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The Potter Box Model of Reasoning

The Potter Box Model of Reasoning

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The Potter Box Model of Reasoning

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  1. The Potter Box Model of Reasoning

  2. The Liverpool Murder Case • British law prohibits reporting the names and family histories of children facing criminal charges until their trials are complete. Is the legal standard the only possible one we can use to evaluate this case? • Is Britain’s domestic standard compelling for the international media? The above picture taken from a shopping center security camera shows two-year-old Jason Bugler being kidnapped from his mother by two ten-year-olds who would eventually brutally murder the child.

  3. Ethics and Values • Ethics - the discipline dealing with what is morally right or wrong, good or bad. • Ethical system describes the critical process of how we work through moral issues • Values - the accepted principles or standards of an individual or a group • All decision-making involves values which reflect our presuppositions about social life and human nature!

  4. Types of Values ProfessionalProximityFirstnessImpact/magnitudeRecencyConflictHuman InterestEntertainmentNoveltyToughnessThoroughnessImmediacyIndependenceNo prior restraintPublic’s right to knowWatchdog Moral ValuesTruthtellingHumannessJustice/fairnessFreedomIndependenceStewardshipHonestyNonviolenceCommitmentSelf-control AestheticHarmoniousPleasingImaginative LogicalConsistentCompetentKnowledge-able Socio-culturalThriftHard workEnergyRestraintHeterosexuality

  5. Values Used by the British Press Legal value: Honor the court restrictions against reporting juvenile names and family background. Principles Used by the British Press Other-regarding care: The privacy of children facing criminal charges must be protected at all costs. Values Used by the American Press Professional value: Do not suppress public information. Principles Used by the American Press Truth-telling: All people have a right to know the truth. The truth must be proclaimed under all conditions.

  6. Resulting Action of the British Press Withhold information about the defendants including names and personal histories Resulting Action of the American Press Print names of defendants and information on their personal histories. WE NEED A GUIDELINE OR MODEL FOR ETHICAL DECISIONMAKING!! THE POTTER BOX

  7. The “Potter Box” Ralph Benajah Potter, Jr., who retired in July 2003, began teaching at HDS in 1965.  He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of the book War and Moral Discourse and assorted scholarly articles. He is a founding fellow of the Hastings Center for Bioethics and is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Christian Ethics, Societe Europeene de Culture, the Society for Values in Higher Education, and, at Harvard, the Senior Common Room of Lowell House. His 1997 HDS Convocation Address was titled "Moralists, Maxims and Formation for Ministry."  • Dr. Ralph Benajah Potter, Jr. • Professor of Social Ethics Emeritus BA,  Occidental College BD,  McCormick Theological Seminary ThD,  Harvard University Source:http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty/em/potter.html

  8. Four Dimensions of Moral Analysis Definition Loyalties ↓ ↑ → Values Principles

  9. Potter Box Feedback Particular Judgment or Policy Sociological Immediate External Facts Empirical Definition Choosing Loyalties Philosophical Reflective Internal Appeal to Ethical Principles Identifying Values both positive & negative virtue, duty, utility, rights, love

  10. Potter Box Applied to the Liverpool Murder Case JUDGMENT British Television: withhold broadcasting U.S. Newspaper: publish names and details SITUATION Two ten-year-olds go to trial for kidnapping and brutally murdering two-year-old Jason Bugler LOYALTIES British Television: to juvenile defendants and their families U.S. Newspaper: to general readership VALUES British Television: honor the court restrictions against reporting juvenile names U.S. Newspaper: do not suppress public information PRINCIPLE British Television: other-regarding care U.S. Newspaper: truthtelling is categorical imperative

  11. Determining the Ethical Decision • Is there a universal ground for making ethical decisions, an overarching theory from which we can choose among competing alternatives? • Or is ethical decision making simply a process of adjusting to the mores and commitments of a given community? The Potter Box accounts for both. • Without an appeal to an explicit ethical principle, a conclusion is not considered morally justified.

  12. Evaluation With the Potter Box Model • When competing values seem appropriate, resolution usually occurs in step three (ethical principles). • When two different ethical theories are relevant, the adequacy of the theories themselves must be evaluated through metaphysics or theology. • Occasionally, the ethical choice is not apparent until quadrant four, loyalties, as in the case of the Liverpool murder.

  13. Why We Study the Process By Which Choices Are Made • Knowing the elements in moral analysis sharpens our vocabulary and enhances our discussion of media ethics • Understanding the logic of social ethics improves the quality of our conceptual work and the validity of the choices we make in media practice. • The four dimensions of the Potter Box allow us to develop normative ethics.

  14. Additional Links Finding a Philosophical Perspective A discussion of different approaches to ethics including the Potter Box The Effects of Journalism Loyalties on the Invasion of Privacy A discussion of the loyalties of the journalist according to the Potter Box. Scenarios Test yourself in applying the Potter Box model of ethical reasoning to these public relations scenarios. Digital Manipulation: Issues and Ethics in Photojournalism An actual case of journalistic ethics analyzed according to the Potter Box.

  15. Using Ethical Principles

  16. Guidelines 1. Always treat specifics very carefully. 2. Values must be isolated and accounted for. 3. Values must be checked, questioned, or corrected using steps three and four of the Potter Box.

  17. Use of Ethical Principles No conclusion can be morally justified without a clear demonstration that an ethical principle shaped the final decision. What Actually Happens What Ought to Happen Definition Loyalties Values Principles Descriptive Normative

  18. Ethics vs. Values • Ethics involves an understanding of theology and philosophy as well as debates in the history of ideas over justice, virtue, the good, etc. • Values pervade all dimensions of human experience, even scientific experimentation.

  19. Challenging Moral Norms • Oursociety challenges the practice of searching for moral norms. • BUT norms rightly understood are foundational for moral commitment.

  20. Purpose of Sound Ethical Reasoning • Allows us to draw responsible conclusions that yield justifiable actions • Helps us to determine which ethical theory is most powerful under which conditions

  21. 1. Ethical Theories based on Virtue Aristotle’s Mean/Confucius’ Golden Mean 2. Ethical Theories based on Duty Kant’s Categorical Imperative 3. Ethical Theories based on Utility Mill’s Principle of Utility 4. Ethical Theories based on Rights Rawls’s Veil of Ignorance 5. Ethical Theories based on Love Judeo-Christian Persons as Ends Five Categories of Ethical Theories

  22. Ethical Guidelines Based on Virtue Aristotle’s Mean Confucius’ Golden Mean

  23. “Moral virtue is a middle state determined by practical wisdom” Aristotle’s Mean

  24. Four Cardinal Virtues TEMPERANCE JUSTICE COURAGE WISDOM

  25. Extremes JUSTICE COURAGE WISDOM Indifference Indulgence Cowardice Temerity Caution Spontaneity

  26. Main Ideas • Propriety before duty or love • Character over conduct • Outer behavior as a reflection of inner disposition • Equilibrium and harmony

  27. Practical Wisdom • Phronesis • Moral discernment • Knowledge of the proper ends (telos) of conduct and the means of attaining them • Distinct from both theoretical knowledge and technical skill

  28. Using Practical Wisdom • Applied to “individual facts” by locating “the mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect” • Examples • Case 16 • Case 29

  29. Exceptions • Not all actions or emotions can be justified by a middle state • What actions and emotions are intrinsically wicked whether or not they are practiced with temperance? Spite Shamelessness Envy Adultery Theft Murder

  30. Summary of Aristotle’s Mean • NOT a weak-minded consensus • NOT a compromise • NOT a mathematically equal distance between two extremes • Aristotle’s mean involves the correct quantity, the correct timing, the correct people, the correct motives, and the correct manner

  31. “Moral virtue is the appropriate location between two extremes” Confucius’ Golden Mean

  32. Main Ideas • Rooted in virtue • Virtue as benevolence, kindness, generosity, and balance (a mean between two extremes) • Excellence dependent on character not social position

  33. Equilibrium and Harmony “Equilibrium (chung) is the great root from which grow all human actings in the world. And harmony (yung) is the universal path all should pursue. Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish”

  34. Applying Confucius’ Golden Mean • Identify all extremes • Resolve competing obligations using the Golden Mean • Reject any extremes • Choose the middle path

  35. Additional Links Nicomachean Ethics An online version of Aristotle’s text. Book II, chapter 6 is a good place to start. Aristotle Overview This article describes the life, writings, ethics, and politics of Aristotle. Aristotle’s “Doctrine of the Mean” A chart illustrating Aristotle’s concepts of virtue and vice. Confucius An overview of Confucian beliefs The Doctrine of the Mean An online version of the article by Confucius cited by the text

  36. Ethical Guidelines Based on Duty Kant’s Categorical Imperative

  37. “Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” Kant’s Categorical Imperative

  38. Main Ideas • Ethics are objective • Any genuine moral obligation can be universalized • Categorical = unconditional • What is right must be done regardless of circumstances • Existence of higher truths • Deontological ethics

  39. Higher Truths • Noumena • Superior to reason • Transcend physical universe • Innate in human beings • Apprehended by conscience NOT reason

  40. Deontological Ethics • From deon (Greek for duty) • Rule determines the result • Rule is the basis of the act • Rule is good regardless of the act • Result always calculated within the rules

  41. Application of Kant’s Categorical Imperative • Moral law is unconditionally binding on all rational beings. • Certain actions are always wrong. • Certain actions are always right. • Examples

  42. Questions to Consider • What happens when there is a conflict of duties? (2 rules that are universalized) • Is every rule we would universalize a moral duty? • Can we truly ignore results in decision-making? • Do we really want to make reason the final, sole authority in determining right and wrong?

  43. Additional Links Critique of Practical Reason The online version of Kant’s writings on epistemology and ethics. Kant’s Argument for the Categorical Imperative An outline of Kant’s reasoning for the categorical imperative Immanuel Kant and the Categorical Imperative A critical evaluation of Kant’s categorical imperative Kant’s Four Examples of How to Apply the Categorical ImperativeKant’s own application from his work, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

  44. Ethical Guidelines Based on Utility Mill’s Principle of Utility

  45. “Seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number” Mill’s Principle of Utility

  46. Main Ideas • Consider what course will yield the best consequences for the welfare of human beings • Ethical choice produces the greatest balance of good over evil • Good end must be promoted, bad end must be restrained

  47. The Good End • Happiness or pleasure • To Mill, preventing pain and promoting pleasure are the only desirable ends. • Pluralistic utilitarians argue that other values besides happiness possess intrinsic worth (friendship, knowledge, health). • Rightness or wrongness assessed according to total value ultimately produced

  48. Application of the Principle of Utility • Calculate the consequences of various options. How much benefit and how much harm would result in the lives of everyone affected, including ourselves? • Choose the alternative that both • Produces the greatest possible balance of good over evil • Distributes this balance as widely as possible

  49. Two Types of Utilitarianism • Act Utilitarianism: Greatest good in a specific case Will a particular action in a particular situation result in a balance of good over evil? 2. Rule Utilitarianism: Greatest good for general welfare Will a general rule result in a balance of good over evil?

  50. Questions to Consider • How do we account for the long term consequences of a decision that are not always able to be forseen? • What if the majority rejects basic standards of decency? • What problems are generated by defining the public good as the sum total of all private goods?