The Indispensability of Principles

Tom Tomlinson

in Methods in Medical Ethics

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780195161243
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950317 | DOI:
The Indispensability of Principles

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We are naturally attracted to the idea that moral reasoning uses rules, as premises in a deductive argument. This picture provides a straightforward way of responding to the demand for reasons implicit in ethical discourse. It explains how our moral judgments might be brought within a system of ideals. And its deductive moral logic keeps ethical reasoning within a familiar analytical framework, offering advantages in the analysis of problems. Despite these advantages, there are no grounds for thinking that ethical reasons must always be in the form of rule. For example, the principle of universalizability doesn’t require that moral judgments be rule-based. At the other extreme, neither are there good grounds for thinking that there can be no rules at the bottom of moral judgments, as the moral particularists claim. Principles play important roles in moral discourse, and aren't to be lightly cast aside.

Keywords: bioethics; medical ethics; moral reasoning; moral judgment; moral principles; deductive reasoning

Chapter.  6235 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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