Research That Supports a Normatively Important Premise

Some arguments support a normative conclusion. For instance:

P1: If we can prevent something bad from occurring without sacrificing morally important things, then we should.

P2: We can prevent the suffering and death occurring from the recent famine in Land X by doing A, B, and C.

P3: We can do A, B, and C without sacrificing morally important things.

C1: Therefore, we should do A, B, and C.

Premise (P1) is a normative principle--it tells us what to do and is applicable to a number of contexts. Philosophers studying various subjects in Value Theory are best positioned to support or reject normative principles.  Premises (P2) and (P3) are different. We can (following Mark van Roojen) call these Bridging Claims as they serve as the bridge we need to validly move from (P1) to the conclusion (C1).

Roughly, there are two types of Bridging Claim--namely, Conceptual Bridging Claims and Empirical Bridging Claims. An example of a Conceptual Bridging Claim is, "Abortion is murder" or "Justice is fairness". An example of an Empirical Bridging Claim is, "Hydrogen is light" or "There are fewer rhinos living in the wild today than in zoos". Philosophers are best positioned to support Conceptual Bridging Claims.  But, those who do empirical work (e.g. various types of anthropologists, archeologists, sociologists, psychologists, physicists, biologists, chemists, etc.) are best positioned to support or reject Empirical Bridging Claims. So, if you can find a normative argument with an Empirical Bridging Claim on which your research bears or around which you could build a research project, then that's excellent!! You've just connected your research to ethics and are closer to connecting it to funding for such projects.

To be clearer, note that (P2) and (P3) employ ethically charged terms like 'suffering', 'death', and 'sacrificing morally important things'. It is likely then that fully supporting each will involve a little philosophizing about the referent of each term. But, that's ok, since there are a number of options open for settling on a reasonable interpretation of each. For instance, you could talk to a philosopher about which of the things involved might be thought to have moral importance. You could, then, with their help or on your own, attempt to deflect worries for your proposed plan of action after showing that we can at least feasibly do A, B, and C and that doing A, B, and C is likely to prevent the bad thing from occurring.

The links below help to fill out your understanding of research that supports a normatively important premise in three ways. The first offers some concrete examples of this sort of research.  The second lists examples of places that you might find funding opportunities for such research. And, the third delineates some approaches to help you make the link between your interests and ethics.

Example of Research Example of Funding Ops Checklist