Ethical theories as methods of ethics

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This chapter presents a new argument for thinking of traditional ethical theories, not as criteria of rightness and wrongness, but rather as methods that can be used in first-order moral inquiry. It begins from outlining how ethical theories such as consequentialism and contractualism are flexible frameworks in which different versions of these theories can be formulated to correspond to different first-order ethical views. This chapter then argues that, as a result, the traditional ethical theories cannot be evaluated in terms of their truth or correctness. Instead, it suggests that these theories should be understood as providing different kind of ways of thinking about difficult moral problems. Finally, the chapter then recommends a certain kind of an attitude of pragmatic pluralism as something that should guide our theory choice in normative ethics - it may well be that different moral problems are better approached through different ethical theories.

Bibliographic note

Not yet published as of 05/07/2021.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Normative Ethics
EditorsMark Timmons
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Jun 2021


  • Ethical Theories, Methods of Ethics, Consequentialism, Contractualism, Theory Choice, Deliberation Procedures, Criteria of Rightness and Wrongness.

ASJC Scopus subject areas