INTRODUCTION TO MORAL DECISION MAKING Steven McCrary John Brown University
Problem: How do we make ethical decisions? • Mind map • Technology challenges Christian values, e.g. • human dignity, • God as source of knowledge, • technology is neutral. • Technology challenges traditional ethical theories, e.g., • aggregations of harm, • generational responsibility, • distributive justice.
Purpose: • To clarify and broaden our ethical values by developing a Christian-view of technology based on the following major ideas. • To understand ethical tools. • To apply these tools to difficult technologically-based choices.
Premise • The difficult decisions in life are solved using both means (principles) and ends (consequences).
Sub-Topic 1: The Cultural Mandate • To reform culture • However, our Christian duty to reform culture clashes with selfish human nature that demonstrates itself in technicism.
Sub-Topic 2: A 7-step Model for Making Responsible Decision • Write down the case scenario • Identify the Issues and Stakeholders • Outline the Options • Determine Applicable Moral Standards • Evaluate the Arguments • Conduct Numeric Analysis • Make a Decision
Sub-Topic 3: Ethics and Christian Decision Making • What are recognized ethical theories? • What is a Christian Ethic?
Sub-Topic 4: Responsible Technology: Normative Christian Principles • Cultural: appropriateness • Symbolic (lingual): open • Social: promotes communication • Economic: stewardship • Aeshetic: harmony • Juridicial: just • Moral: caring • Pistic: faithful
An Example • using the Model in a case about abortion.
Model for Making Moral Decisions Steven McCrary
Introduction--Purpose • A model based in Christian normative principles. • Minimize the means/ends problems caused by technology. • A robust decision making tool. • Clarify your values.
Steps for Making Moral Decisions • 1. Write the Case • 2. Identify the Issues & Stakeholders • 3. Outline the Options • 4. Determine Applicable Moral Standards • 5. Evaluate the Arguments • 6. Conduct Numeric Analysis • 7. Make a Decision
Step 1: Write out the Case • Mrs. Plass is seven months pregnant with twins. She is considering having an abortion. • She is forty-five years old and does not want to have a high school age children when she is in her sixties. • Mrs. Plass has complications due to her diabetes and early onset of arthritis, so her doctor advises that her health is in danger. • Plus, due to her age and health, the twins are in real danger of birth defects as well. • She has been thinking about the decision for five months, but has just now decided that she wants to have an abortion. • She has also just won a free cruise to the Caribbean, and she will miss it if she does not have the abortion. • Is it morally permissible for her to have an abortion?
Step 2a: Who are the major stakeholders? • Stakeholders refers to all individuals whose interest could be affected by the decision made in the case. • Typical stakeholders include: local, state, and federal government; local business; benefactors; taxpayers. • Stakeholders in this case: • the mother (the decision maker), • the fetus, • the father, • the doctor, • grandparents, siblings, other family members, • the government, and society-at-large.
Step 2b: What are the major moral issues? • “Moral” or ethical statements • 1. express a value judgment, • 2. references a norm, a value, or a standard. • 3. Cannot be confirmed by appeal to facts alone. • For our example case: • The value of the fetus. • The rights of the pregnant woman.
Step 2c: What are the major factual issues? • Factual statements are claims that can be confirmed or disconfirmed by experiment, observation, or research. • Facts in this case: • the mother’s life appears to be in danger; • the child may have a disability; • the mother does not want children when she is sixty; • the cruise to the Caribbean will be lost if she goes through with the pregnancy; and • the mother has been thinking about the abortion for five months.
Step 2d: What are the major conceptual issues? • Cannot be settled by appeal to factual or moral standards alone. • Involve meaning and definition of an abstract notion. • Involve conflict of values, perspective, and/or the use (“fit”) in particular situation. • Therefore, an adequately definition must include meanings of words changing due to: • perspective of stakeholder, and • situation of application.
Conceptual Issues (con’t) • Suppose “X” refers to a concept, such as “safety.” • Concerning definition of a concept: • "what X is“ • that is, what characteristic(s) does X have? • SO what is safe? • Concerning application of a concept: • whether a given situation counts as an instance of X. • For example, should the given situation count as safe? • The answer to that question will vary from person-to-person and from situation-to-situation.
Examples of Difficult Conceptual Issues • Difficult concepts: • bribery, healthy, safety, welfare, conflict of interest, extortion, confidentiality, trade secret, and loyalty. • Difficult definitions: • proper definition of “safe” and “substantial” health risk. • Difficult application: • given the definition of “keeping confidentiality”, does a given situation count as confidentiality.
Our case’s Conceptual issues: • Conceptual issues include “equality of sexes,” “convenience,” “life.” • Major views on convenience • Mother should have the freedom to exercise abortion whenever. Government intervention is a violation of • the right to privacy, • the right to ownership of one’s own body, • the right to equal treatment (men cannot get pregnant), and • the right to self-determination. • Mother should never have that freedom since the rights of the unborn far outweigh any right of the mother.
Assumed, or controverted facts. • The extent to which Mrs. Plass’ and the twins’ health are in danger. • Mrs. Plass reason for postponing her decision by three months.
Step 3: Outline the Options • What are the main alternative actions or policies that might be followed in responding to the ethical issues in this case? Is “do nothing” an option? • What are the principle motives that might be used to justify those options? • How does this case relates to the application of technology?
Step 3: Outline the Options • Example • Options: • have the abortion; • continue with the pregnancy and either • keep the child, or • give the child up for adoption. • Motives • for self-preservation, to save her life; • for convenience; or • for eugnenics, genocide, or gender selection.
Step 3: How are the issues related to technology? • Relate the case to the application of technology • Our case: • detection of fetal health; • detection of mother’s health; • ability to perform abortion; • convenience of vacationing; • others.
Step 4: Determine Applicable Moral Standard(s) • A standard (norm) is a principle that will be used to measure the action and the results. Be sure the standard prescribes and instructs conduct (use IF...THEN statements). • 4a. Write a standard for each of 4 ethical theories. Use guidelines given by Harris. • Natural law • Respect for Persons • Egoism • Utilitarianism • 4b. Write the applicable moral standards for Christian Normative Principles.
Step 4: Examples of Moral Standard(s) • Egoism: • Side-constraint: • In the case of eugenics: Eugenics is a poor justification for abortion. Justification on this basis could lead to bad, at-large societal policies. • Therefore, side-constrained to prevent eugenic abortions. • IF a mother chooses abortion within the moral side-constraint above, • AND that choice promotes her self-interest at least as much as any of the alternates, • THEN that action is moral.
Step 4: Examples of Moral Standard(s) • Natural Law: • IF a mother chooses abortion • AND it violates the fundamental values of Life, and/or Procreation, • THEN that action is immoral • UNLESS a qualifying principle applies.
Step 4: Examples of Moral Standard(s) • Utilitarian: • IF a mother chooses abortion • AND her life or health is at risk • AND her serious interests outweigh those of the fetus, • THEN the action is moral.
Step 4: Examples of Moral Standard(s) • Respect for Persons: • IF a mother aborts her unborn fetus at anytime through the seventh month of pregnancy • AND her serious interests are at stake, • THEN that action is moral, • UNLESS it fails a qualifying principle THEN check the alternate.
Biblical Norms: • Choose the Biblical Norms (from Monsma’s list) that are not adequately represented in the other theories: • Cultural appropriateness –The right action is the one with • the most culturally adapted or manageable technology (means), and • whose consequences are most consistent with our values for life of fetus and liberty of mother. • Open Communication–The right action is the one that • promotes values for human life represented by the mothers' well-being and the fetuses' life. • Delightful Harmony–The right action would be the one that • develops the greatest "harmony" among the major stakeholders (mother, father, and child).
Step 5: Evaluate the Options for each Standard • Analyze the various moral standards to determine what ought to be done in this case. • Determine whether the different moral standards yield converging or diverging judgments about what ought to be done. • Determine whether there are any • unwarranted factual assumptions that need to be examined. • unresolved conceptual issues in each argument. • fallacies or logical errors.
Step 6: Conduct Numeric Analysis • Evaluate the ethical reasons and arguments for each option in terms of how well the option fulfills the Moral Standard, assigning VALUES to each option • 10 = perfect fulfillment • 9 = excellent fulfillment • 8 = very good fulfillment • 7 = good fulfillment • 5 = adequate fulfillment • 3 = poor fulfillment • 2 = very poor fulfillment • 1 = absolutely no fulfillment • 0 = does not apply
Step 6: Conduct Numerical Evaluation • Determine the importance of each Applicable Moral Standard to the case. Assign a WEIGHT to each standard, where: • 4 = absolutely essential consideration • 3 = very important consideration • 2 = somewhat important consideration • 1 = a consideration of only minor importance
Step 6: Conduct Numerical Evaluation • Multiply WEIGHTS by VALUES to get WEIGHTED VALUES for each option. Then SUM the WEIGHTED VALUES.
Step 7: Make a Decision • Decide which of the identified options you would recommend or judge to be the ethically best way to deal with the issue presented in this case based upon which option has the strongest ethical reasons behind it. • Determine how a critic of your position might try to argue against it using other ethical reasons, and present a rebuttal or counter‑argument in defense of your judgment.