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Health Care Anal. 2017 Sep;25(3):275-289. doi: 10.1007/s10728-015-0295-x.

The Principle-Based Method of Practical Ethics.

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Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, P.O. Box 110135, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


This paper is about the methodology of doing practical ethics. There is a variety of methods employed in ethics. One of them is the principle-based approach, which has an established place in ethical reasoning. In everyday life, we often judge the rightness and wrongness of actions by their conformity to principles, and the appeal to principles plays a significant role in practical ethics, too. In this paper, I try to provide a better understanding of the nature of principle-based reasoning. To accomplish this, I show in the first section that these principles can be applied to cases in a meaningful and sufficiently precise way. The second section discusses the question how relevant applying principles is to the resolution of ethical issues. This depends on their nature. I argue that the principles under consideration in this paper should be interpreted as presumptive principles and I conclude that although they cannot be expected to bear the weight of definitely resolving ethical problems, these principles can nevertheless play a considerable role in ethical research.


Analysis of moral principles; Applying principles; Method of practical ethics; Presumptive principles; Principle-based method

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