In Ethical Judgment, Abraham Edel makes clear the part played by biological and social scientific information in ethical judgment and moral action using psychological, anthropological, and economic materials as well as historical studies. Edel suggests that many controversies in ethical theory have emerged because different ethical theories made different scientific assumptions. In the almost forty years since his book was first published, life has become more complex and technological change has accelerated, bringing changes to our morality and ethical theory as well as our conduct. If anything, his observations are even more pertinent, compelling us to examine the empirical core of ethical statements.
Edel maintains that since our knowledge of social life and history is constantly growing, moral theories and ethical judgments ought to embody the best knowledge available at any point in tune. However, because all knowledge and belief is only probable, there is never absolute certainty but only what Edel calls residual indeterminacy in human life and knowledge due to complexity and change.
Edel lists four factors that form the basis for moral decisions: universal needs (food); perennial aspirations (friendships); central necessary conditions (job security); and critical contingent factors under special circumstances (land reform in a landholder-ruled society). In his new introduction, Edel applies those factors to the present day, discussing societal changes over the past forty years, such as the number of women in the workforce, the impact of the civil rights movement, and the fact that isolationism as a national policy is no longer feasible. Ethical Judgment is a recognized classic hi the modern study of ethical theory. It will be valuable reading for sociologists, historians, and all scholars interested in the study of ethics and American culture.