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How to Make an Ethical Decision

Some Strategies for Ethical Decision-Making
Adapted from Philosophical Counseling: Theory and Practice 

1. Majority
How would most people in my community decide this issue? 

2. Consensus
What decision would all members of my community be likely to agree with regarding this issue? 

3. Discourse ethics
What decision would I arrive at through careful discussion with others? (Jürgen Habermas)

4. Divine command morality
What does my church or my religious beliefs say I should do? 

5. Golden Rule
What would I want others to do if the situation were reversed?  (found in most religions. Do unto others as you want them to do to you.)

6. Justice as fairness
How would I decide if I didn't know where my personal interest lies in the situation?  (John Rawls' deciding objectively)

7. Virtue ethics
What would a good person do in this situation?  (Aristotle)

8. Duty ethics
What are the principles of duty involved in this situation? (Immanuel Kant e.g., don't lie; don't steal, respect others)

9. Utilitarianism or greatest happiness principle
What decision will bring the most happiness to the most people?  (Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill)

10. Consequentialism
What will be the outcome of my decision both in the short-term and in the long run?

11. Cost/benefit analysis
What will my decision cost (and for whom?);  what will be the rewards  (and who will receive them)?

12. Relational ethics
How will my decision affect my connection with significant others?

13. Care ethics
Is my decision kind and compassionate, and does it reflect my caring nature?  (Carol Gilligan)

14. Casuistry or case-based
How have similar cases been decided in the past, and with what results?

15. Contextualism or situational ethics
Is the decision I have come to fitting or appropriate to the unique aspects of this particular context or situation? 

16. Empirical ethics or pragmatism
Will my decision actually help the individuals involved, or my community, to thrive? 

17. Existential ethics
Is the decision I have made "authentic",i .e., true to myself, my values, beliefs, and principles?


Copyright 2018 Dr. Peter B. Raabe

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