Normative

Action guiding, imperative, commanding.

Any system or code of behavior is properly labeled ‘normative’ if it directs actions.

Examples of normative systems are etiquette, law, religion, and morality.

Professional codes for physicians (e.g., the Hippocratic Oath), nurses, professors, lawyers, clergy, etc., are other examples of normative codes because they direct or guide the activities within these various professional occupations. While they are often called “Professional Ethics” they should be labeled “Professional Codes” to avoid confusion with morality. A professional code may or may not have moral implications and so professional obligations may vary significantly from moral obligations. For example, the “Pirate’s Code” may be a standard by which Jack Sparrow determines his course of action as a pirate, but it very likely entails little or no moral consideration.

An easier way to see the distinction between moral and professional duties is to recognize that moral duties are universally binding, while professional obligations only apply within the exercise of a particular occupation.