Knowledge and its integrity within a knowledge economy: ethics and wise social research

John Harrison*, David Rooney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Purpose - The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the roles of ethics and wisdom in knowledge economies and specifically the place of ethics and wisdom in social research in knowledge economies.

Approach - It does this through examining traditional theories of ethics, their application in the context of research ethics, and the origins of the current institutional ethics approval regimes. The limitations of consequentialist and deontological approaches to ethics in social research are articulated, as is the rise of neo Aristotelian virtue ethics - to which wisdom is integral. Questions are posed about several high-profile cases of past social research, and the extent to which these might be considered both unethical and unwise. Attention is then given to the place of wisdom in the practice of social research. Aristotle presents practical wisdom as an executive virtue that coherently integrates intellectual and ethical virtues to create deliberative excellence.

Findings - Practical wisdom is thus seen as a way of performing as an educated, skilled, and ethical social actor with carefully constructed predispositions which automatically seek excellence and well-being. Furthermore, a wise social researcher considers the needs of others carefully to try to find the right thing to do, but in understanding others emotionally, intellectually, or otherwise, is not manipulative. The conclusion poses the question as to how practical wisdom might be developed applied to the practices of contemporary social research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics in social research
EditorsK. Love
Place of PublicationBingley, UK
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9781780528786
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in Qualitative in Methodology
ISSN (Print)1042-3192


  • Research ethics
  • social science
  • human subjects
  • regulation
  • innovation
  • knowledge


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