Understanding the Gap between Theory and Practice
Wibren Van der Burg
Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Law
The familiar idea of a gap between theory and practice cannot be understood in terms of distinctions such as general-particular or abstract-concrete. A "gap" suggests a more fundamental difference. The underlying distinction is that between two incomplete and incompatible models of morality, a doctrine model and a practice model. Morality can be described in terms of interaction, a practice, and it can be described as a set of precepts, an ethical doctrine.
This distinction may help us to understand various debates and problems in ethics. It explains why there is so little progress in methodological discussions on reflective equilibrium. In a doctrine perspective, reflective equilibrium is a method to attain moral truth; in a practice perspective it is a process of continuous critical reflection. The distinction also explains conflicting views on moral expertise. In a practice perspective, moral philosophers are not moral experts, whereas in a doctrine perspective they are.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 19
Keywords: theory and practice, reflective equilibrium, moral expertise, essentially ambiguous concepts, practice model, doctrine modelworking papers series
Date posted: February 21, 2008 ; Last revised: August 6, 2008
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