Chapter 2: Ethical Traditions
Section 14: Final Advice on Deciding on an Ethical Tradition
People need some sort of a moral guide through life. Many may think that they can get by without one but chances are that they are egoists and do have a principle which is guiding them. If it makes me feel good, if it makes me happy, if I like it and can live with it then it is all right for me to do it. That may seem like an attractive principle by which we can make decisions until one starts to think about it. As a guide for all people that principle would lead and does lead to many conflicts. What is needed in a moral code is something that will enable humans to live with one another in an order rather than in chaos of self-interested action.
Which of the many ethical principles is the best or which is the one for me?
If a person is tempted to think that several of the theories could be employed in a single life the result would be a person who would choose which theory to employ to support the decision of what that person was to do in a manner that would provide that person with the outcome that the person most preferred. This approach is a consequentialist approach, which is centered on the outcome for the decision maker. In other words the actual principle being used would be EGOISM! Thus someone who claims to be using one principle on one occasion with one situation and then another principle on another occasion would be using that which pleases that person and provides for the outcome desired by the person claiming multiple ethical principles. The key factor is that such a person wants the outcome desired.
The CHOICE of a theory is based upon individual judgment but need not be arbitrary.
Each person considers the advantages and disadvantages and the strengths and weaknesses and
chooses consistent with that person's values.
The choice is, perhaps unfortunately, for most:
Hopefully, by considering the various theories and examining how they would be applied to the various situations and dilemmas involving medical practices and institutions each person will become more aware of their fundamental values and which of the theories is most in keeping with what they think of as the good. Such a theory would then serve as a source of moral guidance.
People should have some principle by which they make their
decisions as to what is the morally correct thing to do. At times doing
the morally correct thing will not make the actor happy except to know
that they did what was right. It is only the Egoist that thinks doing
what is correct must always make the actor happy.
Well you may be correct in thinking that most people in the world are Ethical Egoists (EE) in that they think about what pleases them first. But it may be time for humankind to grow up and mature and use reason and decide what each of us will live and die for. What will be the principle of the GOOD used to make moral decisions? Do you want to make decisions with yourself at the center or do you want to THINK and arrive at a principle consistent with your values that you will use to make moral decisions and you will attempt to convince others to use as well so that there can be resolution to moral conflicts. EE lacks logic in that there is no consistency or universalizability. It can not resolve moral conflicts as there is no agreed upon principle of the GOOD amongst EE's in a conflict. RESULT: Power plays and violence. At the United Nations they operate with the principle of UTILITY in an effort to resolve conflicts and avoid violence. There are other principles. The religious fanatics who employ tactics of violence and terror such as the Islamicists use DIVINE COMMAND as their principle. The world community appears clearly unwilling to accept such a principle as the basis for moral conflict resolution. What will the world use in a effort to avoid the violence?
So, which principle is it that we are to use direct our lives and to give it a meaning and a value through our choice? Each makes the decision. In Philosophy the attempt is made to consider the principle that would serve best, the principle, which has the fewest disadvantages, and hopefully to find a principle that is the best to meet the demands of the current world situation and is correct as to setting humans on a path of conduct that serves the core values of the human community.
When people are confronted with their impending deaths they
often review their lives. Few make judgments as to its worth based on how
much they own. Most people regard how they treated others and were
treated by them as much more important than possessions of material
objects. One’s sense of morality is then seen in retrospect as one of the
most important parts of a person’s life. Did I do the right thing is seen
as more important than did I possess as much as I could have or was I as
happy as I could have been?
It is your decision as to which principles will guide your decisions. There is advice that others can and do give you but it is your decision. Choose wisely. For Plato this was the whole point of Philosophy: to assist someone in choosing wisely, in choosing what truly is the GOOD.
The Dialectical Process
The Dialectical Process
In attempting to reach a conclusion as to the morally correct thing to do responsible moral agents should examine the reasons for the beliefs held concerning what is morally correct . People should reflect on the beliefs held to determine what principles are involved and what values serve as the base for the belief that one ethical principle is to be placed before or over another. When taking a position on a moral issue or in attempting to reach a conclusion as to what is morally correct the reasoning and responsible person would give reasons for what they hold to be morally correct and and make arguments for the claims they would make . Humans should examine the moral arguments in a continuing process of review and reflection. There must be a critical examination of all arguments offered in support of positions taken and urged on others. In the ongoing process of inquiry into the basic reasoning and the manner in which principles are used the critical examination would look to see that the reasoning was consistent and coherent. If the arguments do not appear to be well reasoned or not well supported then revisions would be needed or even the discarding of the first argument in favor of another that was either prompted by the inquiry itself or derived from it. In turn the new argument in support of the new position becomes itself the candidate for subsequent critical examination. This continuing process is referred to as being dialectical.
In the critical examination of arguments or positions on moral issues there is a sort of testing of the arguments as the principles used in the argument are applied to cases either actual or hypothetical in order to examine how well they fit the case and resolve conflicts or if they give rise to further difficulties. Consider a moral argument that sets a high value on freedom of speech and related to freedom of thought and thought as essential to the moral lives of human beings. In setting the value of freedom of speech nearly as an absolute value or as a high or , perhaps, the highest value what then becomes of that argument when considering whether or not to allow such freedom on the internet and the presentation of child pornography to any and all viewers?
In entering into the process of moral inquiry, even unto the level of examining the most basic principles and values being used, human beings are developing their skill in ethical thinking and along with that they are growing as responsible moral beings. As humans do this they are developing and defining the moral aspect of their personalities and their moral personhood.
What ethical principles do you have as your own due to your experiences and values?
Try using this Ethics self quiz: GO TO: http://selectsmart.com/plus/select.php?url=EIHinman
Answer the items ONLY in the center of the page. DO NOT CLICK on the large buttons on the left or right of the center column.
When you have answered all the questions, continue to the Show Me My Results button below.
Ethical Inventory (Hinman)
Given a situation with a moral dilemma or problem or issue you will be required to make a moral judgment and here is the “logic “ involved in the form of a reasoning pattern:
Premise: The situation is such……..
Premise: The key factors are ……….
Premise: The possible actions are A, B, C, D, etc…..
Premise: The Ethical Principles to be applied is [One of the following Ethical Egoism, Utility, Natural Law, Categorical Imperative, Maxi-Min Principle, Feminism and others]
Conclusion: Based on the Ethical Principles of [ selecting one or more} the MORAL JUDGMENT is that doing A, B, C, D, etc….. is MORALLY GOOD/WRONG
Using careful and critical thinking to make judgments and decisions involves applying this pattern over and over again because this is using Ethical Reasoning in a dialectical process which is Philosophy which is the most critical thought process known to humans.
This text will now turn towards an examination of those various situations and dilemmas involving medical practices and institutions.
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© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2002. All Rights reserved.
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