Theory, Practice, and Moral Reasoning

Gerald Dworkin

in The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780195325911
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Theory, Practice, and Moral Reasoning


This article argues that one needs to make use of moral principles in order to satisfy a normative requirement on responsible moral inquiry and discourse—the requirement of “consistency,” or systematic coherence. Sometimes thinking about right and wrong in particular cases is called applied ethics. In particular, bioethics, business ethics, environmental ethics, and legal ethics are included as branches of applied ethics. This article includes these under moral practice, but uses the term more broadly so as to include any attempt to determine what is morally permissible, forbidden, or obligatory in particular circumstances. Such contexts are mainly informal and routine matters that do not come under the heading of a particular discipline such as medical ethics. This article therefore argues, by implication, that an adequate moral theory must articulate and defend moral principles. It is concerned primarily with the attempt to justify moral assessments of act tokens.

Keywords: moral principles; moral inquiry; applied ethics; bioethics; business ethics; environmental ethics

Article.  9370 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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