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How to teach moral theories in applied ethics
  1. Ben Saunders
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ben Saunders, Room A82, Pathfoot Building, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK; b.m.saunders{at}


Recent discussion has focused on whether or not to teach moral theories, and, if yes, to what extent. In this piece the author argues that the criticisms of teaching moral theories raised by Rob Lawlor should lead us to reconsider not whether but how to teach moral theories. It seems that most of the problems Lawlor identifies derive from an uncritical, theory-led approach to teaching. It is suggested that we might instead start by discussing practical cases or the desiderata of a successful moral theory, and then build up to comparing theories such as consequentialism, deontology, and so on. In this way, theories are taught but students do not take them to be the alpha and omega of moral thinking.

  • Applied ethics
  • education
  • education for health care professionals
  • education/programs
  • moral theories
  • teaching

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  • Funding Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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