Ethical Decision-Making

In all disciplines and professions, issues arise that need to be resolved without the help of definitive rules. In such situations, it is important to have a method of approaching the issue that will facilitate effective resolution of the issue. The following is a series of steps and considerations that one might undertake to resolve such an issue.

Ethical Decision Making *

  • Existing rules:

    Examine positive morality in the form of relevant law, ethics codes, and custom.
    Do they give a clear answer to the problem?

  • Openness:

    Be open to all considerations. Get information.

  • Impartiality:

    Consider the issue from all interested and affected points of view.

  • Discussion:

    Speak with others about the issue and possible resolutions.

  • Processing:
    • General values:

      Consider what values are most valued in general, e.g. dignity, equality, integrity

    • Specific values:

      Determine what interests and whose interests are most significant in the situation.

  • Justification:
    • Explanation:

      Can the resolution be explained with transparency to reasonable people?

    • Persuasion:

      Will reasonable people be persuaded by the reasons?

* This description of ethical decision making is based on a presentation to the UNL Ethics Center Board of Advisors by philosopher Jeremy Waldron, University Professor and Professor of Law at New York University.