Moral Theory and Theorizing in Health Care Ethics

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (4):431-443 (2011)
This paper takes up the question of the role of philosophical moral theory in our attempts to resolve the ethical problems that arise in health care, with particular reference to the contention that we need theory to be determinative of our choice of actions. Moral theorizing is distinguished from moral theories and the prospects for determinacy from the latter are examined through a consideration of the most promising candidates: utilitarianism, deontology and the procedures involved in reflective equilibrium. It is argued that the current lack of any generally accepted method of solving moral problems, together with the extreme improbability of philosophy achieving a plausibly determinate theory, should encourage us to approach the problems in a spirit of agnosticism regarding the way in which theoretical material might be of relevance. The practical test for both moral theorizing and moral theories is thus not determinacy but the degree to which they increase our understanding of moral problems by serving, as they do in philosophy, as a means of inquiry into their nature
Keywords Moral theories  Moral theorizing  Health care ethics  Utilitarianism  Reflective equilibrium
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-011-9295-6
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