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Education in moral theory and the improvement of moral thought

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This article questions whether the study of normative moral theory and its application to particular moral problems has a beneficial effect upon someone seeking to improve the quality of their moral thinking. A broad outline of the conception of moral thinking underlying moral theory and applied ethics is considered, particularly the logical requirements that moral thinking be impersonal and the judgements that issue from it universally valid. The error of both of these requirements is explored through consideration of a detailed example. It is further argued that the procedure by which the theory-driven applied ethicist arrives at moral conclusions does not involve moral thinking at all. Moreover, it is argued that the failure of moral philosophers to explore the meaning and significance of the full range of concepts constituting our moral vocabulary puts in doubt the efficacy of the study of moral philosophy for the improvement of moral thinking.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Kent UK

Publication date: March 1, 2004

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