Volume 27, Issue 2, Fall 2013
Elaine E. Englehardt, Michael S. Pritchard
Teaching Practical Ethics
A common view is that, whether taught in philosophy departments or elsewhere, practical ethics should include some introduction to philosophical ethics. But even an entire course cannot afford much time for this and expect to do justice to ethical concerns in the practical area (for example, business, engineering, or medicine). The concern is that ethical theories would need to be “watered down,” or over-simplified. So, we should not expect that this will be in good keeping with either the theories or the practical concerns.
In addressing this problem, we turn to philosopher Thomas Reid (1710–1796). He insisted that, because morality is for everyone, one needn’t be a philosopher to understand its requirements. Although it can be useful to organize our moral thinking around a few basic principles, a system of morality is more like a system of botany or mineralogy than geometry. Noting this can guide us in constructing effective courses in practical ethics.