Testing an Ethical Theory

Ethical theories are tested by nullifying the core hypothesis. All the hypotheses of the particular ethical theory must pass three critical tests (Thong and Yap 233). That is, they must be consistent, have a practical value, and bear acceptable justifications (Harris 63-66). Consistency means that the theory does not have discrepancies, such that its concepts, principles, assumptions, and arguments reveal universality. Although ethical theories bear little practical value, they must have reliable moral principles that should govern behavior and appeal to be justifiable. Usually, the test is procedural, through the following steps: First, introduce the ethical theory and name it. Secondly, show that the theory is valid. Thirdly, apply the theory to a situation. Fourthly, conclude the situation to justify it. Fifthly, compare the justification with more than one other situation.

The testing formula for ethical theories is similar to testing a scientific theory, in that both involve nullifying a hypothesis. For instance, a scientific theory must be factual. That is, it must be consistent across all frames, as the ethical theory should be consistent. Besides, both must be justifiable through analysis of variables, comparing results, and evaluation of results over acceptable protocols. Procedurally, both scientific and ethical theories are tested by identifying them, coming up with a hypothesis, applying the hypothesis on a situation, and comparing the results with other results in a similar but different situation.


Nevertheless, testing an ethical theory is different from testing a scientific theory in that ethical theories may be validated without definite consistency, practical value, and justification, unlike scientific theories. Ethical theories tests rely on maxims, while scientific theory tests are utterly based on facts (Kitcher 215). Therefore, testing a scientific theory has more consistency, practical value, and are justifiable than ethical theory tests.

Works Cited

Harris, C. E. Applying Moral Theories. Wadsworth, 2007.

Kitcher, Patricia. “What Is A Maxim?”. Philosophical Topics, vol 31, no. 1, 2003, pp. 215-243. Philosophy Documentation Center, doi:10.5840/philtopics2003311/29.

Thong, James Y.L., and Chee-Sing Yap. “Testing An Ethical Decision-Making Theory: The Case Of Softlifting”. Journal Of Management Information Systems, vol 15, no. 1, 1998, pp. 213-237. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/07421222.1998.11518203. Accessed 26 Aug 2020.