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Ethics(presentation adapted from Prof. J. Christman’s and A. Lau’s Workshop on Ethics) Our goal: systematic approach Definition Ethical Frameworks
Definition of Ethics • “Positive guidelines we use to shape our behavior, and the systematic study of these guidelines” • More than just • being prudent out of self interest • following the letter of the law • abiding by professional codes of conduct
Thinking Ethically • Foreseeing and averting problems • Becoming ethically aware • Developing moral imagination • Maximalist always looking for ethical problems • Minimalist looks only for minimal criteria to signal an ethical problem • Finding the right balance
Ethical Frameworks • Consequence-based thinking • Duty-based thinking • Virtue-based thinking
Consequence-based • Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill • Utilitarian • Do what produces greatest good for the greatest number of people • Monetary costs and benefits • Human welfare • Pleasure or happiness
Consequence-based (cont’d) • Limitations: • Difficult to predict consequences • Can end up reducing ethics to economics • Differing views of what makes people happy • Ends do not justify the means if the means are morally unacceptable • Formally, this theory does not pertain to non-human life
Duty-based • Emmanuel Kant • Categorical imperative (do only that which you would want everyone to do) • “What if everyone did this?” (Golden Rule) • Duty to obey universal principles • e.g., never lie or steal • The right to be treated with respect • NO EXCEPTIONS
Duty-based (cont’d) • Limitations: • Requires everyone to be a perfect reasoner • Does not allow for situational exceptions • Sometimes, consequences do matter and may override our duty • Formally, this theory does not pertain to non-human life
Virtue-based • What would a person of “good moral character” do? • Exercise appropriate virtue in every case • e.g. honesty, respect, generosity • Must use judgment to determine applicable virtue (as opposed to ethical rules)
Virtue-based • Limitations: • Virtues may be defined too loosely to guide decisions in difficult cases • Virtues may be defined in terms of social setting or culture, making morality relativistic • Formally, this theory does not pertain to non-human life
Overarching Rule of Thumb • Shorthand Principle that combines all 3 moral frameworks: Can I reasonably justify my actions and their consequences to all affected in a way that is consistent with my integrity and my relations with others? If not, can I live with that?
General Guide to Ethical Thinking Redo other steps Am I missing something? use moral imagination reflect, choose, revisit decision gather facts Thinking/Acting Ethically how will relations be affected? formulate options (creatively) what virtues apply? consult others consider consequences -identify optimal option identify relevant duties Think through ethical frameworks carefully Engage stakeholders -- as appropriate