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Moral principles are general statements that provide guidance in evaluating the moral appropriateness of past or future actions, general categories of behavior, individual character, and social and political institutions. A distinctive feature of moral principles is their intended aim of providing practical guidance. Principles direct or obligate moral agents to act or respond, either in general ways or in concrete situations where certain circumstances obtain.

Moral principles take various forms and vary in the type of practical guidance that they provide. The principle that one should “do no harm to others” functions as a general proscription covering a wide range of activities from how one ought to treat their neighbor to how much a manufacturer should invest in product safety. Although formally similar, general prescriptions establish ...

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