 April 2013.