Ethical Theories

Ethics is the analysis of fundamental moral concepts of right and wrong. Ethical theories guide people through moral problem solving. Theories are hypotheses that explain a topic or problem and are evaluated based on their rationality, consistency, and usefulness to the issue in question (Macrina, 2000). Ethical theories should be general, supportive, abstract, noncontradicting, internally consistent, and in agreement with moral intuition. The main features of ethical theories reduce problems by providing general principles that are relative to a variety of issues, provide a checks and balances system for moral principles based on consistency, and expand areas of knowledge (in regard to other disciplines).

The subject of ethics is subdivided into the following theories: normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics. Normative ethics is the study of moral standards, principles, concepts, values, and theories, and seeks to determine what is right or wrong to justify the standards for behavior. This type of theory is the foundation for creating moral principles of conduct for decisionmaking. Metaethics is the study of the nature of moral standards, principles, values, and theories. It explores the meanings of moral concepts and analyzes the moral reasoning. Applied ethics is the study of ethical dilemmas, choices, and standards of application in particular contexts, including occupations, professions, and situations (Resnik, 1998). They are the investigations of moral conduct based on facts and are the focus when discussing the ethics of forensic science.

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