Normative Approaches to Ethical Decision Making
The Three Normative Approaches to Ethical Decision Making
Normative ethics has been defined as “a rational attempt to determine how one should behave in a particular situation. Normative ethical approaches are a guiding principles that helps shape ideas towards ethical decision-making, and, an effort to find out what anyone should do or if the existing moral actions is rational.These three normative approaches to ethical decision making includes the consequentialism, deontology, and Virtue ethics.
Consequentialism has been defined by Garrett J. DeWeese (2005) and James Porter Moreland as “any moral theory which judges the moral value of an action based on its outcome or consequences” (DeWeese, G. J., & Moreland, J. P. p. 91). This approach in effect, seeks to do action, which will have a better outcome while trying to avoid actions that will have bad consequences. In other words, consequentialism is both critical and analytical way of making decisions wherein, the possible consequence of the action is the key towards making a right decision. In effect, the good outcomes make the act morally good. This means that the worth of the action is determined by the significance of its consequences than by the standard, in which the act is carried out. The consequence determines the morality of the action. Thus, when the action yielded negative consequences, the act is deemed unethical and do not conform to the normative ethical standards.
Deontology or duty-based ethics is derived from the Greek deon, which means, “that which is necessary or right.” DeWeese and Moreland stated that deontology focuses on the nature of the act itself and that “acts themselves have intrinsic moral qualities, and it is our duty to do that which is moral” (p. 95). This means that, this normative ethical approach is concerned on the right motivations of action, which is based on moral obligation. The impact of this approach is that one is bound to do action that he or she is morally obliged even if that action is detrimental to others. An example to this is telling the truth even if its consequence will cost the lives of many. Thus, if telling the truth is a moral obligation, lying to the Nazis where the Jews were is an immoral act. This normative ethical principle therefore is like a bottle of therapeutic medicine that one has to understand what is on the label. That is, to act morally correct one need to know the moral ethical duties to which all our actions must be based. Failing to act in accordance with this moral obligation and duties are viewed as morally unethical.
The Virtue ethics also known as agent-based ethics focuses on the character traits, which “enable a person to achieve the goal of happiness not in the sense of momentary pleasurable satisfaction, but in the sense of flourishing, well-being, an excellent life (DeWeese, G. & Moreland, J. p. 99). From the Greek word, telos meaning ‘end, purpose’ it aims to develop dispositions that will allow a person to live well. This normative ethical approach emphasized on virtues or the moral character, which is contrary to the emphasis of deontology and the consequentialism. This ethical approach states that when a person has a good moral character, he can be reliable and he or she will be kind towards all kinds of people. Thus, this normative ethics encourages that since character can be developed, it is important to have a role model that will positively influence the development of these virtues. Virtues ethical approach then is character-based ethics. The one with good character will always act kindly and ethically towards all people in all situations.
The Decision making Models Analysis of the Ethical Belief System
One of the ethical decision making model was introduced by James Rest, the four stage of the ethical decision-making. This Four-piece moral behavior model covers all the moral action process with its first component recognizing that moral evils exist. The second components necessitate reasoning regarding the problem, while the third piece includes a moral path of action amidst the intricacy of the competing values. The last components demand the implementation of the action. This model identifies the possible ill of the decision making process by recognizing that problems or evils exist. By exploring the problems, and identifying the right course of action, including the most important values that would be applicable in the situation, the demand for action comes in to place to do the decision.
The second decision-making models is introduced by Gottlieb (1986), and are supposed to stand on the use of the three dimensions, which are power, duration of the relationship, and clarity of termination. Gottlieb emphasized that this model has an important component that address potential ethical dilemmas. Gottlieb stated that with low or little power, a person might need each other peers for some sort of influence in the decision-making. However, this influence depends of the duration of acquaintance. He noted that if there is more power with longer duration, and no termination, the resulting decision-making will do harm to those under this relationship.
In general, ethical decision-making is subjective and dependent on the virtues of the one who makes the decision. Virtues decision makers always come as a good model of ethical decision-making.
DeWeese, G. J. & Moreland, J. P. (2005) Philosophy Made Slightly less Difficult: A Biginners Guide to Life’s Big. USA: Inter Varsity Press
Gottlieb, M. C. (1993) Avoiding Exploitative Dual Relationships: A Decision-Making Process